July 9, 2007
Bush Set to Answer for Commuting Libby’s Sentence
By Pamela Mortimer
Scooter Libby may get a pass on serving prison time thanks to President Bush.
The Fourth of July week-long break did nothing to cool the fireworks between Congress and the White House. In fact, the commutation of Libby’s 2 ½ year prison sentence only fueled the fire for Democratic investigators. Libby, 56, was ordered to pay a $250,000 fine but may not serve even one day in prison. Also, the White House has refused to release documents that could reveal important information in the CIA leak case.
White House Counsel Fred Fielding stated that President Bush had declared executive privilege regarding the release of pertinent documents subpoenaed by the Committees. He argued that releasing the documents would damage confidential advice given the to the President. The House Judiciary Committee chairmen set Monday as the deadline for the White House to fully explain the decision.
The Washington Post reported Sunday that Fielding was expected to state that he’d already provided the legal basis for the executive privilege claims and that he does not intend to release the documentation.
On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee will review Bush’s commutation of Scooter Libby’s prison sentence for lying and obstruction of justice during the CIA leak case.
House Judiciary Committee chair John Conyers spoke of "the general impression" that Bush commuted the prison sentence of the former White House aide because there is "suspicion" that Libby might have “fingered others in the Bush administration” if he went to prison. The White House said Conyers' claim was baseless.
Patrick Leahy, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, also suspects that Bush commuted the sentence to keep Libby, Dick Cheney’s former Chief of Staff, from revealing internal White House communications. The prosecutor of the CIA case, Patrick Fitzgerald has been approached about testifying before Congress.
"I think you may very well see Mr. Fitzgerald before the Senate Judiciary Committee," Leahy said in an interview on CNN's "Late Edition."
Both Conyers and Leahy have stated that they will proceed with holding those unwilling to comply in contempt of Congress.
Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who is a senior Republican on Leahy's committee, stood in defense of the White House.
In an interview on “Face the Nation,” Hatch stated, "There comes a point where the White House has to say, 'Hey, look there are certain confidential things in the White House that we're not going to share with Congress, just like there are certain confidential things in Congress that we're not going to share with the White House."