White House Dismisses Rumors of Pardon for Libby

Almost as soon as an obstruction-of-justice conviction was read out for I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, conservatives began calling on President Bush to pardon the former White House aide. Libby, Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, was convicted of lying to obstruct the investigation into who leaked CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity.

Just two hours after the jury foreperson read the verdict in court, the Web site of The National Review posted an editorial titled "Justice Demands that President Bush Issue a Pardon."

David Rivkin, a contributing editor to the magazine, says, "I think that the best thing to do would be to pardon him now and prevent this matter from going forward."

Rivkin believes Libby never should have been prosecuted in the first place, and he thinks President Bush should rectify the situation now. Still, he doesn't think a pardon is imminent.

"I think the far more likely scenario is he'll be pardoned toward the end of the administration," Rivkin says. "Not because it's a matter of waiting till the end of the administration, but I think there'll be enough people in the White House who say, 'Let's see how the appeals go.'"

When reporters at the White House asked spokeswoman Dana Perino about a presidential pardon for Libby, she called it a wildly hypothetical situation and refused to speculate.

"There is a process in place for all Americans," Perino said, "if they want to receive a pardon from a president, any president that is in office. And I'm aware of no such request."

There is a long history of presidents pardoning people who've gotten into trouble because of their work for an administration.

One of the most famous is President Ford, who pardoned his predecessor Richard Nixon after the Watergate scandal. And the first President Bush pardoned some of the people convicted in the Iran-Contra affair.

After the verdict came down, a reporter asked one of the jurors how he'd feel if President Bush pardoned Libby. Denis Collins replied that he wouldn't be upset a bit.

"I just don't have any spite or anger about Mr. Libby," Collins said.

President Bush has issued fewer pardons than other recent presidents. Most of those that he has issued have not been controversial.

President Clinton's pardon choices were more widely criticized. For example, Clinton came under fire for pardoning fugitive financier Marc Rich in January of 2001. Rich's ex-wife was a major Democratic donor.

The lawyer who represented Rich during that affair was one I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

Defense Lawyers to Fight Libby's Conviction

Lewis "Scooter" Libby walks past reporters after Tuesday's verdict. i i

Lewis "Scooter" Libby walks past reporters after Tuesday's verdict. Alex Wong/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Alex Wong/Getty Images
Lewis "Scooter" Libby walks past reporters after Tuesday's verdict.

Lewis "Scooter" Libby walks past reporters after Tuesday's verdict, trailed by defense lawyer Theodore Wells.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Guilty on four out of five counts. That was the verdict in the perjury trial of Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

The verdict capped a Washington scandal that began four years ago. The drama exposed the unsavory workings of the White House PR machine and the Washington media. It encompassed President Bush's justification for the Iraq war and the exposure of an undercover CIA agent.

At the end of all that, Libby was convicted of lying under oath to a grand jury and FBI agents about his role in the affair.

"It's sad that we had a situation where a high-level official, a person who worked in the office of the vice president, obstructed justice and lied under oath," said Patrick Fitzgerald, the lead prosecutor on the case. "We wish that had not happened, but it did."

Fitzgerald said he was gratified by the jury's verdict, and he does not expect to file any more charges in the CIA leak investigation.

Defense lawyer Ted Wells said he is disappointed in the outcome. He plans to file a motion for a new trial. And if that's declined, he said he'll appeal the conviction.

"We believe, as we said at the time of his indictment, that he is totally innocent," Wells said. "Totally innocent."

Libby did not speak outside the courthouse. Nor did he visibly react when the jury announced the verdict in court. His wife cried silently in the front row as the foreperson read out, "guilty ... guilty ... guilty ..." to all but one of the counts.

Juror Denis Collins said the jury had a tremendous amount of sympathy for Libby, but ultimately could not believe that his lies under oath were simply memory lapses, as the defense claimed.

The undercover agent who was exposed was Valerie Plame. Her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, had publicly criticized the Bush administration's justification for war with Iraq.

It became clear during the trial that the White House decided to respond to Ambassador Wilson's charges by quietly telling reporters that Wilson's wife was a CIA operative.

It can be a crime to leak an undercover CIA agent's identity, but no one was charged with that offense. Prosecutor Fitzgerald said that does not diminish the seriousness of Libby's crimes.

President Bush expressed sadness for Libby and his family. Vice President Cheney, Libby's onetime boss, said he was very disappointed with the verdict and praised Libby's work as a public servant. Both men refused to comment further because of pending appeals.

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