Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Libby v. Rich

There's a hue and a cry in certain parts of the polity over the Congressional interest in President Bush's commutation of Lewis Libby's jail sentence. The basic theme: Libby deserved a pardon, not just a commutation, and Bush's action was clearly on the up-and-up. So Congress shouldn't investigate the matter, and if they do Bush should claim executive privilege and tell them to sod off.

Oh, and there are the claims of hypocrisy, seeing as how Clinton's rash of last-minute pardons barely raised any Democratic eyebrows.

That last charge has a ring of truth to it. Democrats often are loath to criticize a Democratic president, just as Republicans often are loath to criticize a Republican. They tend to express their opposition through lack of support, not active criticism. It's why divided government is a generally a good thing: neither party can be trusted to police itself.

That said, Clinton's pardons drew bipartisan criticism -- particularly his pardon of Marc Rich, which hardly anybody defended. Likewise, even many Libby sympathizers think Bush was wrong to completely eliminate his jail term.

Starting with that similarity, let's compare the Libby case with the Rich case and see where we end up.

Bush: Commuted the sentence of a man convicted of lying to investigators looking into possible illegal actions in the White House, raising suspicions of a coverup and a commutation based on connections, not the facts of the case.
Clinton: Pardoned a fugitive whose wife was a major Democratic donor, raising suspicions of a "pardons for cash" deal and pardon based on connections, not the facts of the case.

Bush: Commuted Libby's sentence without consulting the Justice Department, the prosecutor in the case or going through normal channels.
Clinton: Pardoned Rich without consulting the Justice Department, the prosecutor in the case or going through normal channels.

Bush: Has claimed executive privilege to prevent subpoenaing of aides and documents.
Clinton: Waived executive privilege, allowing Congressional investigators to subpoena aides and documents.

Bush: Nearly silent on his reasoning for the commutation.
Clinton: Wrote a New York Times op-ed piece defending his pardon.

Bush: Faces the prospect of multiple hearings and press conferences from Congress over the commutation.
Clinton: Endured multiple Congressional hearings and press conferences over the pardon, culminating in a lengthy report from the House subcommittee chaired by Rep. Dan Burton.

Bush: No special prosecutor -- yet.
Clinton: Endured an investigation from a special prosecutor, first Mary Jo White and then the ubiquitous James Comey, who eventually closed all the probes without seeking an indictment.

So what we have today is a Democratic Congress acting almost exactly like a Republican Congress did in 2001.

I had and have no problem with the Republican investigations of the Rich pardon. The special prosecutor was a little over the top, but the hearings and criticism were well-deserved. It was yet another personal low point for Clinton in an administration that had many of them. It was yet one more example of Clinton's split personality -- so questionable personally, but so successful and popular on a policy and political level.

Similarly, though, I have no problem with the Democratic investigations of the Libby commutation. And I think Bush should follow Clinton's example and waive privilege in this case.

Bush himself, by the way, is laudably (if wrongly) consistent in this matter. He criticized the pardon in 2001, but didn't call for an investigation, saying Clinton had the right to do it. He later said it was "time to move on" -- partly out of fear that the continuing probes would hamper passage of his own political agenda. Bush's other main motive: a desire to preserve and expand the power of the executive branch, something not helped by a Congress questioning an enumerated Constitutional power.

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15 Comments:

Anonymous sfcmac said...

RE: Comparisons of Clinton/Bush pardons:

Two issues:

1. Bush: Has claimed executive privilege to prevent subpoenaing of aides and documents.
Clinton: Waived executive privilege, allowing Congressional investigators to subpoena aides and documents.

Whatever documents were subpoenaed obviously did not have an effect on the pardons of rapists, child pornographers, or terrorists. With regard to the FALN in particular, he invoked "executive privilege" and refused to hand over documents to the House Committee on Government Reform.

2. Bush: Nearly silent on his reasoning for the commutation.
Clinton: Wrote a New York Times op-ed piece defending his pardon.

Given the fact that Libby was targeted for a "leak" he did not commit, the reason is self explanatory.
I read Clinton's "defense" of his indefensible pardons. He gives the perfunctory spiel about "the determination of the ultimate authority that the public welfare will be better served by [the pardon] . . .", and goes on to say that he: "...granted pardons because (he)felt the individuals had been unfairly treated and punished pursuant to the Independent Counsel statute then in existence. The remainder of the pardons and commutations were granted for a wide variety of fact-based reasons, but the common denominator was that the cases...seemed to (him) deserving of executive clemency."

As if this is justification for the release of some of the worst dredges of society. The bulk of the pardons involved some pretty serious and/or despicable crimes. The sheer volume, not to mention the flurry of 11th hour pardons, is incredible.

