President Bush says he is “pretty much going to stay out of” the case of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby until the legal process has run its course, rejecting pressure to pardon Libby immediately for perjury and obstruction of justice, reports the Washington Post. Before he became Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff, Libby represented Marc Rich, the financier whose pardon by President Bill Clinton in the last hours of his administration provoked a storm of complaints. Now Libby is in the same situation as his onetime client.
In recent decades, presidents have been increasingly reluctant to use the pardon power for fear of political trouble. Pardons normally are reviewed by the Justice Department, which provides recommendations about whether one is merited. Bush does not have to listen, but he would risk the wrath of career law enforcement officers if he disregarded their views, said Walter E. Dellinger III, assistant attorney general under Clinton. “A president’s going out on a limb without going through the process — as we saw with President Clinton’s pardon of Marc Rich — with respect to someone who was just convicted,” Dellinger said.