No regrets? Libby appears set to keep fighting conviction that Bush commuted
President George W. Bush justified his commutation of the jail sentence for I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby by arguing that the former adviser still faced a "harsh punishment." But some reports the day after the move seem to indicate that Libby was not content with staying out of jail, and may still hope to have his record wiped clean.
The Washington Post reported Tuesday morning that donors to Libby's legal defense fund, which has raised $5 million for the convicted White House aide, believed he would still fight his conviction, and will help him raise more money.
"Enter: friends in high places. Through personal contributions, fundraising efforts and direct mail, the 29 men and two women of Libby's legal defense trust have raised close to $5 million," wrote Libby Copeland and David Montgomery in the Tuesday edition of the paper. "They plan to continue raising money; both believe Libby's legal fees amount to more than the money in hand. And if he continues to appeal his conviction, the bill will rise."
Bush's decision to commute Libby's sentence was triggered by a court ruling Monday morning. Three judges decided that Libby must begin serving his jail term while appealing his case because his attorneys did not show "that the appeal raises a substantial question," according to the three-judge panel.
And White House Press Secretary in a Tuesday briefing appeared to believe that the appeal continued.
"I believe that the Libby team still has before the court an appeal," he said.
Patrick Fitzgerald, the US Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois who has served as Special Counsel in the investigation of the outing of former covert CIA Agent Valerie Plame Wilson, also appeared to be preparing for further appeals on Libby's part.
"Although the President’s decision eliminates Mr. Libby’s sentence of imprisonment, Mr. Libby remains convicted by a jury of serious felonies, and we will continue to seek to preserve those convictions through the appeals process," he said in a statement published by blogger Marcy Wheeler at The Next Hurrah.
RAW STORY had yet to reach Libby attorney Lawrence S. Robbins at press time to confirm whether or not the convicted White House aide would continue to seek an overturn of his conviction. He gave the Wall Street Journal a vague response when asked if Libby would continue his appeal to higher courts.
"Lawrence Robbins, the Washington attorney handling Mr. Libby's appeal, said 'we are considering all options at this time,'" John D. McKinnon and Evan Perez reported in Tuesday's paper.
Robbins is known in Washington for his work on the overturn of criminal convictions.
"Robbins specializes in criminal case appeals, taking them all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary," wrote John Dean, former White House Counsel under President Richard Nixon. "Robbins is well-regarded within the small circle of appellate lawyers in Washington, and he is a friend of Chief Justice John Roberts, with whom he worked in the Solicitor General's Office."
The possibility that Libby could still have his sentence overturned in an appeals court belied Bush's justification for commuting Libby's sentence. Before the President referenced his Constitutional authority to commute sentences, Bush argued that he was leaving Libby's conviction in place.
"My decision to commute his prison sentence leaves in place a harsh punishment for Mr. Libby," Bush said in his Monday night statement. "The significant fines imposed by the judge will remain in effect. The consequences of his felony conviction on his former life as a lawyer, public servant, and private citizen will be long-lasting.
While the 'harsh punishment' will be fought, some pundits are suggesting that the President will not issue a pardon for Libby at the end of his term.
"By endorsing the jury's verdict and not criticizing Fitzgerald, Bush makes it difficult -- if not impossible -- to issue a subsequent full pardon," wrote Bob Novak Tuesday morning.