As for Marc Rich, Clinton claims he was 'troubled' by the criminalization of the charges brought against him. Well, isn't tax evasion a criminal offense? Isn't fleeing the country to avoid prosecution a federal crime? The entire NYT OpEd piece is quintessential Slick Willie. In addition, Clinton abused the pardons to help himself, his family, friends and contributors. It was a who's who list of criminal cronies. There are stark contrasts between the recipients of Clinton’s pardons as opposed to the commutation given by Bush.

7/12/2007 8:20 AM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

Whatever documents were subpoenaed obviously did not have an effect on the pardons of rapists, child pornographers, or terrorists.

The spin aside, that's because the hearings turned up no evidence of illegality by Clinton. Poor judgment? Probably, taken on a case-by-case basis. But nothing illegal.

With regard to the FALN in particular, he invoked "executive privilege" and refused to hand over documents to the House Committee on Government Reform.

Just because he waives privilege in one case doesn't mean he needed to waive privilege in all cases. The FALN pardon came more than a year before his wave of last-minute pardons provoked such criticism.

I didn't have a big problem with the FALN pardons. The people pardoned were never convicted of any role in the group's bombings, and all had either served their full sentence or served at least 19 years in prison. I'm okay with clemency in such cases.

Given the fact that Libby was targeted for a "leak" he did not commit, the reason is self explanatory.

Not really. First, you're assuming things you cannot know to be fact. Second, it doesn't matter why he was "targeted". While there will always be debate about whether there actually was an underlying crime, the one thing we do know is that he was convicted of lying to a grand jury. He was pardoned for a crime he demonstrably did commit.

As if this is justification for the release of some of the worst dredges of society. The bulk of the pardons involved some pretty serious and/or despicable crimes. The sheer volume, not to mention the flurry of 11th hour pardons, is incredible.

You won't find me defending Clinton on this. I think a fair number of the pardons were individually justifiable. But many weren't, and on balance they shouldn't have happened.

It was a who's who list of criminal cronies. There are stark contrasts between the recipients of Clinton’s pardons as opposed to the commutation given by Bush.

Like I said, Libby is no Rich. But then again, Clinton never pardoned a crony for obstructing an investigation into Clinton's actions.

7/12/2007 9:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Clinton: Endured an investigation from a special prosecutor, first Mary Jo White and then the ubiquitous James Comey, who eventually closed all the probes without seeking an indictment."

Would that be Democrat Senator Chuck Schumer's friend, James Comey??? No wonder they "eventually closed all the probes without seeking an indictment."

This whole Joseph Wilson/Valerie Plame thing was begun by them. They LIED to a NYTimes reporter and were never placed under oath and questioned about their lies. Although they were caught in the lies before the Senate Intelligence Committe in the summer of 2004: a fact the liberal press chooses to "not" dwell on and prefers to ignore. I blame the liberal press for being complicent with the Wilson's because to them it was about being anti Iraq war; not about the truth.

The TRUTH is Richard Armitage of the State Department leaked the name. And the TRUTH is....it probably goes back even further and points to the Wilson's themselves. Armitage said Wilson was calling "everyone he knew" because he was pissed off that they were reporting he was a nobody.

Our justice system has always been based on "being proven guilty for a crime." First you have to establish a crime was committed---something that was never done here. Libby should have NEVER even been placed under oath and tried his best to remember events. Because it was KNOWN by the prosector way before who leaked. The case should have ended when Fitzgerald realized no crime had been committed....instead of telling Armitage NOT to tell, and proceed on with his witchhunt.

JP5

7/12/2007 11:40 AM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

Would that be Democrat Senator Chuck Schumer's friend, James Comey??? No wonder they "eventually closed all the probes without seeking an indictment."

To be clear: You're asserting that Comey covered up Clintonian wrongdoing?

Good luck with that argument.

This whole Joseph Wilson/Valerie Plame thing was begun by them.

Um, okay. Please don't hijack yet another comments thread to attack Wilson. He's tangential to the point of this post.

Our justice system has always been based on "being proven guilty for a crime." First you have to establish a crime was committed---something that was never done here.

No, it was established that a crime was committed: lying to a grand jury.

There is no necessity to prove an underlying crime in a perjury case. Such a requirement would be ludicrous. A defendant could brazenly and openly lie and get away with it as long as the lie successfully prevented prosecution on the underlying crime. It would make a mockery of the whole "under oath" thing.

That's why perjury is a crime all on its own, separate from the trial in which the perjury occurred.

Should there be an underlying case? Yes. Fishing expeditions intended to create perjury traps aren't legitimate. But there was an underlying case in this instance, a legitimate investigation of possible illegal activity.

