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March 11, 2007

A Libby pardon and DOJ guidelines

A helpful reader pointed me to this effective Newsweek article spotlighting that President Bush would have to skirt the Justice Department's internal guidelines in order to grant Lewis Libby a pardon.  Here is a snippet from the piece:

[T]here's one significant roadblock on the path to Libby's salvation: Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff does not qualify to even be considered for a presidential pardon under Justice Department guidelines.

From the day he took office, Bush seems to have followed those guidelines religiously. He's taken an exceedingly stingy approach to pardons, granting only 113 in six years, mostly for relatively minor fraud, embezzlement and drug cases dating back more than two decades.  Bush's pardons are "fewer than any president in 100 years," according to Margaret Love, former pardon attorney at the Justice Department.

Following the furor over President Bill Clinton's last-minute pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich (among others), Bush made it clear he wasn’t interested in granting many pardons.  "We were basically told [by then White House counsel and now Attorney General Alberto Gonzales] that there weren’t going to be pardons — or if there were, there would be very few," recalls one former White House lawyer who asked not to be identified talking about internal matters.

The president has since indicated he intended to go by the book in granting what few pardons he'd hand out — considering only requests that had first been reviewed by the Justice Department under a series of publicly available guidelines.  Those regulations, which are discussed on the Justice Department Web site, would seem to make a Libby pardon a nonstarter in George W. Bush's White House.  They "require a petitioner to wait a period of at least five years after conviction or release from confinement (whichever is later) before filing a pardon application," according to the Justice Web site.  Moreover, in weighing whether to recommend a pardon, U.S. attorneys are supposed to consider whether an applicant is remorseful.  "The extent to which a petitioner has accepted responsibility for his or her criminal conduct and made restitution to ... victims are important considerations. A petitioner should be genuinely desirous of forgiveness rather than vindication," the Justice Web site states.

Of course, there is nothing that requires Bush to follow these guidelines in reviewing a pardon for Libby (whose lawyer, Ted Wells, stated on the courthouse steps Tuesday that he intended to push for a retrial, adding that he has "every confidence that Mr. Libby will be vindicated.")  As Love, the former pardon attorney, points out, "the president can do whatever he wants."

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March 11, 2007 at 01:10 PM | Permalink


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Doug, since when are an "expert" on pardons? Sentencing, of course. But pardons?

Posted by: When | Mar 11, 2007 10:31:32 PM

There are, of course, three commutations that have been granted so far, and a commutation is soon going to be what Libby needs more than a pardon.

Posted by: ohwilleke | Mar 12, 2007 11:55:45 AM

Isn't it important to keep in mind the fact that DOJ guidelines are important (and needed) restrictions on the DOJ and applicants, but not the president? I mean it makes perfect sense to have them applied to the former but not the latter.


Posted by: P.S. Ruckman, Jr. | Mar 13, 2007 2:30:27 PM

Dear Sir,

I need some assistance on a en banc hearing. Please review the following case from the Eighth Circuit: U.S. v. Craig Thomas, 06-2452; case filed on March 28, 2007.

The Hearing has to do with a discussion on the "inevitalbe discovery doctrine" and of the current conflict between the 8th Circuit and the U.S. Supreme applicaiton of the same.

I need some help on this matter. I have a filing dealine for May 11, 2007. Can you lend a legal hand as to your insight and prespective on the matter?

Please read the above mention opinion and respond to my call.

Thank you,

Attorney at Law
220 Lafayette, Ste. 150
Iowa City, Iowa 52240
319 339-4218

Posted by: Frank Santiago | Apr 9, 2007 6:33:49 PM

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