President George W. Bush commuted Lewis "Scooter" Libby's prison term in the CIA leak case, saying the 2 1/2 year prison term was "excessive."But it's not all good news for poor little Libby:
"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."What a crock. Pontificator at Kos saw this one coming. Bush can still pardon Libby in January 2009, as he walks out the White House door. Expect it to happen.
The president's action means that Libby's conviction still stands and he is still required to pay the $250,000 fine ordered by a federal judge.
UPDATE: Josh Marshall asks what conceivable argument Bush might use to explain this decision:
The only basis for this decision is that Libby is the vice president's friend, the vice president rules the president and this was the minimum necessary to keep the man silent.John Conyers suggests the move may be illegal:
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."Joe Wilson says Bush's decision is in and of itself participation in obstruction of justice. Harry Reid nails it:
"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," Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid has said.Check TPM for more responses. Angry protestors have been calling the White House, which has now closed its phone lines. The awakening of the USA continues apace...
UPDATE 2: Pat Fitzgerald, who led the prosecution against Libby, reacts to Bush's use of the word “excessive":
The sentence in this case was imposed pursuant to the laws governing sentencings which occur every day throughout this country. In this case, an experienced federal judge considered extensive argument from the parties and then imposed a sentence consistent with the applicable laws. It is fundamental to the rule of law that all citizens stand before the bar of justice as equals.Jane Hamsher says:
By commuting Libby’s sentence rather than pardoning him, Bush insures that Scooter will remain silent and be able to invoke the fifth before before Congress and not risk being cited for contempt. This president’s contempt for the rule of law is thorough and complete.The world is watching, George. We are all pissed.
Fitzgerald is an honest prosecutor who worked like a dog for this conviction and got mocked by pissy members of the beltway entitlement set for his efforts. Now his work gets swept away by the chief crook seeking to obstruct justice. I’m gonna guess he’s righteously pissed. I know I am.