A more frequent publishing of Rich Galen's take on politics, culture and general modern annoyances. This is in addition to MULLINGS which is published Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays at

Monday, July 2, 2007

Scooter and the Commutation!

Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good. I filed the blog entry just below at about 2:45 Eastern (the time stamp on these is Pacific time).

Scroll down and click on the link to the DoJ Commutation page to better understand what happened this afternoon.

I STILL think the President should have pardoned Libby this past January. He didn't. And the President didn't pardon Libby this afternoon.

The principal difference - and if you are a lawyer and you can help me fix this, please add a comment - between a pardon and a commutation is this: Libby's conviction stands. He has to pay the $250,000 fine (which the President could also have wiped out, but didn't) and he will (or already has) have to surrender his license to practice law.

He will not be able to get a security clearance which in Washington is no small deal.

If Scooter Libby had been pardoned his conviction would have been wiped out and his life would get back on track.

By the way, even a pardon does not expunge the record of the conviction. All of the elements of the case - including the conviction - remain on the record for all to see, for all time to come.

The President did the right thing this afternoon. I hope, that on January 19, 2009, he completes this by issuing a full pardon.



Anonymous said...

I realize that this isn't in the realm of critical thinking but my first reaction to the critics of W's commutation of Libby's sentence is:

Sandy Burglar


July 3, 2007 10:29 AM  
Andrew said...

I'm sure the Right Wing is celebrating Scooter Libby's commuted sentence, calling it "justice" for a reckless, partisan witch hunt. The problem is the facts don't support that claim. Keep in mind what actually happened. Bush political appointee James Comey named Bush political appointee and career prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald to investigate the Plame leak. Bush political appointee and career prosecutor Fitzgerald filed an indictment and went to trial before Bush political appointee Reggie Walton. The evidence was extremely compelling that Libby lied repeatedly, deliberately, and with premeditation. Richard Armitage confessed almost immediately. Ari Fleischer admitted his role. Karl Rove had to be pushed, but eventually he fessed up too. Only Libby lied. A jury convicted Libby for those lies, and Bush political appointee Walton sentenced him. At sentencing, Judge Walton again described the evidence against Libby as "overwhelming" and concluded that a 30-month sentence was appropriate and consistent with the applicable laws. A basic conservative principle is that the rule of law is fundamental that all citizens stand before the bar of justice as equals. Which leads us inevitably to the big question: Why did Libby lie deliberately and repeatedly? Now that he has no incentive to cop a plea, we'll never know what motivated him and what he was trying to cover up. So America loses, as does the truth.

July 3, 2007 11:09 AM  
Ed said...

It seems to me that the decision to incarcerate Libby while his appeal was underway was almost unprecedented in the case of a non-violent "criminal" who is hardly a flight risk.

I do not believe the President would have commuted the sentence if the prosecutor and the judge had not been in such a big hurry to "frog march" him to prison while the appeal was in process.

To Andrew's point, the investigation of the Plame "leak" was over before the trial began. Armitage "confessed" his guilt, yet will not be punished for his "eggregious" outing of a "secret intelligence agent".

However, the person who should have been prosecuted, but will not be, is the less than honorable Joseph Wilson.

July 3, 2007 12:49 PM  
Rich Galen said...


The sentence was about double what the Sentencing Board (or whatever it's called) recommended.

This was a petulant judge who has not yet gotten over the fact that he felt he was "promised" (my word) that Libby would testify at trial and made several rulings based upon that; when Libby didn't testify he felt he had been jobbed.

This was revenge on the part of the judge. The President counter-revenged him.

July 5, 2007 6:54 PM  
Joe Cantu said...

Rich, you are correct on your analysis of the difference between a pardon and a commutation.

I agree with what President Bush did for this reason: Libby is still pursuing his appeal, most likely grounds being that the defense wasn't allowed to introduce evidence at the trial that Tim Russert had in other statements contradicted his sworn testimony at the trial.

By not pardoning Libby at this time he's allowing the appeal process to play out, and hopefully Libby will get his conviction overturned, which will expunge his record.

And if Libby loses his appeal? Well, how does January 20, 2009 at 8am sound?

July 5, 2007 10:47 PM  
Chuck said...

I agree that Libby should have been pardoned at the outset. What I do not understand is why Bush chose to commute now and perhaps pardon later. Giving Libby a pardon now would have allowed all the Liveral-Left-Media-Democrat hoopla to die down, then the subject would be closed.
Now we have all the hand-wringing and outrage at the commutation. All that will be repeated when the President pardons Libby. While it may or may not hurt Bush, Republicans will take the brunt of the future attacks. All of this could be avoided if Bush pardoned now.

July 6, 2007 6:42 AM  
Andrew said...

If Bush pardoned, Scooter would not have 5th Amendment priveleges and might have to finally tell the truth. Since that might lead to Cheney and bush, better to have Bush continue to obstruct justice by commuting the sentence. Scooter can still plead the 5th, and Bush protects his and Cheney's role in the underlying crime of outing Plame - who Fitzgerald clearly notes was covert. Why wasn't Armitage prosecuted then? Because he told the truth about his role. So did others, even Rove after prodding. Libby was the only one to lie -- repeatedly. To what purpose?

As for the sentence length, it was longer than the boar dusggested but still in the middle of accepted ranges. It it was truly "excessive," why not just shorten it then? Or is zero time the only fair length for clear perjury and obstruction? Sure was not long enough for Victor Rita (see 7/4 NYTimes).

July 6, 2007 10:24 AM  
Rebecca said...

I would like to know the relationship between one presidential pardonee from January 20, 2001, Marc Rich and said commutation recipient I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. I am under the impression that Scooter was Rich's attorney during his I-am-fleeing-the-country-until-I-get-a-full-presidential-pardon days.

July 6, 2007 1:27 PM  
Andrew said...

Rebecca - You are correct. Rich's attorney was none other than I. Lewis Libby. A pardon that spawned multiple Republican inquiries.

July 6, 2007 2:46 PM  
Chuck said...

Well, "Andrew", just thought I'd let you know that the black helicopters ahve landed on the grassy knoll...time for you tin-foil hat.

July 7, 2007 3:03 PM  
Andrew said...

Chuck -- glad to see you take on the merits of my arguement. Oh wait, you fell back to the old rightie response when confronted with facts you cannot refute - impugn the commenter. Best with original lines like "tin foil" hats.

As for Libby's sentence, Rich, remember what Fitzgerald actually wrote: "the total sentence of imprisonment, 30 months, was at the low-end of the applicable Sentencing Guidelines range."

July 9, 2007 2:28 PM  
Chuck said...

Your statement has no merits. You are blindly repeating a line from Conyers' office who made the statement without evidence, based on anonymous "correspondents".

From an ABC News report --"The Democrat probing President Bush's decision to erase the prison sentence of a former White House aide said Sunday there is "the suspicion" the aide might have fingered others in the Bush administration if he served time.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers spoke of "the general impression" that Bush last week commuted I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's 2 1/2 year sentence in the CIA leak case to keep Libby quiet." [Emphasis added]

So, the "merits" of your statement are based on "the suspicion" and "the general impression" -- making your statement baseless.


July 10, 2007 1:00 PM  
Andrew said...

So then walk me through your reason Libby lied - deliberately and repeatedly. Why not tell the truth, like Armitage, Fleisher, Rove, etc. did? What reason did he have to stonewall and lie? I'd love to know what your "suspicion" is with reagrds to why Libby lied and what he is hiding? Give me your "general impression" of why his sentence was commuted vs. a full pardon?

July 11, 2007 5:05 PM  
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