Democrats Turn Up Heat Over Libby
July 3, 2007 — -- Democrats have seized on President Bush's decision to hand I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby a get-out-of-jail card, escalating a constitutional and political confrontation with the White House about abuse of executive power.
Though Congress is powerless to reverse the president's commutation, several aides said Democratic leaders have considered holding hearings to examine the president's handling of the Libby case, ensuring that an embarrassing chapter of Bush's presidency will remain in the spotlight for weeks and months to come.
The Libby case allows Democrats to link several story lines in which they sense political advantage: the flawed prewar intelligence that marked the runup to the Iraq War; the White House's efforts to stymie congressional oversight of the executive branch; and the secretive office run by Vice President Dick Cheney. Libby was Cheney's chief of staff before his indictment forced him to step aside.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., noted that Bush consistently promised that anyone involved in the leaking of classified information would be held accountable, only to later commute the sentence of the only individual convicted in connection with the CIA leak investigation.
"The president shows his word is not to be believed," Pelosi said. "He has abandoned all sense of fairness when it comes to justice. He has failed to uphold the rule of law, and he has failed to hold his administration accountable."
While Libby's fate was hanging in the balance, Cheney had already drawn fire from Democrats over his office's unusual claim that the vice president is not part of the executive branch. His aides used that argument to exempt themselves from the requirements that safeguard classified information.
And the president chose to commute Libby's prison sentence -- saving him from having to spend even a day behind bars -- just as Democrats gear up for a clash with the Bush White House over the president's refusal to turn over documents related to the mass firing of U.S. attorneys.