Bush has commuted the sentence of Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff Lewis Scooter Libby, sparing him from a two and a half year prison sentence in the CIA-leak case.
The move came just five hours after a federal appeals panel had made Libby's imprisonment imminent, ruling he could not put off his sentence while appealing his conviction. Libby was convicted in March, the highest-ranking White House official ordered to prison since the Iran-Contra affair. He was found guilty of perjury, obstruction of justice, and making false statements in the investigation into who blew the cover of CIA officer Valerie Plame, whose husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, had criticized the Iraq War. In a statement, Bush said, "I respect the jury's verdict, but I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive." Libby's prosecutor, Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald disputed Bush's view saying, "An experienced federal judge… imposed a sentence consistent with the applicable laws." Democrats condemned the decision. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called Libby's conviction "the one faint glimmer of accountability for White House efforts to manipulate intelligence." Libby won't see a day of jail time. His felony conviction will remain. He will also have to pay a $250,000 fine and serve two years of probation.
Comment July 3rd: As we've said before, from a mundane perspective, the president should not have the power to pardon or commute sentences. Nevertheless, we don't wish punishment for Libby (or anyone) but rather for universal repentance and atonement.