Bush commutes Libby’s prison sentence

Just when things looked darkest for I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, when prison seemed all but certain, President Bush wiped away the former White House aide’s 2 1/2-year sentence in the CIA leak case.

Bush’s move came Monday, just five hours after a federal appeals panel ruled that Libby could not delay his prison term. His prospects for an emergency appeal to the Supreme Court seemed bleak. The former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, Libby was just waiting for a date to surrender.

After months of sidestepping pardon questions, Bush stepped in. He did not issue a pardon but erased a prison sentence that he felt was just too harsh.

“I respect the jury’s verdict,” Bush said in a written 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 30 months in prison.”

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald disputed the president’s assertion that the prison term was excessive. Libby was sentenced under the same laws as other criminals, Fitzgerald said. “It is fundamental to the rule of law that all citizens stand before the bar of justice as equals.”

Libby’s attorney, Theodore Wells, said in a statement that the Libby family was grateful for Bush’s action and continued to believe in his innocence.

Because he was not pardoned, Libby remains the highest-ranking White House official convicted of a crime since the Iran-Contra affair. But he won’t have to serve a day in prison, a fact that his friends cheered, even those who wished he’d received a full pardon.

“That’s fantastic. It’s a great relief,” said former Ambassador Richard Carlson, who helped raise millions for Libby’s defense fund. “Scooter Libby did not deserve to go to prison and I’m glad the president had the courage to do this.”

Though the leak investigation is complete and nobody will have to serve prison time, the scandal that has loomed over the Bush administration for years did not subside. Democrats were enraged.

“Libby’s conviction was the one faint glimmer of accountability for White House efforts to manipulate intelligence and silence critics of the Iraq war,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. “Now, even that small bit of justice has been undone.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Bush’s decision showed the president “condones criminal conduct.”

The president left intact a $250,000 fine and two years probation for his conviction of lying and obstructing justice in a probe into the leak of a CIA operative’s identity. The former operative, Valerie Plame, contends the White House was trying to discredit her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, a critic of Bush’s Iraq policy.

Congress ought to investigate “whether or not the president himself is a participant in the obstruction of justice,” Wilson told The Santa Fe New Mexican. Wilson, Plame and their children moved to Santa Fe earlier this year.

“The president has utterly subverted the rule of law and the system of justice that has undergirded this country of ours for the past 220 years,” Wilson said Tuesday on NBC’s “Today” show.

Bush said his action still “leaves in place a harsh punishment for Mr. Libby.”

The leak case has hung over the White House for years. Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald questioned top administration officials, including Bush and Cheney, about their possible roles. And Libby’s trial revealed the extraordinary steps that Bush and Cheney were willing to take to discredit a critic of the Iraq war.

Nobody was ever charged with the leak, including Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage or White House political adviser Karl Rove, who provided the information for the original article. Prosecutors said Libby obstructed the investigation by lying about how he learned about Plame and whom he told.

Already at record lows in the polls, Bush risked a political backlash with his decision. President Ford tumbled in the polls after his 1974 pardon of Richard M. Nixon, and the decision was a factor in Ford’s loss in the 1976 election.

Bush’s father — former President George H.W. Bush — issued pardons shortly before leaving office in 1992 for former Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger and five other former officials who had served in the Reagan administration. The six were involved in the Iran-Contra affair, in which arms were secretly sold to Iran to win the freedom of American hostages, then the money was funneled to anti-communist guerrillas in Nicaragua despite a congressional ban on military aid.

On Monday, White House officials said Bush knew he could take political heat for commuting Libby’s prison sentence and simply did what he thought was right. They would not say what advice Cheney might have given the president.

Bush said Cheney’s former aide was not getting off free.

“The reputation he gained through his years of public service and professional work in the legal community is forever damaged,” Bush said. “His wife and young children have also suffered immensely. He will remain on probation. The significant fines imposed by the judge will remain in effect. The consequences of his felony conviction on his former life as a lawyer, public servant and private citizen will be long-lasting.”

Attorney William Jeffress said he had spoken to Libby briefly by phone and “I’m happy at least that Scooter will be spared any prison time. The prison sentence was imminent but obviously the conviction itself is a heavy blow to Scooter.”


Associated Press Writer Ben Feller contributed to this report.


  1. incog99

    If putting Impeachment on the table makes me guilty then so be it. My ancestors fought the Revolutionary war (9 of them) and if that is your position then I am guilty too.

    I will not stand by and watch our country be trashed. The blood that runs through my veins says otherwise. Court Marshall me and I will stand proud. I am an American and torture and hypocrisy will NOT STAND!!

    A Patriot.

  2. kent shaw

    So what is billionaire member of “the club” Pelosi going to do about it? Are hot air platitudes supposed to calm the great unwashed? Its too hard to get to Bush. Much easier to get to Pelosi and her ilk.

  3. Boots

    Pelosi said it best.

