Is President Bush willing to risk on behalf of Lewis “Scooter” Libby the kind of political grief that pardons for Richard Nixon, Mark Felt, Caspar Weinberger, and Marc Rich brought the presidents who granted them, asks the Associated Press. All received presidential pardons processed outside normal channels. Bush would have to bypass the regular clemency process to pardon Libby for the four felonies he was convicted of last week. Such pardons historically have got presidents into political trouble.
Justice Department rules require pardon-seekers to wait five years after conviction or release from prison, whichever is later, before applying. Presidents are not bound by the regulations. The wait is designed to allow petitioners “to demonstrate they can live as productive, law-abiding citizens,” said Margaret Love, former Justice Department pardon attorney. Since Attorney General Griffin Bell delegated the process to subordinates in 1977, Love said, it has been “dominated by federal prosecutors, who tended to regard pardon as an interference with their law enforcement responsibilities.”