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Cheney's ex-aide Libby to appear in court

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Eight months after a federal indictment, I Lewis "Scooter" Libby and his attorneys will be in court Monday, across from prosecutors, to tell a judge the status of preparations before his trial, set for January.

Libby, who resigned in October as chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, is fighting charges he lied to investigators and a grand jury about his knowledge of Valerie Plame, whose identity as a CIA operative was leaked to reporters.

Her husband, U.S. diplomat Joe Wilson, had openly challenged part of the Bush administration's pre-war rationale for waging war on Iraq. But Libby's defense counsel has asserted there was no sinister effort to punish the Wilsons by revealing the identity of his wife to several reporters.

Libby's attorneys, in the time since a grand jury handed up the five-count indictment, have won an order from U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton requiring prosecutors to provide notes or topical outlines of highly classified meetings known as the president's daily briefs.

Libby counsel Ted Wells has indicated the defense will center on proving Libby was distracted by urgent national security matters if he misspoke before investigators about the Plame matter. He is not charged with disclosing classified information.

Walton's status hearing Monday will review with prosecutors and the defense the status of documents the two sides have cited in their preparations, as well as whether prosecutors will assert any claims of executive privilege over any documents headed to trial.

The judge also will consider any requests for early trial subpoenas, to provide time to resolve possible claims of testimonial privilege. Likely witnesses in the Libby trial include reporters who had knowledge of Plame's links to the CIA.

Libby is the only person to have been charged in the case, but special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald continues his investigation into how Plame's identity began circulating more widely in media circles.

Fitzgerald, a U.S. attorney in Chicago, has returned to Washington at least twice since Libby's indictment to present evidence to a second grand jury. The panel has heard testimony from top White House policy advisor Karl Rove, most recently April 26.

After what was Rove's fifth grand jury appearance in the case, his attorney Robert Luskin issued a statement saying in part, "the Special Counsel has advised Mr. Rove that he is not a target of the investigation. Mr. Fitzgerald has affirmed that he has made no decision concerning charges."

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