Leahy disappointed that Libby’s sentence is commuted

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(Host) Senator Patrick Leahy says he’s disappointed that President Bush commuted the jail sentence of Scooter Libby.

Leahy says the president’s decision makes it even more important for Congress to challenge the Administration.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) Libby, who was the former chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, had been convicted of perjury and the obstruction of justice in a case involving the public disclosure of the identity of Valerie Plame of the C.I.A. Libby received a 30 month jail sentence for these crimes.

By commuting the sentence, the President ensured that Libby wouldn’t be sent to prison but the conviction remains in place.

Leahy, who chairs the Senate Judiciary committee, thinks the president made a very poor decision:

(Leahy) “The signal he sends is simply that we here in this Administration are above the law. We’ll apply the law to others. but we expect to be treated differently. I’ve never seen any Administration like this. It makes the Nixon Administration seem like the most open Administration in history.”

(Kinzel) Leahy says it certainly appears that Libby was rewarded for his silence on a number of key issues:

(Leahy) “What this means is Scooter Libby, who would have gone to prison will not go to prison. And basically Scooter Libby who could blow the whistle on everything that’s been going on in the activities especially in the Vice President’s office, Scooter Libby who could have told why they falsified the information that brought us into war in Iraq, Scooter Libby will keep his mouth shut.”

(Kinzel) Last week, the Senate Judiciary committee issued a series of subpoenas to the White House to obtain information concerning the dismissal of a number of federal attorneys last fall. Leahy says there’s strong evidence to suggest that these attorneys were fired for political reasons.

Leahy says the President’s decision to commute Libby’s sentence makes Leahy more determined to continue his legal battles with the White House:

(Leahy) “I think I have to. I think I have a responsibility. And I think the reason why only 3 of the Republicans on my committee even voted against asking for more subpoenas, the reason why so many Republicans have backed what I’ve been doing is because most people know that if the Congress, just like during the Watergate era, if the Congress is going to do its job they have to ask these questions.”

(Kinzel) The White House has invoked executive privilege in the case involving the federal attorneys. Leahy says it’s likely the issue will have to be decided by the courts.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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