    A Betrayal of Trust of the American People
    July 2nd, 2007 by Speaker Pelosi

    The President’s commutation of Scooter Libby’s prison sentence does not serve justice, condones criminal conduct, and is a betrayal of trust of the American people.

    The President said he would hold accountable anyone involved in the Valerie Plame leak case. By his action today, the President shows his word is not to be believed. He has abandoned all sense of fairness when it comes to justice, he has failed to uphold the rule of law, and he has failed to hold his Administration accountable.

  4. gene

    OOPS!!! should be numbers are growing…typo. Either way this country is basically trashed.

  5. gene

    Excellent Bill, you are so right. Celebrating the 4th of July (this year) will be a very hollow experience for we who know the truth and I know our number are growing. This evil has exposed itself and God help us over the next 18 months.

    This nation is truely govern/controlled by a group of criminally insane individuals.

  6. Bill Jonke

    Let’s face it, everybody; there is no justice. We will be celebrating a hollow Independence Day tomorrow. Hollow, just like the Bush administration.

    I’m just amazed at the timing of this. What I’m seeing is the puerile pseudo-Texan Son of God who would be king merely wreaking his juvenile revenge on the whole of America for giving him such poor poll numbers. He’s a kid in a candy shop of power, doing whatever he damned pleases because the nation and the world owes him big time, in addition to the fact that he thinks he’s a member of the Royal Family. If you take everything apart and look at it, most likely this is what you’ll find.

    This fiend and his despotic justice has to be tempered. But it appears like everybody around him is either an opportunist on his side, or they’re too lily-livered to take him on.

    I hope yesterday’s demonstration of what not to do on the part of the president is a wake-up call to the powers that be to start acting against Bush and his cronies.

    But it probably isn’t…

    In the meantime, as an anti-Bush tradition in our house, I will be displaying the flag upside-down tomorrow. I don’t have a pole, but if I did, the flag would be flown at half-mast.

  7. nigeldh

    SEAL and Helen have said what every Congress critter with a spine needs to say:
    1. Plame was outed as the Neocon’s way to kneecap the CIA and send a message. Tony would be proud.
    2. Too bad we don’t know/can’t say how many folk died as a result of the Plame outing. Show them the true cost of what happened.
    3. Knowing how deeply Bush Senior was with the CIA, I don’t know he can even stand to talk to Junior.

    Like SEAL, Helen, even Doug, I also have a lifetime handcuff to the Eagle from having worked with classified information.

  8. kent shaw

    “There is no doubt in my mind this was a deliberate and cold action on the part of the Bushies.”

    Plame’s job was to find out if Iran was attempting to produce nuclear weapons and to try through subterfuge to stop them if they were. Now, how could the U.S. attack Iran in order to stop them from building nuclear weapons if the CIA proved they were not doing so? Bush/Cheney committed treason when they “blew” Plame’s network. Undoubtedly many people we will never know of died because of what they did. And we allowed it. We allow it. We enable it.

  9. Frazier

    My Constitutional knowledge is a bit rusty, but if I recall correctly, there is a provision for impeachment that would be generated by the individual states, perhaps it’s time to quit thinking about dealing with the lily livered schmoozers in Washington, and start working on a state level to demand articles of impeachment be filed?

  10. long_rider

    Go for it chimp, keep screwing Americans, we love it.

    Why else is he still in office?

    There is a growing (and very strong) effort to impeach the VP. Write yor congressmen and Senators to support this effort.

    We can go after the chimp next.

  11. Helen Rainier

    SEAL — Re your comment at 2230, I am so in agreement. I am an Army vet, Military Intelligence Analyst, who is still outraged about the way this whole Valerie Plame outing was done by the administration. There is no doubt in my mind this was a deliberate and cold action on the part of the Bushies. I am still keenly aware of the obligations that people with security clearances and access to classified information are supposed to hold sacred. If anyone in the military had done this, it would have been considered treason and they would eithere have been shot or doing a life sentence at Leavenworth. Anyone who violates this sacred trust should never see the light of day.

  12. gene

    I have read the comments posted above and they are accurate in their accessment of this white house criminal gain. The word politics does not apply anymore, criminals run this country now.

    The question is, does it matter and the answer is, of course it does….but!!!!
    Their is this issue of the (general public) who continue to remain clueless, again (FAT eating pigs who frequent local troughs), self-centered, my world, tunnel vision, vacation time, my this , my that mentality.

    Throw in a financial implotion that will probably lead to a depression or at best, a very severe recession and the phrase “its over” takes on a whole new meaning.

    911 was a tragic scam and Bush new about it before the first plane hit those buildings that just happen to crumble with the help of well placed explosive devices. And how in the hell did that third building just happen to come down when NO plane hit it at all, it to fell perfectly, professionally taken down with explosives. Just watch some of the vidio on the internet.

