Democratic Colorado legislators wasted no time condemning President Bush’s commutation of former White House aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby 30-month prison sentence for his felony convictions of perjury and obstructing justice in a 2003 CIA leak investigation. Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D-07) issued the following statement:
I am disappointed that the President decided to disregard our system of justice and commute the sentence of Scooter Libby.
Our system of justice is based on honesty. When people lie and obstruct justice they should face punishment. However, this Administration failed to uphold the rule of law and showed once again that friends of the President get special treatment.
This action further demonstrates our need for checks, balances and accountability at all levels of government.
Rep. Diana DeGette and chief deputy whip for the House Democrats expressed her outrage at the turn of events:
President Bush has shown his blatant disregard for the rule of law that our country’s entire judicial system was founded on. Mr. Libby was found guilty by a jury of his peers, and unfortunately, the President has chosen to ignore that decision.
“The President’s actions today show this Administration’s disturbing view that they are above the law. I intend to continue to press hard in Congress to insure the integrity of the rule of law throughout all three branches of government.
In an email, Rep. Doug Lamborn’s spokesman Chris Harvin said the congressman would not be making a statement.
Sen. Ken Salazar issued a terse two-sentence statement this afternoon:
“I am very disappointed that President Bush has chosen to exercise his power to commute “Scooter” Libby’s sentence. Mr. Libby was convicted by a jury of his peers and he should face the consequences of his actions.”
The case came about after undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame’s name was leaked to the press as political retaliation against her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson publicly called into question the White House’s rationale for going to war with Iraq.
Speculation has been rife that the leak involved high ranking Bush Administration officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, White House political operative Karl Rove, and the president himself.
The commutation comes short of a presidential pardon and was announced just hours after a federal appeals court ruled this afternoon that Libby could not delay reporting to prison.
Colorado Confidential will be contacting the entire federal delegation and state legislative leadership for reaction to this breaking story. Stay tuned for updates as they occur.
9:30 p.m. MDT UPDATE: Rep. John Salazar provided the following comment.
No one should be above the law. When people violate the law there should be consequences. I’m appalled at how there continues to be a complete disregard for accountability within this administration.
July 3, 8:25 a.m. MDT UPDATE: Sen. Wayne Allard weighs in on the controversy.
While I respect the jury’s verdict in the Lewis Libby case, the Constitution gives the President the power to grant clemency when he deems it necessary and commuting Mr. Libby’s sentence is an appropriate exercise of this power. The reputation Scooter Libby gained through his years of public service and professional work in the legal community will never be fully restored and President Bush has left in place a harsh punishment for Mr. Libby. The sentence handed down to Mr. Libby was based on charges that had nothing to do with the leak of the identity of a CIA operative. I am pleased that the Libby family and the American public can now move on and turn our attention to the pressing issues of the day.
2:30 p.m. MDT UPDATE: Rep. Tom Tancredo makes a pitch for presidential clemency for two Texas border patrol agents who were convicted and sentenced to federal prison for shooting an unarmed drug smuggler and covering up the incident:
I believe the President should take it a step further and fully pardon Border Patrol Agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean. The 11 and 12 year sentences they received were grossly unfair and a result of an overzealous prosecutor. Both agents are at risk of violent attacks at their current prison cell locations. In fact, Mr. Ramos has already been brutally assaulted by violent criminals inside his cell. This not only takes a toll on them, but their families as well.
President Bush acknowledged the hardship felt by the family of “Scooter” Libby as a reason for his commuted sentence. He also acknowledged the irreparable damage to Mr. Libby’s career that resulted from the prosecutorial tactics throughout the course of his case.
Mr. Ramos, Mr. Compean and their families are, in many ways, in the same situation. And as such, I hope the President will consider providing the same relief to these men and their families that he did yesterday to Mr. Libby.