. . . . And I've got this beautiful bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.
Vice President Dick Cheney will be summoned as a defense witness in the trial of his former chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby Jr., on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice, a defense lawyer said Tuesday in federal court. A spokeswoman for Cheney signaled that he would not resist the request for his testimony.
The decision to call Cheney was announced by Theodore V. Wells, a lawyer for Libby, whose trial is scheduled to begin next month.
"We're calling the vice president," Wells said at a hearing before Judge Reggie B. Walton in Federal District Court.
Cheney has been a looming presence in the CIA leak case from the start, and his appearance as a defense witness would keep the vice president and the White House in the foreground of Libby's trial. Libby is the only person charged with a crime as a result of an investigation into whether anyone in the Bush administration intentionally leaked the identity of a Central Intelligence Agency officer.
After the announcement at Tuesday's hearing, Lea Anne McBride, Cheney's spokeswoman, said: "We've cooperated fully in this matter and will continue to do so in fairness to the parties involved. And as we've stated previously, we're not going to comment further on the legal proceedings."
The prospect of Cheney's testimony suggested that Libby's trial could be transformed from a narrowly gauged perjury case into a riveting courtroom drama with the taciturn vice president as the star witness. He would testify under oath and be exposed to cross-examination by prosecutors.
Cheney would be the first sitting vice president, at least in modern times, to appear as a witness in a criminal trial, said Prof. Joel Goldstein of the St. Louis University Law School, an authority on the vice presidency.
Although Cheney has been a vigorous proponent of sweeping executive authority, which includes the notion that the president and perhaps other high officials could resist calls to testify in criminal trials involving their official conduct, his appearance may not set precedents, legal experts said. That is mostly because the Libby case presents a different situation from one in which such officials are subpoenaed to testify, they said.
Cheney appears to have voluntarily agreed to testify on behalf of Libby, whom he has steadfastly supported. It is unclear whether Cheney would appear personally in the courtroom or seek to testify in a less exposed manner like having his testimony taken at the White House and introduced into the trial by videotape.
The trial stems from the disclosure of the identity of Valerie Wilson as a CIA officer in a July 14, 2003, column by Robert D. Novak. The fallout from that disclosure led to an investigation by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, a special prosecutor, into whether the leak violated any laws and whether Ms. Wilson's name was disclosed as part of a campaign to punish her husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former ambassador, for his criticism of the White House.
Wilson wrote an opinion article in The New York Times on July 6, 2003 — shortly before the Novak column — in which he claimed that the White House had twisted intelligence to justify the invasion of Iraq. He wrote that he had personally investigated whether Iraq bought uranium in Africa and had not found any basis for that belief.
Fitzgerald did not bring any charges in connection with laws that prohibit the willful disclosure of Ms. Wilson's identity as a covert operative. But he did indict Libby, also known as Scooter, on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice, saying he had untruthfully testified to a grand jury and federal agents when he said he had learned about Ms. Wilson's role at the CIA from reporters rather than from several officials, including Cheney.
Libby's lawyers have said, in court papers, that they will seek to demonstrate that he had no motive to lie and that if he made any inaccurate statements about his conversations with reporters, they were a result of his being distracted by far more important issues of national security.
In his testimony, Cheney will probably be asked to affirm Libby's statements that he was occupied with many important issues and that there was no deliberate White House plan to disclose Ms. Wilson's identity.
Prosecutors have said in legal filings that Cheney played a central role in the White House reaction to Wilson's Op-Ed article. Fitzgerald has hinted in filings that Cheney may be a prosecution witness, although he said at the hearing that the government had no plans to call the vice president.
According to Libby's grand jury testimony, cited in prosecution legal papers, Cheney believed that the article falsely attacked his credibility because it asserted that the vice president's office instigated Wilson's 2002 trip to Niger.
Prosecutors have already disclosed a copy of the article on which Cheney made handwritten notations asking whether it was Wilson's wife who sent him on the trip.
In previous legal briefs, prosecutors have said they want to use Cheney's notes as evidence, saying they show the agitated environment in Cheney's office and the importance that Libby attached to the effort to rebut the article.
After Cheney expressed concern, Libby told several reporters that Cheney's office had not sent Wilson on the trip and that he might have traveled on what was little more than a junket arranged by Ms. Wilson.
With the trial scheduled to start on Jan. 16, Libby's lawyers and federal prosecutors skirmished throughout the hearing over several likely issues about Libby's motives and state of mind.
William H. Jeffress Jr., one of the defense lawyers, said he planned to call Libby as a witness, along with several reporters who interviewed him in mid-2003, to show that Libby had encouraged the reporters to testify or give depositions in the case.
It's never going to happen. Never ever. It would leave Cheney open to having to answer questions, under oath, about the wider conspiracy within the White House to take the country to war based on lies.
Neither one of them, Cheney nor Libby, will ever take the stand. The defense isn't concerned with making promises to the jury that it fails to deliver because the defense doesn't care about Libby getting convicted; the "fix" (a Presidential pardon) is in.