Politics

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Bush Commutes Libby's Prison Sentence

July 05, 2007 05:44 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
President Bush stops short of pardoning Cheney's former chief of staff, deciding to leave in place a $250,000 fine and his federal convictions; in the subsequent furor both Democrats and Republicans accuse their opponents of hypocrisy.

30-Second Summary

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In a written statement, President George W. Bush described the 30-month prison sentence as "excessive." However, Bush refrained from granting I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby a full pardon. Libby's convictions for perjury and obstruction of justice will stand, and though the president commuted the prison sentence, Libby will be on probation for two years.

Libby's case has been steeped in controversy because its roots lie in the Bush administration’s efforts to raise support for the Iraq war, a conflict that has become increasingly unpopular among the U.S. electorate.

As a result, critics have taken on decidedly strident tones, charging the president with cronyism, hypocrisy, and a lack of respect for justice.

However, Libby’s defenders have cast him as the undeserving scapegoat of a zealous prosecutor in a politically motivated case.

From a broader perspective, the controversy has renewed a critical interest in past controversies concerning presidential clemency.

From Gerald Ford pardoning Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton pardoning his half-brother, the exercise of presidential clemency has often been a controversial issue. And to some analysts, its use points to the kind of favoritism and hypocrisy that continues to disenchant Americans from both ends of the political spectrum.

Headline Links: The president's decision, clemency order, and statements

President Bush's decision came on the same day that a federal appeals court denied Libby's request to postpone his prison sentence until after his appeal process was complete.

Background: Libby's sentencing, trial, and crimes

According to Libby's indictment, he committed perjury during his testimonies in the CIA leak case on May 5 and 24, 2004. The Washington Post offers a timeline of the case.

Reactions/Analysis: Political reactions, repercussions, and motivations

Libby's prosecutor, Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, refrained from criticizing the president's decision, but did question his description of Libby's sentence as "excessive." In a released statement Fitzgerald said that Libby's sentence 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."

Opinions: Should Bush have commuted Libby's sentence?

Historical Context: History's notable pardons

Related Topics: Libby's appeal denied

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