Pardon ... Me? Bush May Save Libby from Jail

By: E&P Staff I. Lewis Libby had barely been sentenced to do some hard time -- from the White House to the Big House -- in the CIA leak case when the debate over a likely or at least possible pardon from President Bush reached full fever. Even the candidates at the Republican debate tonight joined in, expressing, at the minimum, interest in taking a good look at the matter if and when they enter the White House (presuming Bush had not yet sprung Libby).

The National Review immediately demanded a pardon. So did the Orange County Register in Santa Ana, Calif., while noting that Libby still had a lot to "answer for" about the war in Iraq.

Lawrence O'Donnell said on MSNBC's Countdown that he fully expected it, adding that, indeed, Libby's entire defense was built around it, as it did not seek to offend the president or vice president at all. On the same program, former Ambassador Joe Wilson, whose wife Valerie Plame was outed as a CIA agent in the case, did not choose to offer a firm view on the matter, but said justice had been done -- so far.

In tonight's debate, Rudy Giuliani said the case ?argues more in favor of a pardon,? and called the sentence?way out of line? and ?grossly excessive.? Mitt Romney said it?s ?worth looking at a pardon,? because Libby was the victim of a political "vendetta." A possible candidate, Fred Thompson, recently called flatly for a pardon.

The New York Times revealed, "Several Republicans advisers close to the White House, speaking on condition of anonymity, said today that they were perplexed as to why Mr. Bush seemed reluctant to acquiesce in pardoning Mr. Libby. Mr. Bush has pardoned more than 100 people so far but none have been prominent.

"An intriguing question for many is what role Vice President Dick Cheney will play in pressing Mr. Bush to grant a pardon to Mr. Libby." Dana Perino at the White House said the president did not plan to take action on a pardon -- for now.

Writing in The Washington Post, Peter Baker offered that the sentencing "puts new pressure on President Bush, who may soon confront the choice of triggering a fresh political storm by pardoning a convicted perjurer or letting one of the early architects of his administration head off to prison. ... most disturbing to the White House may be comments by the judge indicating that he is inclined to order Libby to begin serving the sentence right away.

"If Libby were allowed to remain free pending appeals, as occurs in many white-collar criminal cases, the White House might be able to defer the question of a pardon until after the November 2008 elections, when it would be less politically risky.

"But U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton said in court today that he doubts Libby has a viable appeal. 'I just don't see it,' he said. And therefore, Walton suggested, he would force Libby to report to prison unless his lawyers can change his mind at a hearing next week. ...

"But a pardon almost certainly would touch off a wave of political trouble for a White House already suffering some of the worst poll numbers in modern times. Bush critics have said a pardon would show a reckless disregard for rule of law in a case that concerned whether the administration misled the public to justify war with Iraq.

"Many leading Republicans in Washington have urged Bush not to consider using his clemency power for Libby."


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here