Bush commuted Libby sentence without consulting Justice Department, Fitzgerald
Published: Monday July 2, 2007
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'Comfort' at White House that decision won't hurt Bush politically

President George W. Bush did not consult with the Justice Department or special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald before commuting the sentence of former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, according to Tuesday's Washington Post. Bush commuted Libby's sentence for perjuring and other crimes related to his role in the outing of CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson.

Bush also rebuffed anyone appealing from Libby -- limiting discussion "to a few close aides."

"For the first time in his presidency, Bush made a decision to commute a sentence without going through a process of running requests through lawyers at the Justice Department," the Post alleged. "He also did not ask the chief prosecutor in the case, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, for his input, as routinely happens in cases routed through the Justice Department's pardon attorney."

Bush, however, said in his statement that he'd carefully weighed the arguments for and against a pardon -- apparently without actually getting information from the prosecutor about the case.

"Both critics and defenders of this investigation have made important points," Bush wrote. "I have made my own evaluation. In preparing for the decision I am announcing today, I have carefully weighed these arguments and the circumstances surrounding this case."

"We were all told to stay away from it," an old Bush friend from Texas told the Post. "When we called over there, they said the president is well aware of the situation, so don't raise it. None of us lobbied him because they told us not to."

Libby did not receive a pardon, but he did have his 30 month jail sentence commuted. He remains guilty of the felonies of perjury, obstruction of justice, and making false statements in the federal investigation of the outing of covert CIA agent Plame Wilson. He will also pay a $250,000 fine.

"One senior administration official said Bush quickly made his decision yesterday after hearing that the U.S. Court of Appeals had refused to keep Libby out of jail while his appeal ran its course," the article continued. "This source, who demanded anonymity to talk freely about the president's thinking, said there is 'comfort' at the White House that the decision will not hurt him politically despite the Democratic outcry."

Read the Post article here.