Judge Reggie Walton, Ted Wells, Scooter Libby
Arthur Lien / Nbc News
Feb. 14: Libby attorney Ted Wells argued vigorously to Judge Walton to bring Tim Russert back on the witness stand; "Scooter" Libby is in right foreground.
NBC News and news services
updated 2/14/2007 5:26:49 PM ET 2007-02-14T22:26:49

Attorneys for former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby rested their case in the CIA leak trial Wednesday after a day of legal wrangling over classified information and whether additional witnesses could be presented.

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald called no rebuttal witnesses, ending the testimony phase of the trial. Closing arguments are scheduled for Tuesday.

The final day of testimony in Libby's perjury and obstruction trial had been billed as a blockbuster. Attorneys said for months that Libby and his boss, Vice President Dick Cheney, would testify for the defense.

But Libby's attorneys reversed course Tuesday and said neither man would testify, leaving Wednesday to fight over whether NBC newsman Tim Russert could be called back to testify and how much evidence jurors would hear in Libby's absence.

(MSNBC.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal.)

The change in who would testify prompted U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton to reverse course, too. He told defense attorneys that if Libby didn't testify he would not allow some classified information to be presented to the jury as Libby's defense team had planned.

"My absolute understanding was that Mr. Libby was going to testify," Walton said, recalling why he had agreed months ago to allow some classified information into evidence. "My ruling was based on the fact that he was going to testify."

Walton's decision blocked Libby's plans to call three CIA briefers Wednesday to testify about the classified national security issues Libby faced in mid-2003, when CIA operative Valerie Plame was named in the media.

Libby wanted that testimony to bolster his claim that he never lied to investigators but rather forgot details about Plame's exposure because he was consumed by his workload as Cheney's top aide.

Alternate information offered
Instead of hearing the CIA witnesses, jurors heard a speech from defense attorney John Cline about Libby's briefings on terrorist threats, bomb scares, insurgent attacks and other issues.

Libby's defense team also wanted to call Russert, a key prosecution witness, back to the stand to explain an apparent inconsistency in his testimony. Walton turned down the request.

Russert testified last week that he never discussed Plame with Libby. Libby told investigators that Russert asked about Plame and said "all the reporters" knew she worked at the CIA.

The Libby-Russert differences in testimony lie at the heart of the case. Libby is accused of making up the Russert call to cover up other conversations he had with reporters and obstruct an investigation into who leaked Plame's identity to reporters.

No one has been charged with revealing that Plame was a CIA operative.

The Associated Press, NBC's Joel Seidman and MSNBC's David Shuster contributed to this story.

Video: Cheney, Libby will not testify


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