Libby Pardon: All But a Done Deal

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I bet that now it's all but a done deal: a pardon for Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Today, in sentencing the vice president's former chief of staff to 2½ years in prison for his role in the CIA leak, Judge Reggie Walton really threw the book at him. "People who occupy these types of positions, where they have the welfare and the security of the nation in their hands, have a special obligation not to do anything that might create a problem," the judge said. And that was that.

So what happens next? The judge didn't set a prison date for Libby, although he did make it clear that he didn't see any real point in letting Libby remain free pending appeal. He did say, however, he would accept arguments to the contrary.

Whether he will listen remains unknown.

So some scenarios: Libby could go to jail. Or he could remain out on bail as his lawyers appeal; that will take a long time, maybe until the president leaves office. And while President Bush won't do anything now, in the end he will pardon him. After all, no one but Libby is responsible for his behavior—lying to a federal grand jury. But he was a clear part of a White House machine that was in a defensive crouch, willing to do almost anything to defend itself in the run-up to the war in Iraq.

Is this fair? Lying to the feds is always a bad idea. But about the fact that special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald knew early on that the crime he was supposed to be investigating—whether someone knowingly leaked the name of a covert CIA operative—had, in fact, not occurred. This cost the taxpayers a lot of money, and Libby did lie. But some might also make the case that he's suffered plenty.