WASHINGTON - Southern Maryland's Federal Representative, Steny Hoyer, and one of two U.S. Senators, Benjamin Cardin, yesterday commented on the commutation of I. Lewis Scooter Libbys prison sentence. Libby was convicted by a jury for lying to authorities and obstructing the investigation into the public disclosure of a covert CIA operatives identity. President Bush commuted the prison sentence just hours after a federal appellate panel ruled that Mr. Libby could not delay serving his prison term while he appeals his conviction. The announcement of the President's action was done via Press Release with little fanfare.
U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, D-MD, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, denounced the Presidents decision to commute the prison sentence of the former Chief of Staff to the Vice President, calling it a travesty that sends the message that the White House and its employees are above the law and do not have to face the consequences of their illegal actions.
It is very disappointing that the President has chosen to substitute his judgment for that of the trial judge who heard all the evidence in Mr. Libbys case, as well as the federal appellate panel which ruled today that Mr. Libby could not delay serving his prison term, stated Hoyer in a released statement. The charges against Mr. Libby were not insubstantial; a jury convicted him of lying to authorities and obstructing the investigation into the public disclosure of a CIA operatives identity. In the last election, accountability for wrongdoing was a major issue. With this decision today in the Libby case, the President continues to demonstrate that he rejects accountability for wrongdoing in his Administration.
Senator Cardin issued the following statement in reaction to the Presidents action:
We are a nation of laws and a jury of his peers convicted Mr. Libby of the serious charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I am shocked and greatly disappointed that President Bush has decided to commute the sentence of former Chief of Staff to the Vice President. President Bush repeatedly said that he would punish those who leaked classified information or who did not fully cooperate with the Justice Departments investigation into the leaking of Valerie Plames name as an undercover CIA agent. The Justice Department appointed a Special Counsel to independently prosecute this case because it involved such a high-ranking executive branch official.
Today President Bush has given special treatment to one of the Vice Presidents top political and legal advisors. At the very minimum the President should have followed his own promise not to intervene in this case until Mr. Libbys appeals were exhausted. The President has set a dangerous double standard that sends the message that high-ranking political appointees in the Bush Administration are above the law.
Maryland's other Senator, Barbara Mikulski, did not release a statement regarding the issue.