- Beretta leaves Maryland over gun laws, heads for Tennessee
- Neal Boortz defends Hillary Clinton for representing child rapist
- House task force to recommend National Guard on border, faster deportations
- Top federal judge uses pizza to explain complex Obamacare situation
- Obama, Biden overhaul job training programs
- Drought-plagued Californians turn to paint to keep lawns green
- ISIL now forcing Iraqi shopkeepers to veil mannequins in Mosul
- 11 parents of Nigeria’s abducted girls die
- Genetic mapping triggers new hope on schizophrenia
- Turkish P.M. Erdogan won’t speak to Obama, but he’ll take calls from Biden
Libby pardon seen as risk for political grief
Question of the Day
Richard M. Nixon. Caspar Weinberger. Marc Rich.
Is President Bush willing to risk — on behalf of ex-White House aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby Jr. — the kind of political grief that pardons for those three men brought the presidents who granted them?
Mr. Nixon resigned the presidency over the Watergate scandal. Mr. Weinberger was the defense secretary charged in the Iran-Contra scandal. Mr. Rich was a fugitive financier and his ex-wife a major contributor to President Clinton.
All received presidential pardons processed outside normal channels. As in those cases, Mr. Bush would have to bypass the regular clemency process to pardon Libby for his four convictions last week for lying to investigators in the Valerie Plame CIA-leak case.
Such pardons historically have gotten presidents into political trouble.
A number of conservative politicians, bloggers and commentators, including National Review and Wall Street Journal editorial writers, want Libby pardoned — preferably now. Top Democrats have demanded that Mr. Bush pledge not to pardon Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff.
William Jeffress, one of Libby’s attorneys, said, “I believed a pardon for Scooter was appropriate last summer” when it came out that a State Department official, not Libby, was the initial source for a newspaper column disclosing Mrs. Plame’s status as a CIA employee.
White House spokesman Tony Snow has tried to dampen speculation, saying Mr. Bush is “careful” about pardons and takes the process very seriously. “He wants to make sure that anybody who receives one — that it’s warranted,” Mr. Snow said.
The Constitution grants the president absolute power to grant pardons, without approval by Congress or second-guessing by the courts. The only check on abuse is the risk of “the damnation of his fame to all future ages,” as James Iredell, one of the original Supreme Court justices, once put it. Some have run that risk.
Department rules require that pardon-seekers wait five years after conviction or release from prison, whichever is later, before applying. Mr. Bush has less than two years left in office, but presidents are not bound by department regulations.
The waiting period is designed to allow petitioners “to demonstrate they can live as productive, law-abiding citizens,” said Margaret C. Love, the department’s pardon lawyer from 1990 to 1997.
On occasion, the waiting period has been waived by the pardon lawyer or at the president’s request, she said. One example was a teacher involved in steroid distribution who the prosecutor said helped the government case and whose school district needed a pardon to continue employing him.
The pardon lawyer’s career staff verifies claims of rehabilitation and checks with the prosecutor, judge and victim. Complete and consistent evaluations help produce department recommendations that may shield a president from criticism.
But since Attorney General Griffin Bell delegated the supervision to subordinates in 1977, Miss Love said, the process has been “dominated by federal prosecutors, who tended to regard pardon as an interference with their law-enforcement responsibilities.”
The president could pay the full price for ignoring Congress
- IRS seeks help destroying another 3,200 computer hard drives
- Beretta moving to Tennessee over Maryland gun laws
- D.C. appeals panel deals big blow to Obamacare subsidies
- 'Straight White Guy Festival' supposedly set for Ohio park
- CARSON: Costco and the perils of mixing politics and business
- PRUDEN: A deadly enemy within exacerbating immigration crisis
- LYONS: Small-arms treaty, big Second Amendment threat
- YOUNG: A sinking presidency, deeper after November?
- MERRY: Handicaps in Hillary's way
- Obama family set to buy $4.25M desert home in California: report
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq