WASHINGTON – Prosecutors in the CIA leak trial Tuesday zeroed in on I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's alleged lies to a grand jury, playing audiotapes of Libby saying repeatedly that he could not recall conversations about the CIA employment of the wife of Bush administration critic Joe Wilson.
The eight hours of grand jury testimony conflict with testimony earlier in the trial by former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer and other witnesses who said Libby indeed had discussed the CIA employment of Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame.
Libby's defense to charges of perjury, obstruction and lying to the FBI is constructed on assertions that he was immersed in national security issues for Vice President Dick Cheney, that his memory may be faulty and that the recollections of the witnesses against him also are faulty.
In the grand jury audiotapes, Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald focused on a going-away lunch Libby had with Fleischer that Libby seemed able to recall in some detail.
Libby and Fleischer were friends, Fleischer told the grand jury, and the two discussed the Miami Dolphins and Fleischer's future plans.
In the recording, Fitzgerald asked Libby if recalled telling Fleischer about the CIA employment of Wilson's wife and that it was "hush-hush."
"I don't recall that," replied Libby, speaking softly.
Libby's own notes show that he was told by Cheney about the CIA employment of Wilson's wife, more than a month before Plame's CIA identity was publicly revealed.
Libby says he had forgotten that Cheney had told him. Libby told the grand jury that he was "surprised" to hear about the CIA employment of Wilson's wife a month later, from NBC News reporter Tim Russert. Russert, who will testify for the prosecution once the Libby grand jury tapes are played in their entirety, says he didn't discuss Wilson's wife with Libby.
Up until the conversation with Russert, Libby had no recollection of discussing the CIA employment of Wilson's wife, asked Fitzgerald?
"Yes sir, in that period, I have no recollection," Libby replied.