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Bush 'Saddened' by Libby Verdict

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

After the verdicts came down, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald stood outside the federal courthouse and spoke to reporters.

Mr. PATRICK FITZGERALD (Special Prosecutor): It's sad that we had a situation where a high-level official, a person who worked in the office of vice president, obstructed justice and lied under oath. We wish that that had not happened, but it did. And I want to thank the colleagues and investigators behind me, who worked hard to make sure that we brought that to light, and brought it to court, and proved it beyond a reasonable doubt - and we're gratified by the jury's verdict.

BRAND: Fitzgerald also addressed the question of whether more charges would be filed.

Mr. FITZGERALD: I would not expect to see any further charges filed. We're all going back to our day jobs. We see the investigation as inactive.

BRAND: Today at the White House, spokeswoman Dana Perrino recounted President Bush's reaction to the verdict.

Ms. DANA PERRINO (Spokeswoman, White House): He was in the Oval Office. He saw the verdict read on television. He said that he respected the jury's verdict, that he was saddened for Scooter Libby and his family. There is an ongoing criminal proceeding. Our principled stand, of not commenting on ongoing legal investigations, is going to continue.

BRAND: And of course the "he" in that quote was President Bush. We're joined now by NPR's White House correspondent Don Gonyea. And, Don, the White House has been tight-lipped about this case the whole way through and really that doesn't appear to be changing today.

DON GONYEA: There was an interesting moment in the briefing with - that was Dana Perrino, the deputy press secretary. Tony Snow, the press secretary, was scheduled not do the briefing today. We do not know if he's got the day off or what. So Dana was the one really in the hot seat there. But after repeatedly refusing to say anything else beyond what you just heard in that statement, she said had there been an acquittal today, it would have been a very different conversation we're having right now. A lot would be different, had there been an acquittal.

But I can tell you the White House has not commented on this case since October 28 of 2005. That's the day Scooter Libby stepped down and that's when the president on the south lawn said Scooter has worked tirelessly on behalf of the American people and sacrificed much in the service to his country, and that he served the president and vice president in extraordinary times. Since then they wouldn't - they won't talk about it. And that is absolutely going to continue.

BRAND: And I suppose one of the first questions of reporters asked and tried to get an answer about was whether or not the president would issue a pardon.

GONYEA: First question indeed. It was put in the context of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's statement. He put out a statement welcoming the verdict and at the end of that short statement, he said now President Bush must pledge not to pardon Libby for his criminal conduct.

Dana Perrino was ready for that one. She said she wouldn't talk about a hypothetical. There's been no request for a pardon, that appeals are under way, requests for a new trial. And then she said there's a process for any American to apply for a pardon from any president. So she said those things stand. So - but that question is going to keep coming up.

BRAND: Right. Well, also, we're wondering if this is it for the investigation or is it possible that there will be someone else in the White House, who will be investigated by the special prosecutor and charged?

GONYEA: I wouldn't venture a guess as to what may play out. That's not our role here, but it is certainly not closed. It is quite possible that prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, could - could - you know, take this conviction and now pursue others. I mean there's, you know, one of the things that he said in his closing arguments during the trial is that a cloud hangs over the vice president's office. And clearly there was a lot of discussion about the interaction between Lewis Libby, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, and Cheney himself. So a lot of people would be - are watching closely for any signs that Fitzgerald might be doing anything. But again, right now, there's just kind of soaking in this very - for the White House - unwelcome verdict.

BRAND: White House correspondent Don Gonyea, thank you.

GONYEA: A pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Alex Chadwick
For more than 30 years, Alex Chadwick has been bringing the world to NPR listeners as an NPR News producer, program host and currently senior correspondent. He's reported from every continent except Antarctica.
You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.