Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Bush Cabal's approach to Law: Do the crime, you won't do the time

Bush Commutes Libby's Prison Term in CIA Leak Case

By Edwin Chen

President George W. Bush spared Lewis ``Scooter'' Libby from prison in the CIA leak case, saying his 2 1/2-year term was ``excessive.''

Bush acted after a U.S. appellate court today refused to let Libby, 56, stay free during his appeal. Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, was convicted of lying to investigators probing the 2003 leak of Central Intelligence Agency official Valerie Plame's identity. Libby's backers had argued for a pardon.

``My decision to commute his prison sentence leaves in place a harsh punishment for Mr. Libby,'' Bush said in a statement. ``The consequences of his felony conviction on his former life as a lawyer, public servant and private citizen will be long-lasting.''

The president's action means that even though Libby avoids prison, his conviction stands, and he is still required to pay the $250,000 fine ordered by a federal judge. He can continue to appeal his conviction and fine.

Bush's decision was denounced by Democrats. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, who had demanded that Bush promise not to pardon Libby, called the commutation ``disgraceful'' and said, ``History will judge him harshly for using that power to benefit his own vice president's chief of staff.''

Obama, Clinton

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama of Illinois said Bush's action cements his legacy as one of ``cynicism and division'' that ``placed itself and its ideology above the law.'' Senator Hillary Clinton of New York said the commutation ``sends the clear signal that in this administration, cronyism and ideology trump competence and justice.''

Republicans approved of Bush's decision.

``I am very happy for Scooter Libby,'' said former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson, a potential Republican presidential candidate who had urged a pardon. ``This will allow a good American, who has done a lot for his country, to resume his life.'' Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said that Bush ``came to a reasonable decision and I believe the decision was correct.''

William Jeffress, one of Libby's lawyers, said in an e- mailed statement that Libby would have no comment on the commutation.


``As for the defense lawyers, we continue to believe the conviction itself was unjust but are grateful for the president's action commuting the prison sentence,'' Jeffress said.

Republicans who opposed the prosecution of Libby will be pleased, said H. Christopher Bartolomucci, a lawyer at Hogan & Hartson in Washington who worked on pardons in the White House from 2001 to 2003.

``This is a president who is not cowed by public opinion,'' said Bartolomucci. ``This was a truly unique case, a case involving a member of his administration, a highly charged prosecution, so the normal rules go out the window.''

Melanie Sloan, a lawyer who represents Plame and her husband, Joseph Wilson, in a civil suit against Libby and Cheney over the leak, said Bush's administration ``believes leaking classified information for political ends is justified and that the law is what applies to other people.''

Bush's statement said that, with ``incarceration imminent, I believe it is now important to react'' to the appeals court's refusal to let Libby remain free.

Until now, Bush had stayed out of the case, with his aides saying he would let the appeal go forward.

Special Prosecutor

Libby's supporters argued that special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was over-zealous in prosecuting Libby for lying to investigators when no one was charged over the actual leak of Plame's status as a CIA official. Fitzgerald, in a statement, said that the sentence imposed on Libby was ``consistent with the applicable laws.''

Libby was convicted of obstructing justice, perjury and making false statements. He resigned as Cheney's chief of staff upon being indicted in 2005.

Libby was found guilty of lying to Federal Bureau of Investigation agents and a grand jury probing whether the Bush administration deliberately leaked Plame's identity to retaliate against her husband. In a New York Times column on July 6, 2003, Wilson accused the government of twisting intelligence to justify the invasion of Iraq earlier that year.

Plame's status as a CIA official was disclosed eight days later in an article by syndicated columnist Robert Novak. Novak testified during the trial that Plame's identity was provided to him by then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and confirmed by White House political adviser Karl Rove.

Fitzgerald argued that Libby lied about his knowledge of the leak to protect his job. It's a federal crime to knowingly reveal the identity of a covert CIA agent, and the White House had announced that anyone who leaked Plame's identity would be fired. No one was charged with a crime or fired for the leak.

Libby's lawyers said national security matters kept him too preoccupied to remember details about the leak.

Original article posted here.

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