Bush Commutes Libby’s Prison Sentence

by Sean Hackbarth

President Bush has commuted Scooter Libby’s prison sentence:


The United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit today rejected Lewis Libby’s request to remain free on bail while pursuing his appeals for the serious convictions of perjury and obstruction of justice. As a result, Mr. Libby will be required to turn himself over to the Bureau of Prisons to begin serving his prison sentence.

I have said throughout this process that it would not be appropriate to comment or intervene in this case until Mr. Libby’s appeals have been exhausted. But with the denial of bail being upheld and incarceration imminent, I believe it is now important to react to that decision.

From the very beginning of the investigation into the leaking of Valerie Plame’s name, I made it clear to the White House staff and anyone serving in my administration that I expected full cooperation with the Justice Department. Dozens of White House staff and administration officials dutifully cooperated.

After the investigation was under way, the Justice Department appointed United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois Patrick Fitzgerald as a Special Counsel in charge of the case. Mr. Fitzgerald is a highly qualified, professional prosecutor who carried out his responsibilities as charged.

This case has generated significant commentary and debate. Critics of the investigation have argued that a special counsel should not have been appointed, nor should the investigation have been pursued after the Justice Department learned who leaked Ms. Plame’s name to columnist Robert Novak. Furthermore, the critics point out that neither Mr. Libby nor anyone else has been charged with violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act or the Espionage Act, which were the original subjects of the investigation. Finally, critics say the punishment does not fit the crime: Mr. Libby was a first-time offender with years of exceptional public service and was handed a harsh sentence based in part on allegations never presented to the jury.

Others point out that a jury of citizens weighed all the evidence and listened to all the testimony and found Mr. Libby guilty of perjury and obstructing justice. They argue, correctly, that our entire system of justice relies on people telling the truth. And if a person does not tell the truth, particularly if he serves in government and holds the public trust, he must be held accountable. They say that had Mr. Libby only told the truth, he would have never been indicted in the first place.

Both critics and defenders of this investigation have made important points. I have made my own evaluation. In preparing for the decision I am announcing today, I have carefully weighed these arguments and the circumstances surrounding this case.

Mr. Libby was sentenced to thirty months of prison, two years of probation, and a $250,000 fine. In making the sentencing decision, the district court rejected the advice of the probation office, which recommended a lesser sentence and the consideration of factors that could have led to a sentence of home confinement or probation.

I respect the jury’s verdict. 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 thirty months in prison.

My decision to commute his prison sentence leaves in place a harsh punishment for Mr. Libby. The reputation he gained through his years of public service and professional work in the legal community is forever damaged. 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.

The Constitution gives the President the power of clemency to be used when he deems it to be warranted. It is my judgment that a commutation of the prison term in Mr. Libby’s case is an appropriate exercise of this power.

Libby still has to pay his fine and serve probation. That’s not getting a slap on the wrist, but it isn’t prison. President Bush doesn’t pardon Libby demonstrating that lying to investigators cannot be tolerated.

President Bush’s poll numbers can go any lower so he’s not hurt politically. The Bush bashers will pile on, but they’d do it no matter what. In fact, Bush ends up giving something to conservatives who feel the Plame investigation was a joke and Libby got a raw deal.

[via The Corner]

UPDATE: Here’s the first AP story. [via Drudge]

UPDATE II: The Kossites are ranting. The I-word, impeachment, quickly was tossed out.

Todd Beaton at MyDD writes, “Yep, in this administration’s world, utter contempt for the justice system is spun as ‘respect’ for it.”

They’re not dancing over at Redstate, but are fairly pleased.

UPDATE III: At Hot Air Bryan sees this as “splitting the difference.” He also links to a Fred Thompson statement. He’s pleased.

Ken McCraken writes, “This is perfectly appropriate. After all, now Libby will spend precisely the amount of time in jail that Sandy Berger did.”

UPDATE IV: Don Surber wants a pardon. Glenn Reynolds agrees with me that this move was good politically for Bush.

Sen. Barack Obama jumps on the decision calling Libby “a man who compromised our national security.” He goes on to call the action “exactly the kind of politics we must change.” [via Right Voices]

UPDATE V: As an add-on to Obama’s statement, Dan McLaughlin declares it his “Big Lie:”

Um, how, precisely? I’m guessing Obama, who was still a state legislator back in 2003, has no clue as to the facts of this case.

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15 Responses to “Bush Commutes Libby’s Prison Sentence”


[...] Bush Commutes Libby’s Prison Sentence » The American Mind [...]




A $250,000 fine is precisely a slap on the wrist for someone like Scooter Libby.


No petition for commutation of sentence, including remission of fine, should be filed if other forms of judicial or administrative relief are available, except upon a showing of exceptional circumstances.

Libby’s appeal is still pending . . . What are the exceptional circumstances? Bush says Fitzgerald was “a highly qualified, professional prosecutor” and that the jury “weighed all the evidence and listened to all the testimony,” nothing yet sounds exceptional. And the probation office recommended 15-21 months of jailtime, so even that is not exceptional.

So what’s exceptional?


There really wasn’t much of a crime. If Fitzgerald would have stopped when he knew who committed the leak (Armitage) then Libby and Bush wouldn’t be in this situation.

I don’t defend misleading and lying to federal agents in an investigation so I think commuting the sentence is better than a pardon.


There really wasn’t much of a crime.
Repeated perjury and lying to investigators isn’t much of a crime? Wow.

This is not hard to understand: Libby also leaked. The reporters he leaked to didn’t act on the leaks, but he leaked, as did Rove. More importantly, Fitzgerald said repeatedly that Libby’s obstruction made it impossible to discover if someone higher up ordered the non-Armitage leaks.

The jury carefully weighed the evidence and exhonerated Libby on some of the charges. The judge was a Bush appointee who considered all the arguments when he handed down the sentence. Bush-appointed appeals judges made their rulings on bail.

The sentence was perfectly in line with guidelines and with what people convicted of those crimes who don’t work for the White House get. And, given that the Roberts court just ruled 8-1 that any judge that sentences according to the guidelines is “presumed to have acted reasonably,” how can this case possibly be exceptional?


If it was a crime to leak half of Washington would be locked up. If Libby or Rove or Armitage broke the law I want them prosecuted. Fitzgerald could have done it. (He should have tried so we wouldn’t be having this discussion.) He didn’t which says something about what actually happened.

Heck, I’m still waiting for the CIA to determine Plame’s status.


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Heck, I’m still waiting for the CIA to determine Plame’s status.

Um, no, you’re not. How many times does the CIA have to come out and say she was a covert agent before you believe them?


Perjury – IOKIYAR!


As of April 2007 the CIA did not determine Plame’s status. At least that’s what they told Rep. Hoekstra. There’s also this nugget from a Libby defense brief:

The summary described above was provided to the defense along with a companion summary that defined a “covert” CIA employee as a “CIA employee whose employment is not publicly acknowledged by the CIA or the employee.”4 It is important to bear in mind that the IIPA defines “covert agent” differently.

The best we can determine is the conclusion of Tom Maguire, who has followed this more closely than either of us, “we don’t know.”


The director of the CIA at the time her name was leaked to the press says she was covert.

The CIA asked the justice department to investigate the leak under IIPA.

Fitzgerald said no one could be prosecuted under IIPA not because Plame was not covert, but because Libby obstructed the investigation.

And Pete Hoekstra wants to traipse around Iraq with Curt Weldon to look for WMD.


The best we can determine is the conclusion of Tom Maguire, who has followed this more closely than either of us, “we don’t know.”

Tom Maguire is out to lunch on this issue. Anybody that isn’t looking at this with ideological blinders does know, because the CIA has made her status abundantly clear a number of times.

It’s a half-truth to say that the IIPA defines “covert” differently; it doesn’t actually define “covert” at all. Indeed, to qualify as protected under IIPA, one must meet a looser standard than would qualify as “covert” among CIA agents.

That the CIA acknowleges Plame as formerly covert more than qualifies her for protection under the IIPA, which means disclosing her status was a crime Libby’s action made impossible to prosecute.

The mountain of evidence (that Tom Maguire doesn’t know what he’s talking about) can be found at


As I say over there, under the IIPA it’s sufficient to be involved in activities of an international nature and have one’s employment status be classified – which Plame’s was – to qualify under the IIPA, so to pretend that “we just don’t know” is to be willfully obtuse. There’s really no dispute about it.

Honestly I can’t believe Bush would have been so stupid as to commute Libby’s sentence. But then I can’t believe Cheney wouldn’t have been selfish enough to make him do it.


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Poster Sean Hackbarth (above), for whatever reason, doesn’t want to know the truth. Bush is a liar, and Sean Hackbarth doesn’t care.
So be it.

Just to give Loyal Bushies some perspective in terms of how *LOW* The Worst President Ever has taken you, here is what Bush said to his administration in January 2001:

“[We] must remember the high standards that come with high office. This begins with careful adherence to the rules. I expect every member of this administration to stay well within the boundaries that define legal and ethical conduct. This means avoiding even the appearance of problems. This means checking and, if need be, double- checking that the rules have been obeyed. This means never compromising those rules. No one in the White House should be afraid to confront the people they work for, for ethical concerns, and no one should hesitate to confront me as well. We are all accountable to one another. And above all, we are all accountable to the law and to the American people.”


Jan, that’s bloody hilarious. Thanks.

I expect every member of this administration to stay well within the boundaries that define legal and ethical conduct. This means avoiding even the appearance of problems.


And above all, we are all accountable to the law and to the American people.


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