"We emphasize that consistent with his grand jury testimony, Mr. Libby does not contend that he was instructed to make any disclosures concerning (CIA agent Valerie Plame) by President Bush, Vice President Cheney, or anyone else," the lawyers said in a court filing late Wednesday.
The statement was first reported Thursday morning by the Washington Post.
Special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald revealed in a court filing last week that Mr. Bush cleared the way for Cheney to authorize Libby to counter administration critics on Iraq by leaking previously classified intelligence information to reporters.
There was no indication in that filing that either Mr. Bush or Cheney authorized Libby to disclose Plame's CIA identity.
Read the latest court filing by Libby defense lawyers (.pdf)
Libby, 55, was charged last October with lying to the FBI and a federal grand jury about how he learned and when he subsequently told reporters about Plame. He faces trial in January 2007 on five counts of perjury, false statements and obstruction of justice.
Plame's identity as a CIA operative was published in July 2003 by columnist Robert Novak after her husband, former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson, accused the administration of twisting intelligence about Iraq's purported efforts to buy uranium "yellowcake" in Niger to justify going to war. The year before, the CIA had sent Wilson to Niger to determine the accuracy of the uranium reports.
In Wednesday's filing, Libby's lawyers also said their defense will center on whose memory is accurate and whose versions of conversations can be trusted — Libby's, or those of reporters and other government officials.
They said they planned to call presidential adviser Karl Rove, former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer and State Department official Marc Grossman;
The defense attorneys said they want to determine whether Grossman lied about a conversation he says he had with Libby about Plame to protect the State Department from embarrassment. They said they also want to know how Fleischer found out about Plame and who he talked to.
And they said they likely will call Rove as a witness. Rove is still under investigation in the case, but the defense attorneys said that "does not diminish his importance in this case."
They said the criminal case against Libby no longer deals solely with Cheney's former chief of staff, as Fitzgerald contends.
The lawyers said Fitzgerald, with his revelations about Mr. Bush and Cheney, set off "an avalanche of media interest" that shows "that this case is factually complex and that the government's notion that it involves only Mr. Libby and (the Office of the Vice President) is a fairy tale."
Fitzgerald and Libby's lawyers are fighting over a defense request for a wide assortment of documents that may be at the White House, State Department and the CIA. Libby's lawyers said Fitzgerald has collected hundreds of thousands of documents but given the defense only about six boxes, or 14,000 pages of records.
The defense attorneys want records related to Wilson's trip to Niger because they said they may call him as a hostile witness.
Libby's lawyers also want documents that may explain how Mr. Bush decided to declassify portions of the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate that concluded Iraq had tried to obtain uranium for a nuclear weapon from African nations.
On Tuesday, Fitzgerald corrected a sentence from last week's filing about declassified portions of the NIE, conceding that he had made it sound like "a key judgment" of the report was that Iraq was "vigorously trying to procure uranium" to make a nuclear bomb.
Those exact words aren't in the "key judgments" section of the NIE, but they appear elsewhere in the report.
Fitzgerald said he should've explained that Libby was told to talk to New York Times reporter Judith Miller about "some of the key judgments of the NIE and that the NIE stated that Iraq was vigorously trying to procure uranium."
Libby's defense team also wants records related to former CIA Director George Tenet's subsequent statements that allegations about Iraq and Niger in the NIE had been largely discounted before Mr. Bush included the now-controversial 16 words about Iraqi attempts to obtain uranium in Africa in his 2003 State of the Union address.
Libby's lawyers dispute Fitzgerald's contention that Libby should not be given any of the documents because he personally had not seen the records.