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July 02, 2007

Scooter Libby's Commuted Sentence

President Bush stepped in just as former Vice Presidential Chief of Staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby was about to head to jail and commuted his sentence:

President Bush spared former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby from a 2 1/2-year prison term in the CIA leak case Monday, stepping into a criminal case with heavy political overtones on grounds that the sentence was just too harsh.

Bush's move came hours after a federal appeals panel ruled Libby could not delay his prison term in the CIA leak case. That meant Libby was likely to have to report to prison soon and put new pressure on the president, who had been sidestepping calls by Libby's allies to pardon the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney.

"I respect the jury's verdict," Bush said in a statement. "But I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive. Therefore, I am commuting the portion of Mr. Libby's sentence that required him to spend thirty months in prison."

Bush left intact a $250,000 fine and two years probation for Libby, and Bush said his action still "leaves in place a harsh punishment for Mr. Libby."

Democrats, predictably, were quick to criticize the President's decision:

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mi.) released a statement saying that "until now, it appeared that the President merely turned a blind eye to a high ranking administration official leaking classified information. The President's action today makes it clear that he condones such activity. This decision is inconsistent with the rule of law and sends a horrible signal to the American people and our intelligence operatives who place their lives at risk everyday."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) added that "the President's decision to commute Mr. Libby's sentence is disgraceful. Libby's conviction was the one faint glimmer of accountability for White House efforts to manipulate intelligence and silence critics of the Iraq war. Now, even that small bit of justice has been undone."

In the end, it appears that the President made the right call. Regardless of what he decided to do about Libby, he was going to be criticized. If he did nothing, conservatives would be on his back for not pardoning someone who was caught in the middle of a dubious criminal investigation. If he pardoned Libby outright, he would have heard much more whining from liberals. In the end, he showed respect for the rule of law by allowing Libby's fine and probation to stand. In President Bush's mind, Libby did commit perjury even if the underlying case (the Valerie Plame leak case) had very little merit. Libby still deserved to be punished and now that punishment seems to be just about right.

Posted by Tom at July 2, 2007 09:35 PM

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Sooo Bubba-Ya can make a decision easily on whether a convicted criminals sentence is too harsh, yet can not use common sense in a life or death situation where our military personnel are concerned. Hmm, Bubba-Ya's TRUE COLORS show up yet again. AMERICANS REMEMBER this come the Presidential Elections in 2008!

Posted by: at July 2, 2007 10:18 PM

Bush and Cheney are pimps and the Republican party are there whores and when 2008 rolls around its going to be payback. Its over for the Republican party for many years to come. Bush and his crooks will go down in history as the most corrupt evil administration ever. Bush will never have anything to be proud of in years to come. He will be vilified just like OJ Simpson as they share many of the same character traits.

Posted by: Mark at July 2, 2007 10:59 PM

Bush says God talks to him. I wonder if God told him to commute the sentence of a convicted felon.

Posted by: boofaar at July 3, 2007 08:56 AM

Fellas, just remember that Clinton pardoned over 400 folks, some of whom did what Libby did, and some much worse.

I have a post up detailing why I think the clemency was wrong, but a little perspective please.

Posted by: Doug Payton at July 3, 2007 11:52 AM

I can not understand how someone breaks the law and is "forgiven" in spite of having convicted after a trial of his peers. I understand that the court determined that the original reason for the trial was invalid, but the man was convicted of lying under oath. It is not like he chose to remain silent, he chose to utter falsehoods, and should be held accountable. I think this is another case of "King George II" proving that "he who has the gold rules". Is it different simply because Scooter was a front man? I believe that Mr. Bush should be commended for his service of reducing voter apathy, everyone I know is going to vote because of this clown!

Posted by: LeeJAmes at July 3, 2007 02:52 PM