Monday, July 9, 2007

Three key Democrats on congressional judiciary committees say they suspect that President Bush’s decision to erase the prison sentence of I. Lewis Scooter Libby was a bid to pre-empt the former White House aide from incriminating others in the Bush administration.

This was, actually in my view, a blatant way of guaranteeing that Scooter Libby would not talk about the things that were done, you know, some of the misleading information given out by Vice President Cheney and the president, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, said yesterday during an appearance on CNN’s Late Edition. They led us into this war in Iraq, and they bought his silence.

Rep. John Conyers Jr., Michigan Democrat and House Judiciary chairman, echoed Mr. Leahy’s words during his own Sunday talk-show appearance.

I think we should put it on the table right at the beginning … the suspicion was that if Mr. Libby went to prison, he might further implicate other people in the White House, Mr. Conyers told ABC’s This Week.

White House spokesman Tony Fratto dismissed Mr. Conyers’ charge, saying: That’s a fairly ridiculous and baseless assertion. It may be impossible to plumb the depths of Chairman Conyers’ suspicions,” but we can hope this one is near the bottom.

Last week, President Bush commuted Libby’s 30-month sentence after the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney was convicted of perjury in the Valerie Plame affair. Libby was still required to pay a $250,000 fine and serve two years of probation.

It’s clear that Scooter’s not going to go to jail, but he’s paid a pretty substantial penalty, a big penalty, $250,000. His career is affected. He’s never going to be the same after having gone through this process, Rep. Chris Cannon, Utah Republican, told Fox News Sunday.

Mr. Conyers plans to hold hearings this week on the Libby commutation and said they will cover other presidents’ use of the power to pardon and commute sentences, a hearing that Mr. Cannon denounced as an example of witch hunts and frivolous activities.

But another Republican lawmaker, Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, said the opportunity to compare pardon records will rebound to Republican advantage.

I think we’ll put up the record of the president versus the record of Bill Clinton, and the president will come out relatively good on that, he said on Fox News Sunday.

Some Democrats, including Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York, said Mr. Bush commuted Mr. Libby’s sentence, rather than granting a full pardon, because that makes it more difficult for Mr. Libby to be called upon for congressional or legal testimony.

It hasn’t really been brought out. Under commutation, the person who is commuted has much greater Fifth Amendment rights. And so it means that, if there were a pardon, Libby could be called before Congress to testify on a whole bunch of things. Commutation makes it much, much harder to do that, Mr. Schumer said during an appearance on CBS’s Face the Nation.

And I think that’s an unspoken reason why the president did this, Mr. Schumer charged.

The New Yorker added that he and other Democrats, including Mr. Leahy, have discussed bringing special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald to testify before Congress.

You know, he’s not allowed to talk about what happened before the grand jury, but he did interview the president and the vice president, not before a grand jury, Mr. Schumer said.

And he might have some very interesting things to say. He issued a rare statement after the commutation that was very harsh in condemning it, and with good reason, Mr. Schumer said.

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