Saying that while he "respects the jury's verdict" he has "concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive," President George W. Bush commuted I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's prison sentence on Monday, after Mr. Libby had spent a total of zero days in prison — although, according to Wikipedia, "The Justice Department recommends anyone requesting a pardon must wait five years after conviction or release prior to receiving a pardon." -- AP noted that Libby is "the highest-ranking White House official ordered to prison since the Iran-Contra affair." -- (AP doesn't say so, but it deserves to be mentioned that not one person served time in prison for Iran-Contra crimes; crimes committed in the service of the U.S. national security state are rarely punished.) -- The formal White House "proclamation," reproduced below, declares that the president, "pursuant to [his] powers under Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution," does "hereby commute the prison terms imposed by the sentence upon the said Lewis Libby to expire immediately, leaving intact and in effect the two-year term of supervised release, with all its conditions, and all other components of the sentence." -- Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution states that the president of the United States "shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment." -- To "commute" a sentence is to "change" it or to substitute something in its place; the word is not used in the Constitution. -- However, according to Wikipedia, citing P.S. Ruckman, Jr., “Executive Clemency in the United States: Origins, Development, and Analysis (1900-1993),” Presidential Studies Quarterly 27 (1997), pp. 251-271, the Supreme Court has interpreted the constitution's language to include "the power to grant pardons, conditional pardons, commutations of sentence, conditional commutations of sentence, remissions of fines and forfeitures, respites, and amnesties." -- It is interesting to note, also according to Wikipedia, that "[i]n the overwhelming majority of cases . . . the Pardon Attorney will consider only petitions from persons who have completed their sentences and, in addition, have demonstrated their ability to lead a responsible and productive life for a significant period after conviction or release from confinement." -- In addition to the proclamation, the president issued a statement justifying his act, which fell short of the full pardon that some on the right have urging. ...
BUSH SPARES LIBBY FROM 2 1/2-YEAR PRISON TERM
** President leaves fine, probation intact for convicted ex-White House aide **
July 2, 2007
WASHINGTON -- President Bush commuted the sentence of former White House aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby on Monday, sparing him from a 2½-year prison term that Bush said was excessive.
Bush’s move came hours after a federal appeals panel ruled Libby could not delay his prison term in the CIA leak case. That meant Libby was likely to have to report to prison soon and put new pressure on the president, who had been sidestepping calls by Libby’s allies to pardon the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney.
“I respect the jury’s verdict,” Bush said in a 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 thirty months in prison.”
Bush left intact a $250,000 fine and two years probation for Libby, and Bush said his action still “leaves in place a harsh punishment for Mr. Libby.”
Libby was convicted in March of lying to authorities and obstructing the investigation into the 2003 leak of CIA operative’s identity. He was the highest-ranking White House official ordered to prison since the Iran-Contra affair.
Reaction was harsh from Democrats.
“As Independence Day nears, we’re reminded that one of the principles our forefathers fought for was equal justice under the law. This commutation completely tramples on that principle,” Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said through a spokesman.
REPUTATION 'FOREVER DAMAGED'
Libby’s supporters celebrated.
“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.”
A message seeking comment from Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s office was not immediately returned.
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.”
GRANT OF EXECUTIVE CLEMENCY
** A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America **
July 2, 2007
WHEREAS Lewis Libby was convicted in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia in the case United States v. Libby, Crim. No. 05-394 (RBW), for which a sentence of 30 months' imprisonment, 2 years' supervised release, a fine of $250,000, and a special assessment of $400 was imposed on June 22, 2007;
NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, pursuant to my powers under Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution, do hereby commute the prison terms imposed by the sentence upon the said Lewis Libby to expire immediately, leaving intact and in effect the two-year term of supervised release, with all its conditions, and all other components of the sentence.
IN WITNESS THEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this second day of July, in the year of our Lord two thousand and seven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-first.
GEORGE W. BUSH
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
July 2, 2007
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.