On July 2, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (Washington) ruled on US v. Libby (07-3068) saying I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby must be imprisoned while appealing his conviction March 6 of lying to federal investigators and a grand jury and obstructing their probe of the 2003 leaking of CIA official Valerie Plame’s identity. The court said Libby “has not shown that the appeal raises a substantial question” for him to remain free under federal law. Earlier, US District Judge Reggie Walton refused to let Libby remain free during appeal saying evidence of his guilt was “overwhelming.” Libby faced 30 months in prison and a $250,000 fine for his conviction handed down June 5 and as of early July 2 appeared heading for incarceration within weeks.
Enter George Bush in his latest brazen and contemptuous defiance of the law. Within hours of yesterday’s court decision, he ignored overwhelming public opposition to a pardon and commuted the sentence of Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff. Case closed with little more than the president’s cynical statement that he “respect(s) 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.” Libby needn’t worry about the fine either. His rich friends will take care of that, too, as part of the deal.
The president’s statement and commutation contradicted Deputy White House Press Secretary Dana Perino’s earlier in the (July 2) day response to the court verdict saying “Scooter Libby still has the right to appeal, and therefore the president will continue not to intervene in the judicial process. The president feels terribly for Scooter, his wife and their young children, and all that they’re going through.” So do Libby’s hard right supporters who quickly hailed the commutation as a courageous act while others respecting the law condemned its brazen disrespect for it.
Senate majority leader Harry Reid called Bush’s granting clemency “disgraceful (and) Now, even that small bit of justice has been undone.” Senate Judiciary Committee Patrick Leahy said the “White House….sees itself as being above the law.” Valerie Plame’s husband Joseph Wilson sharply criticized the president’s action stating it “should demonstrate to the American people how corrupt this administration is. By his action, the president has guaranteed that Mr. Libby (and everyone else in the administration) has no incentive to begin telling the truth.”
The public’s verdict on this matter has yet to be heard. When new polls are published they’ll will surely agree with Mr. Wilson, outraged Democrats and all people of conscience. There’s no doubt Mr. Bush and Dick Cheney cut a deal with Libby for his silence. It’s likely to heighten demands for impeaching the president and vice-president based on further “grounds” for doing it. It now remains for a groundswell to build and stiffen congressional leaders’ spines enough to get on with what no further delay can be tolerated. Expeditiously removing a lawless president and vice-president from office is the only remaining hope of restoring the rule of law and showing those in contempt of it won’t go unpunished as Mr. Libby has.
Stephen Lendman lives in