Pardon Libby? Not Under The Bush Guildelines

Ken AshfordPlamegateLeave a Comment

Bush was among the many critics of Clinton’s policy regarding pardons.  So much so, in fact, that when Bush came into office, he re-established the guidelines under which a convicted person can be entitled to receiving a pardon.

Newsweek has an eye-opening report, suggesting that under the Bush guildelines, the possibility of a pardon for Libby is a "non-starter":

But there’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 at, 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, these are merely guidelines, and Bush does not have to follow them.  But this will lead to serious charges of hypocrisy — establishing guideliens about how pardons should be done, and then ignoring those guidelines when it comes to one of "your own".