President George W. Bush’s friendship with Vice President Cheney was stretched to the breaking point after the president refused to pardon Cheney’s former chief of staff, according to an NBC interview Bush gave in advance of the release of his book, “Decision Points.”
Appearing in a interview on NBC Monday, the former president said that Cheney was furious over the decision not to pardon I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby for lying in the case of outed CIA officer Valerie Plame — though he ultimately commuted Libby’s sentence before the former Cheney aide served even a day in jail.
“He wanted me to pardon him,” Bush told NBC’s Matt Lauer. “And this was a decision that — a real life decision for the presidency, really. I chose to let the jury verdict stand after some serious deliberation. And the vice president was angry.”
“You went to him and you told him,” Lauer explained. “You said he was furious and he said, ‘I can’t believe you’re going to leave a soldier on the battlefield?'”
“Yeah, he did,” the president said.
But Bush said his relationship with Cheney has since recovered.
“He gave a very gracious speech on his way out of town at Andrews Air Force Base. Yeah, we are friends. I went by to see him. I’ve seen him since then, talked to him. I’m pleased to report we are. I was a little concerned at one time. It was a hard decision to make. But that’s what you do when you’re president, you make hard decisions,” he said.
In 2007, Libby was convicted of two counts of perjury, one count of lying to federal agents and one count of obstructing a federal investigation into the case of who leaked Valerie Plame’s name, a CIA operative married to one of the president’s critics.
Bush decided to commute a two and a half year prison term but he let a fine of $250,000 stand.
This video is from NBC’s Today Show, broadcast Nov. 8, 2010.