Is a Libby Pardon on the Way?
LIANE HANSEN, host:
Presidential candidate John Edwards is playing a political waiting game. So is President Bush, according to NPR's senior news analyst Daniel Schorr.
DANIEL SCHORR: It's a fair bet that Lewis Scooter Libby, the former aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, will not serve a day in prison. The question of a presidential pardon is mainly a question of timing, as Mr. Bush made clear when he said he would stay out of the situation until the legal process has run its course.
Mr. Bush has clearly learned the lesson of how much political harm a premature pardon can do. Days after coming into office in 1974, President Ford gave a blanket pardon to Richard Nixon, and that may have cost Ford his own election in 1976. Another president, Bill Clinton, waited until hours before leaving office to pardon the fugitive financier Marc Rich. So what are the prospects for Lewis Libby facing a likely prison sentence of one and a half to three years on his conviction for perjury and obstruction of justice?
The legal process in a case like this can take a long time, especially when the defendant, free on bail, has every interest in dragging it out. So first the motion for a new trial. That will probably be denied. Then an appeal to a three-member panel of a court of appeals. That could be stretched out by applying for a hearing on bunc(ph); that is, all 12 members of the court. And it could conceivably end up in the Supreme Court.
There's a chance that the legal process could take us up to and even past the 2008 election. Mr. Bush has no direct stake in that election, but a pardon before the vote could well have an impact on the fortunes of other Republicans. And so when President Bush says I am pretty much going to stay out of it, he could had added until Election Day anyway, with a silent prayer that Libby's legal team is still arguing in the courts by then. Then Mr. Bush can issue his pardon before the inaugural without facing the worst consequences. This is Daniel Schorr.
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