Libby should have NEVER even been placed under oath

That would have made the investigation a bit moot, wouldn't it?

Nonetheless, that did not give him license to lie.

The case should have ended when Fitzgerald realized no crime had been committed....

Armitage was a leaker, not the leaker. And he was further down the information stream than Libby. Fitzgerald was simply trying to follow the information flow back to its source.

7/12/2007 11:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"To be clear: You're asserting that Comey covered up Clintonian wrongdoing?"

No. I'm simply doing my Conyers impression----just raising the suspicion.

"Please don't hijack yet another comments thread to attack Wilson. He's tangential to the point of this post."

So, then if the discussion of Wilson and Plame are "off limits" in a thread having to do with Lewis Libby---why not start a thread on Wilson and Plame?

"No, it was established that a crime was committed: lying to a grand jury."

I've told you before--a decent lawyer could get YOU to LIE under oath. All he has to do is get you to say something different from someone else who testified under oath and then persuade the jury to believe them and not you.

"Armitage was a leaker, not the leaker. And he was further down the information stream than Libby. Fitzgerald was simply trying to follow the information flow back to its source."

You have absolutely no evidence that confirms that statement. Armitage told Bob Woodward weeks before he told Bob Novak. No telling who else he told as he liked to gossip.
BTW---Fitzgerald had NO INTEREST in following the leak back. If he did, he would have checked out the Wilson's who were the FIRST to talk to a reporter. Did he ask Armitage who told him? Nope. He told Armitage to keep quite and continued trying to find someone inside the WH.
JP5

7/12/2007 3:53 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

No. I'm simply doing my Conyers impression----just raising the suspicion.

Since you don't like Conyers, I'm not sure why you'd try to emulate him. That said, it wasn't a good impression. Conyers actually said "raises the suspicion," differentiating it from an assertion of fact. You say "no wonder", suggesting it's fact.

why not start a thread on Wilson and Plame?

Because they have not been charged with anything, and their status as liars or truthtellers has almost no relevance to discussion of the Libby case.

Maybe I'll create an open thread so you can continue bashing them.

All he has to do is get you to say something different from someone else who testified under oath and then persuade the jury to believe them and not you.

Or in the case of Libby, show that your testimony contradicts the testimony of eight other people, and that it's highly improbable that it was due to faulty memory.

You have absolutely no evidence that confirms that statement.

Sure I do. Rove was Novak's other source; that's on the record. Fleischer discussed Plame with multiple reporters; that's on the record. Armitage only knew about Plame because he saw a memo prepared for Cheney and Libby. You're really arguing uphill if you're going to insist that Armitage was the only person who leaked.

7/12/2007 4:06 PM  
Blogger Munsey said...

The people pardoned were never convicted of any role in the group's bombings

That is not what the article you linked says. It says "None of them were convicted of doing bodily harm to anyone." That is like saying Osama bin Laden is innocent because he wasn't the one flying the plane. The people who plan terrorist attacks are much more dangerous than the brainwashed sheep that carry them out.

7/12/2007 5:32 PM  
Blogger Munsey said...

So, then if the discussion of Wilson and Plame are "off limits" in a thread having to do with Lewis Libby---why not start a thread on Wilson and Plame?

That is like Plame's covert status. Fitzgerald fought vigorously (and successfully) against the defense's discovery requests as to Plame's actual status, saying that it was not relevant to the case. Then the moment he got a verdict, and further evidence and testimony would no longer be subject to cross examination, the first thing he does is submits a memo of Plame's covert status. Is it relevant or not? Or only when it is convenient for you?

7/12/2007 5:37 PM  
Anonymous sfcmac said...

Sean Aqui said:
7/12/2007 8:20 AM

The spin aside, that's because the hearings turned up no evidence of illegality by Clinton. Poor judgment? Probably, taken on a case-by-case basis. But nothing illegal.

Bush didn't do anything illegal by commuting Libby either, but there's wailing and gnashing of teeth over Bush's decision.

With regard to the FALN in particular, he invoked "executive privilege" and refused to hand over documents to the House Committee on Government Reform.

Just because he waives privilege in one case doesn't mean he needed to waive privilege in all cases. The FALN pardon came more than a year before his wave of last-minute pardons provoked such criticism.

I didn't have a big problem with the FALN pardons. The people pardoned were never convicted of any role in the group's bombings, and all had either served their full sentence or served at least 19 years in prison. I'm okay with clemency in such cases.

Being a former Soldier and Intel analyst, I've got a big problem with any release of terrorists. It happens too much as it is. Why let them back out where they can pick up where they left off?


