On Hardball, Michael Isikoff made some compelling points, reiterated by John Dean on Countdown. The first is that never before has this president departed from the pardon guidelines. Specifically, this one:
Sec. 1.3 Eligibility for filing petition for commutation of sentence.
No petition for commutation of sentence, including remission of fine, should be filed if other forms of judicial or administrative relief are available, except upon a showing of exceptional circumstances.
Libby's appeal was still in progress. Sentencing relief was still available, because of his appeal. What exceptional circumstance could Bush claim? Only one really. It is undeniable that the President of the United States gave special treatment to his special assistant. That alone is outrageous. At the very least, Libby should have had to follow the same guidelines as everyone else for relief from his sentence.
Second, Isikoff said there's nothing that prevents Congress from investigating the granting of this pardon and asking why the president chose to depart from the guidelines, for the first time, for his special assistant and the chief of staff to Cheney.
Third, the president, in his statement said:
The United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit today rejected Lewis Libby's request to remain free on bail while pursuing his appeals for the serious convictions of perjury and obstruction of justice. As a result, Mr. Libby will be required to turn himself over to the Bureau of Prisons to begin serving his prison sentence.
... After the investigation was under way, the Justice Department appointed United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois Patrick Fitzgerald as a Special Counsel in charge of the case. Mr. Fitzgerald is a highly qualified, professional prosecutor who carried out his responsibilities as charged.
... [A] jury of citizens weighed all the evidence and listened to all the testimony and found Mr. Libby guilty of perjury and obstructing justice. They argue, correctly, that our entire system of justice relies on people telling the truth. And if a person does not tell the truth, particularly if he serves in government and holds the public trust, he must be held accountable. . . .
Mr. Libby was sentenced to thirty months of prison, two years of probation, and a $250,000 fine. In making the sentencing decision, the district court rejected the advice of the probation office, which recommended a lesser sentence and the consideration of factors that could have led to a sentence of home confinement or probation.
I respect the jury's verdict. But I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive. Therefore, I am commuting the portion of Mr. Libby's sentence that required him to spend thirty months in prison....
The probation office's recommendation would have required Libby to go to jail for 15 to 21 months. Bush rejected the probation office's recommendation as well. Bush's unprecedented special consideration for his special assistant and the chief of staff for the Vice President is proof positive that this President does not believe in equal treatment under the law.
More than issuing strong statements, it's time for Congress to investigate this commutation. Grant Libby immunity and find out everything that was behind the leak, behind the lies that took us to war and that started this whole case in the beginning, and behind this commutation.
Update: Speaking of guidlines, Mogolori points to this WaPo story on Rita v. U.S.:
Victor Rita, convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice, asked for a lighter sentence based in part on his past military service. But the judge gave him 33 months, as suggested by the guidelines. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, based in Richmond, upheld the sentence, saying that penalties within the guidelines are "presumptively reasonable."
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