    All of the above gave Bushy boy a ticket to ride….right over the constitution. The next few months will surely be interesting, especially from a financial stand point.

  13. SEAL

    If they impeach Bush/Cheney they will expose America as war criminals who have committed crimes against humanity. It was aproved by the congress of the United States, therefore, they, which means we, are all guilty in the eyes of the other nations and international law of deliberately lying to create the false justification for invading a soverign nation that posed no threat to us. The result of that has been the deaths of more than one million Iraqi people, untold numbers of permanent disabilities, and the destruction of the entire infastructure of the country.

    No matter what violations they would select to impeach, that truth would come out because everything they have done is tied directly to the invasion and continuing conflict of Iraq.

    That is why impeachment is off the table.

  14. Carl Nemo

    Re: Surprise, surprise…

    I wish to compliment you JerryG on your scholarly explanation of the forces at work in the collective PNAC, neocon Bushista mind and how they’ve taken over America’s body politik with their machinations.

    Rest assured Karl Rove is the guiding force since he has a photographic memory and just as some of these types excel on baseball records etc., this guy knows everything about anything to do with evolution of our country from a young Republic to present. So where we are as a nation at this point has his fingerprints all over the product.

    Dr. Wolfowitz has had his input too since he excels at this type of modeling with projected endgame resolution relative to their draconian plans for this once great Republic! Wolfowitz has landed at the American Enterprise Institute; i.e., a neocon think-tank that serves the needs of the PNAC and their NWO cohorts. Wolfowitz is the guy that brought us “Operation Iraqi Freedom” along with Douglas Feith and Dick Cheney. Are there any further questions folks…? They are “robo-traitors”…!

    Carl Nemo **==

  15. sunshine

    I may have read too many true crime novels, but I don’t think Scooter should feel too smug. Isn’t it dangerous for BushCo to have someone around with all kinds of sensitive information? I wouldn’t be surprised if Scooter had an “accident” in the near future. Dead men can’t talk and I don’t think BushCo has any ethics at all.

    Call me paranoid, but I think we are dealing with people who are totally without morals and who will do whatever they decide is necessary to protect themselves.

    I agree that the current Democrats in Congress are gutless wonders. Why is impeachment “off the table?” What do Bush and Cheney have to do before they are impeached?

  16. Figella

    Go# figure. Knowing this system the next President will be Rudy Guiliani who testifies “Libby committed no crime” or Fred Thompson who is “happy for Scooter.” Don’t these bozos know crimes when they seez them?

  17. Carl Nemo

    Setting the Scooter debacle aside…

    The real news today is white men can’t jump, nor can they play chess for that matter against ruskies. Putin laid a “Blitzkreig checkmate” strategically speaking on these smug, inbred village idiots; ie., the Bushistas. Putin said fine, you want to put an anti-missile shield in Europe to protect them from terrorist missile attacks then you can place them in Russia much closer to the action from whenst they might be launched; i.e., from radical arabic nations.

    The Blitzkrieg or Scholars mate

    1. e4 e5 2. Qh5 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. Qf7# Putin wins as he then jets away from “Kennys bung-hole port” Maine burping up lobster, corn on the cob, and vodka… :)) Bushco meanwhile is going duoh whilst scratching their heads and asses…!

    If we don’t play by their suggested rules then Russia will re-target all of Europe and no doubt put a little extra nuclear retaliation frosting on the cake for North America too no doubt…! Rest assured Putin is not bluffing and will carry out his threat.

    Bushco has not only destabilized the entire Middle East, but they plan on restarting the cold war along with a very expensive arms race again, except we as a nation are broke and the Ruskies are now awash in an ocean of oil and gas cash.

    Carl Nemo **==

  18. JerryG

    Surprise, surprise, surprise! Maybe now the Constitutional scholars, journalists, reporters and pundits will address the cornerstone upon which the Bush Presidency has built itself – Executive branch federalism! Putting my disdain of Bush aside, I have to commend his ability to contort the articles that define the Executive branch in such a manner as to indemnify it of any meaningful, potential Constitutional challenge. (Augmented and solidified by his successful Supreme Court appointees).

    I’m sorry folks, but this President has effectively neutered Congress. This Congress (and the one before it, naturally) is absent of the fortitude and courage to aggressively pursue the equivalent of a modern day challenge to the “federalist” authority of the President ala Jefferson v. Adams! (Yes, yes, I know. The wheels of “justice” move too slow comparatively speaking)

    If you subscribe to the Jeffersonian principle that societal changes give rise to new laws and, conversely, that new laws alter the society, then I propose the thinking of the Bush inner circle is that the current, dominant environment of terrorism, which they have so effectively pounded into the American psyche, gives Bush his executive carte blanche, relatively speaking. I suggest that this altruistic principle falls woefully short though when it comes to this Presidency. Why? Cronie$, cronie$, cronie$! Need I say anymore?