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Bush leaves open possibility of Libby pardon

[JURIST] President George W. Bush said Tuesday afternoon that, although he believed the jury verdict in the perjury case against former vice-presidential aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby [defense website; JURIST news archive] should stand, it was conceivable that he could pardon Libby in the future [transcript]. White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said at an earlier press briefing that the avenue is always open for people to petition the president [transcript] for a pardon, and that Bush consulted a large number of senior officials before deciding on commuting Libby's sentence [Grant of Executive Clemency; JURIST report]. Snow denied allegations that the commutation was a political act, saying that the president is "getting pounded on the right because he didn't do a full pardon." He also said that there was no communication between Bush and Libby, but could not say for sure that the same was true of Vice President Dick Cheney.

Bush commuted Libby's prison sentence the same day that the federal appeals court overseeing the case unanimously rejected [order, PDF; JURIST report] Libby's request [filing, PDF] to delay the start of his prison sentence pending his appeal [JURIST report]. Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald took issue [JURIST report] with Bush's statement [text] that Libby's 30 month prison sentence [JURIST report] was "excessive," saying it "was imposed pursuant to the laws governing sentencing which occur every day throughout this country." Fitzgerald said he will continue to seek preservation of Libby's conviction throughout the appeals process. Libby's lawyer has indicated that appeals will continue, saying that Libby still maintains his innocence [statement]. AP has more.

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