Just hours after the DC Circuit affirmed the order requiring Scooter Libby to face jail time pending the appeal of his conviction, President Bush used the presidential pardon power to commute Libby’s sentence, thus sparing him jail time while leaving in place the conviction – in other words, an unsentenced conviction for a victimless crime:
President Bush Monday spared former vice presidential aide Lewis “Scooter” Libby from going to prison for 2 1/2 years for obstructing the CIA leak investigation, a White House official said.
The official said Bush “has commuted the prison sentence … leaving intact the probation and fines handed down by the court.”
“That means he is not going to jail,” the official said.
Now, we get to hear what Hillary Clinton thinks about the proper uses of the pardon power and whether losing your high position in federal office is insufficient punishment for perjury.
UPDATE: What do I mean by “victimless crime”? Libby was convicted for misleading an investigation into a whodunit where the investigators already knew whodunit and didn’t prosecute. Granted, Libby’s false statements to the FBI (unlike his grand jury testimony) preceded Fitzgerald’s appointment and Armitage’s confession, but even so, the “harm” to the investigation was pretty fleeting and had no real consequence.
I don’t underrate the seriousness of perjury, but in sentencing, or using the pardon power, you consider mitigating factors. Unlike the Paula Jones case, no individual litigant was harmed by obstruction of the discovery process. And unlike the Sandy Berger case, there was no successful coverup.