The US Constitution gives the President the unbridled power to pardon people. Article II, Section 2: [The President] shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.
Presidents, in modern times, have typically issued a list of pardons on their last day in office so there is no political outfall. Presidents need not give any reason for a pardon. They just sign a paper and it's done.
Bill Clinton understood this in his bones. On January 20, 2001 he pardoned about 7,233 people including people with names like Mark Rich and Roger Clinton.
The trial of Lewis "Scooter" Libby on five counts of obstruction of justice, making false statements and perjury began yesterday with jury selection.
President George W. Bush should use Article II, Section 2 to pardon Lewis "Scooter" Libby. He should do it today. He should sign whatever paper he has to sign and stop this foolishness.
Libby, you may remember, is the only person ever to be charged in the phony scandal regarding Joe Wilson and his wife Valerie Plame.
Plame, to briefly review the bidding, had been a covert officer in the CIA. Robert Novak revealed Ms. Plame's name in a column and wrote that two members of the Bush Administration had told him she worked at the CIA.
It is illegal to reveal the identity of a covert officer in the CIA unless that person is no longer a covert officer in the CIA and the CIA actually took steps to protect the covert officer's identity and a couple of other things.
Absolutely none of the elements which would have made revealing Valerie Plame's name a crime existed. None.
The other night on MSNBC's Hardball, Chris Matthews was so flummoxed by the whole thing that he couldn't remember whether the special prosecutor's name was Fitzgerald or Fitzpatrick.
The answer is both: His name is Patrick J. Fitzgerald.
It turns out that the first guy to mention Valerie Plame's name to columnist Bob Novak was not Scooter Libby, or Karl Rove. It was the then Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.
Armitage, according to published reports, 'fessed up to the fact he was the leaker but, according to Armitage, US Attorney Gerald Fitzpatrick or Patrick Fitzgerald or whatever his name really is "asked me not to discuss this, and I honored his request."
Whoa! Check please! Fitzgerald was hired to find out who had leaked Valerie Plame's name to Bob Novak, right?
It turns out that as early as 2003, Fitzgerald knew who had leaked the name but asked the leaker not to tell anyone he was the leaker so he could indict someone in the leak case who was not the leaker?
What, one wonders, did Fitz-whatever threaten Armitage with if Armitage hadn't "honored his request?"
Judith Miller of the New York Times went to jail for refusing to divulge her source (it was Libby). Matt Cooper of Time Magazine was about to go to jail for refusing to divulge his source (it was Rove).
But neither Libby nor Rove was the original source. It was Armitage.
When the story first broke it was reported that Cooper said to Rove that Plame worked at the CIA and that Rove had responded with something like, "Yeah, I heard that, too."
In Washington, you never admit you don't know something. You say, "Yeah, I heard that too."
Fitzgerald chose not to indict Armitage because there was no crime. He tried like the devil to indict Rove but Rove convinced the grand jury that he made or took hundreds of phone calls a day and failing to remember one call with one reporter several years earlier was not a crime Â it was astonishingly normal.
People who know Scooter Libby (and I am not one of them) say that he is a decent guy. A smart guy. And a patriot.
In the kind of painful ironies which abound in Washington the lawyer who represented Marc Rich in his pardon plea to President Clinton was Scooter Libby.
President Bush should return the favor. Pardon Libby.