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Lawyers make final pitch in CIA leak case

Story Highlights

NEW: Perjury case of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby goes to jury
• Libby "made up a story and stuck to it," special prosecutor says
• Reporters knew about Plame before Libby talked about her, defense argues
• Cheney's former aide charged with lying about how CIA operative's name leaked
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby lied to the FBI and a grand jury about how he heard that Valerie Plame was a CIA operative, a prosecutor told the jury Tuesday in the perjury trial of Vice President Dick Cheney's former aide.

Peter Zeidenberg, deputy special counsel, said a series of witnesses proved the government's case.

"It's not a case about scapegoating, it's not a case about conspiracies. It's not a case about bad memories, and it's not a case about forgetting," Zeidenberg said at the start of the prosecution's closing arguments. (Watch how prosecution calls Libby a liar, defense attacks witnesses Video)

Libby, 56, is fighting a five-count indictment based on discrepancies in what he told investigators and a grand jury about his talks with journalists regarding the identity of Plame, who was outed in a July 14, 2003, column by Robert Novak. Libby is not charged with leaking Plame's name or CIA connection.

Libby did not take the stand during the trial.

The jury received the case Wednesday after getting instructions from U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton.

If convicted on all five counts, Libby could face a maximum of 30 years in prison and $1.25 million in fines.

Defense attorney Ted Wells has portrayed Libby as a scapegoat caught up in a White House effort to protect presidential political adviser Karl Rove. The attorney said Libby, who resigned in October 2005, took the fall for leaking Plame's identity to the media. Rove is not a suspect in the leak of Plame's identity.

Prosecutors contend Libby disclosed Plame's covert profession to a number of reporters as part of an effort to discredit her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who had gone public with allegations that the Bush administration "twisted" some of the intelligence used to justify the Iraq invasion.

"He [Libby] made up a story and he stuck to it," special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald said in the prosecution's rebuttal of the defense's closing argument. "Don't you think the American people are entitled to a straight answer?"

Libby "lied to the FBI and the grand jury about how he learned about Joseph Wilson's wife, Valerie [Plame] Wilson, who he talked to about Mr. Wilson's wife and what he said when he discussed Mr. Wilson's wife with others," Zeidenberg said.

String of high-profile witnesses

Since January 23, a string of former and current government officials and high-profile journalists have testified about conversations they had with Libby that may have touched on the probe into who leaked the information that Plame was a CIA operative.

Libby initially said he learned about Plame's CIA job from NBC's "Meet the Press" anchor Tim Russert on July 10, 2003, but later said he recalled he found out about it from Cheney a month earlier.

Russert denies the men talked about Plame or her husband during their phone conversation.

"Let's add it up, nine conversations about Mr. Wilson's wife," Zeidenberg said. "He remembers none of them. The one conversation he says he has, with Tim Russert, is a conversation we now know never happened."

Defense takes aim at Russert

The defense argues that Libby forgot about specific conversations with journalists and other government officials because he was swamped with national defense issues and other priorities. Libby also was national security adviser to Cheney.

In his closing remarks, Wells took aim at the credibility of Russert.

Wells played an October 28, 2005, tape of MSNBC's "Imus in the Morning" in which an excited Russert tells host Don Imus that it was like Christmas Eve in the NBC newsroom as reporters anticipated a possible indictment in what had become known as the CIA leak investigation.

That is the day Libby was indicted.

"Surprise. What's going to be under the tree?" Russert can be heard saying.

"You cannot convict Mr. Libby solely on the word of this man. It just wouldn't be fair," Wells told the jury on Tuesday.

Wells questioned the depth of the government's case.

"You have to have so much evidence that you are confident they did something," he told jurors. "It's to give you a comfort level. There's a permanence to a guilty verdict. There's a saying in my business, 'There are no erasers on the pencils of the jurors.' "

Defense lawyer William Jeffress added, "They want you to find that in making up this story, Mr. Libby chose as his source for this information the world's most famous television newsman.

"Maybe we haven't proven that 'all the reporters knew' [about Valerie Plame], but we've shown there were an awful lot of reporters that knew this information by July 11, 2003," Jeffress said.

CNN's Paul Courson contributed to this report.


story.libby.wells.pool.jpg

I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, left, leaves federal court last week in Washington with his attorney Ted Wells.

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