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Agent: Libby may have talked of outing operative with Cheney

I. Lewis Libby is charged with lying and obstruction. I. Lewis Libby is charged with lying and obstruction.

WASHINGTON -- Former vice presidential aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby acknowledged he may have discussed with Vice President Dick Cheney whether to tell reporters that a prominent war critic's wife worked at the CIA, an FBI agent testified yesterday.

Agent Deborah Bond's brief description of Libby's acknowledgment was about the only new information disclosed during the session. Most of the day was devoted to dealing with defense efforts to exclude evidence that Special Prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald called "the guts" of the government's case.

US District Judge Reggie Walton accepted some defense arguments and rejected others during hours-long debates held outside the jury's presence.

But the government was able to show the jury small segments of video of then-White House press secretary Scott McClellan saying President Bush would fire anyone who was found to have leaked classified information. The video also showed McClellan saying he had been assured Libby did not leak classified information.

McClellan spoke in October 2003, shortly before Libby was interviewed by the FBI.

Libby is charged with lying to the FBI and a grand jury about his conversations with reporters concerning CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson and obstructing an investigation of how her identity and job were leaked to the press in 2003. Fitzgerald said Libby's motive was to avoid being fired.

Libby's acknowledgment of a possible discussion with Cheney about revealing Plame Wilson's job is likely to have more impact on political debate about the leak than on the trial because Libby is not charged with the leak.

The trial recessed until Monday before Bond was asked whether Libby described for the FBI details of his talk with Cheney or any decisions he and Cheney may have reached. Libby denies he leaked the name.

Bond said that during Libby's second FBI interview in his office on Nov. 23, 2003, Libby described flying with Cheney on July 12, 2003, at the height of public controversy over allegations made by Plame Wilson 's husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV .

Libby told the FBI he went to the front of the plane to get a statement Cheney wanted released to the press. It denied Wilson's suggestion that Cheney was behind Wilson's trip to Niger in 2002 to investigate a report that Iraq was trying to buy uranium there for nuclear weapons.

Wilson had said on July 6, 2003, that he had debunked the uranium report and that Cheney should have known that long before Bush cited the uranium story in his January 2003 State of Union speech as a justification for war with Iraq.

Bond testified that Libby told the FBI, "There was a discussion whether to report to the press that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA." She added that Libby expressed some doubt.

She said Libby did say he had discussed Wilson's wife with Cheney sometime after talking about her with NBC reporter Tim Russert on either July 10 or 11, 2003.

Libby told the FBI that Russert asked him whether Wilson's wife worked at the CIA, Bond said, and Libby said he replied that he did not know that. Libby has contended that he had forgotten by the time of the Russert conversation that he had earlier learned Plame Wilson's job from Cheney around June 12, 2003.

To view the trial exhibits, go to www.usdoj.gov/usao/iln/osc/index.html.

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