Not really. First, you're assuming things you cannot know to be fact. Second, it doesn't matter why he was "targeted". While there will always be debate about whether there actually was an underlying crime, the one thing we do know is that he was convicted of lying to a grand jury. He was pardoned for a crime he demonstrably did commit.

Yes, really. At the risk of being "tangential", Joe, Valerie, and their democratic supporters pushed for this. Fitzgerald siezed the opportunity to vent his Bush hatred through litigation. It's all politics, doncha know...

You won't find me defending Clinton on this. I think a fair number of the pardons were individually justifiable. But many weren't, and on balance they shouldn't have happened.

Well, at least on that point, we're in agreement.


Like I said, Libby is no Rich. But then again, Clinton never pardoned a crony for obstructing an investigation into Clinton's actions.

No, he just pardoned fellow Whitewater cronies and DNC contributors, is all.

7/13/2007 7:48 AM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

Munsey: Read it again. In the last paragraph, it says: "None of the 16 at the heart of the clemency offer was convicted in any of the bombings."

It goes on to note that they were convicted on a variety of charges, ranging from bomb-making and conspiracy to armed robbery, and given sentences ranging from 35 to 90 years; the activists served 14 to 19 years in prison.

Every group has a range of participants, from the extreme militants to the more lukewarm supporters. Clinton pardoned the latter after they all served lengthy prison terms.

Is it relevant or not? Or only when it is convenient for you?

Legally speaking, Plame's status wasn't relevant to the trial because Libby was charged with perjury, not outing Plame.

At the sentencing phase, Fitzgerald introduced Plame's covert status as evidence of the seriousness of the investigation that Libby's lies impeded -- an "aggravating factor" that he felt should increase Libby's sentence.

That, too, is legally acceptable. It's more serious to tell lies during a national-security investigation than it is to tell lies during, say, a speeding investigation. So Fitzgerald was attempting to show that Libby's lies had serious consequences.

7/13/2007 9:28 AM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

SFCMac: Bush didn't do anything illegal by commuting Libby either, but there's wailing and gnashing of teeth over Bush's decision.

Just as there was wailing about Clinton's pardons. Just because it's legal doesn't mean it's moral or just.

As I've noted before, James Madison thought pardoning an official who was obstructing an investigation of the president or his administration was grounds for impeachment because it was so transparently corrupt.

Why let them back out where they can pick up where they left off?

Not all terrorists are equal. Minor supporters don't deserve the same harsh treatment as ringleaders. Would I have cared if they stayed in prison longer? No. But neither do I consider it a travesty of justice that they were pardoned.

Fitzgerald siezed the opportunity to vent his Bush hatred through litigation.

This argument has never made sense. A well-regarded U.S. attorney appointed by Bush is a rabid Bush hater? Please.

No, he just pardoned fellow Whitewater cronies and DNC contributors, is all.

Fair enough. Though it's worth mentioning that Susan McDougal -- the Whitewater crony you refer to -- was only pardoned after she served her sentence and the Whitewater probe closed down.

The donors criteria is a tougher standard, because half the country probably qualifies as "Democratic donors" and people seeking clemency may well donate money in hopes that it improves their chances. For it to be corrupt there needs to be a strong suggestion that the pardon was directly related to the donations.

Just to keep things in perspective (because I don't criticize Bush for this), Bush has pardoned donors as well, and has a special penchant for pardoning drug dealers. (Not to mention the pardons committed by Bush the Elder, aiding donors and a terrorist, as well as a last-minute pardon to a major donor).

7/13/2007 10:00 AM  
Blogger Munsey said...

Sean Aqui, what do you think they were convicted of conspiracy for? Conspiracy to litter? No, they were convicted of conspiracy to commit bombings and other acts of terror. The fact that they themselves did not detonate the bombs doesn't mean they aren't terrorists. They were the planners.

7/13/2007 2:18 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

Munsey: FALN was active up until 1983. So by the time Clinton issued the pardons, there had been no FALN activity for 16 years.

Plus, he didn't pardon them; he commuted their sentences.

He acted after an appeal by 10 Nobel Peace Prize recipients, a Catholic cardinal and an archbishop.

The conspiracy charges were general ones related to their activities helping the group. Notably, none were specifically linked to bombings that resulted in death or injury.

Clinton's commutation was conditional on their renouncing violence and cooperating with parole officials.

In addition, I'm unaware of any violence involving the former FALN members since they were released. This would seem to indicate that they do not pose a threat to public safety.

7/13/2007 4:46 PM  
Blogger Munsey said...

And I am not aware of any lying under oath by Libby since his sentence has been commuted. :)

7/13/2007 6:47 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

LOL. True. The year is still young, though....

7/18/2007 2:46 PM  

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