Whitewater v. Libby.  Kenneth Starr v. Patrick Fitzgerald.

When did you last try a business case that didn’t include timelines?  Blawgletter doubts that one can make sense of the messes that businesses get into without some kind of exhibit that lays out the chronology.  The format doesn’t matter so much — but the selection of the dates and events to include makes all the difference in the world.

Take the I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby trial that Blawgletter has followed from afar.  The methodical jury appears to have constructed their own timeline during deliberations and used it as a key to decide the case.

Consider also the uproar that has followed announcement of the jurors’ verdict on March 6.  Some of the roarers — the unhappy ones — point to the misuse (from their perspective) of prosecutorial discretion.  Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, in their view, should have folded his teepee at the outset because by then the Department of Justice had already learned that Richard Armitage, and not Mr. Libby, had first disclosed the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame to a columnist, who then wrote about it.

Do the sequence of events justify the criticism?  Let’s see:

  1. Mr. Libby gives false information to the FBI and a grand jury.
  2. Mr. Fitzgerald becomes special prosecutor.
  3. Mr. Fitzgerald investigates whether Mr. Libby obstructed justice and perjured himself.
  4. A grand jury indicts Mr. Libby.
  5. A petit jury convicts Mr. Libby.

The lies and the events that the lies related to happend before appointment of Mr. Fitzgerald.  Interesting.

Another critique compares the prosecution of Mr. Libby with investigations of possible malfeasance by Bill and Hillary Clinton.  This approach suggests that Mr. Fitzgerald blew Mr. Libby’s falsehoods way out of proportion, especially in comparison to how prosecutors handled the Clinton investigations.

Does the way the events unfolded warrant the comparison?  Take a look:

  1. A special panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals refuses to re-appoint Robert Fiske as special Whitewater prosecutor and replaces him with Kenneth Starr.
  2. Mr. Starr looks into the suicide of Vince Foster, Travelgate, bank fraud by the McDougals, the disappearance of Rose Law Firm billing records, and other matters but finds no indictable conduct by the Clintons.
  3. Linda Tripp tells prosecutors about Monica Lewinsky’s relationship with Mr. Clinton.
  4. Mr. Clinton gives untruthful deposition testimony about his involvement with Ms. Lewinsky in the Paula Jones case and to a grand jury that Mr. Starr convened.
  5. Mr. Starr issues a report detailing the sexual activities of Mr. Clinton and Ms. Lewinsky.
  6. The House of Representatives impeaches Mr. Clinton for lying.  The Senate acquits.

Note that the deception and underlying events that got Mr. Libby in hot water happened before the appointment of the special prosecutor and that Mr. Clinton’s untruths took place after the appointment of Mr. Starr and, indeed, concerned events that occurred after Mr. Starr’s appointment.

Make of it what you like.  Blawgletter just really likes timelines.

Barry Barnett

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