Libby's lawyers may not call Cheney to testify


NEW: Libby's lawyers debating whether to call Vice President Cheney to testify
Prosecution rests; Russert's testimony complete
Defense tried to show that Russert knew about indictment in advance
Russert denies disclosing the CIA operative's identity


WASHINGTON (CNN) -- I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's lawyers are debating whether to call Libby's former boss, Vice President Dick Cheney, to the stand, a source with knowledge of the lawyers' discussions told CNN on Thursday.

Libby's lawyers also are debating whether Libby should testify, the source said.

Libby, Cheney's former chief of staff, is on trial in Washington on charges that he lied to investigators and a grand jury investigating the leak of the information that Valerie Plame Wilson was a covert CIA operative. Knowingly identifying a covert agent is illegal.

Libby is not charged with leaking the information.

The source said it does not seem a decision has been made about whether either will testify.

Some in the defense team believe the prosecutor's presentation has been strong and persuasive and therefore would open both Cheney and Libby up to a grilling when they were cross-examined, which would not help sway the jury, the source with knowledge of the discussions said.

It was the expectation of the defense team to put both Libby and Cheney on the stand to help buttress its case, the source said.

In a legal filing earlier this week his lawyers had indicated to the court it was "very likely" Libby would take the stand. In the same filing, the defense team said it expected to call as witnesses people who worked with Libby, among them "potentially" the vice president.

The defense is expected to begin stating its case on Monday.

Prosecution rests
On Thursday, the prosecution rested after NBC's Tim Russert wrapped up his testimony.

Earlier, the defense tried to undermine the credibility of Russert.

During cross-examination, Ted Wells, Libby's lawyer, tried to establish that Russert knew in advance that Libby was going to be indicted.

Russert told MSNBC's Don Imus, host of "Imus in the Morning," that it was like Christmas Eve in the newsroom as reporters anticipated a possible indictment in the CIA leak investigation.

"Surprise. What's going to be under the tree," Russert can be heard telling Imus on his show.

Russert's testimony has been a huge blow to the defense, according to CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. Russert rounded out the prosecution's quick and effective approach, he said. (Transcript)

Russert testified on Wednesday that he did not inform Libby of Valerie Plame's identity as a CIA agent, as Libby had said.

Libby, the former top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, told FBI investigators and a grand jury that Russert told him of Plame's identity in a conversation on July 10, 2003. Libby later recanted, saying he came across a note that jogged his memory, and that he first heard her name about a month earlier from Cheney.

Russert was asked by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald whether he and Libby discussed Plame. "No, that would be impossible because I did not know who that person was until several days later," Russert said.

When asked whether Libby told him about Plame, Russert responded, "No."

Russert said Libby had called him to complain about comments anchor Chris Matthews had made about him on MSNBC.

"If he had told me [Plame's identity], I would have asked him how he knew that, why he knew that, what is the relevance of that. And since [it was] a national security issue, my superiors [would] try to pursue it," the moderator of "Meet the Press" said.

Plame's identity was revealed after her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, alleged in a New York Times op-ed piece that the Bush administration twisted facts to support an invasion of Iraq.

Wilson had gone to Africa to investigate claims that Iraq under Saddam Hussein had been trying to buy raw material to build nuclear weapons. Wilson said he told the CIA that he had found no evidence to support the claim but that the information later was repeated in President Bush's State of the Union address.

Earlier Wednesday, jurors heard tapes of Libby telling a grand jury that he learned of Plame's identity from Vice President Dick Cheney.

Libby said in the audio recordings that he came across a note that indicated he first learned the information from Cheney.

Asked about Cheney's response, Libby said, "He didn't say much. You know, something about 'from me,' something like that, and tilted his head."

Libby said that before he found the note, he thought Russert first told him about Plame.

That recording was among the last of eight hours of audio from Libby's 2004 testimony in a secret grand jury investigation.

Libby's defense has asked for notes from the prosecution about any leniency Russert received for his testimony.

The prosecution said that Russert did not receive special treatment as part of negotiations that led to his 2004 deposition with the FBI, in the criminal inquiry of Libby.

CNN's Paul Courson and Kevin Bohn contributed to this report



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