‘Nobody talks about it, nobody says anything,” says one prominent supporter of Lewis Libby, the former Cheney chief of staff convicted of perjury and making false statements in the CIA-leak investigation. When it comes to the question of whether Libby will receive a pardon in the final days of the Bush administration, says another well-connected supporter, “There’s not much more to say — we just kind of wait and watch and hope.”
The president has less than a week left to pardon Libby, whose jail sentence Bush commuted in 2007. (Libby still paid a $250,000 fine.) But even though it’s the president’s power alone to pardon, all eyes are on Vice President Cheney, Libby’s old boss. People who paid close attention to the case are looking for any sort of signal from Cheney that something is up, and they’re getting nothing. “I’ve seen the VP recently, and he doesn’t talk about this stuff — never would,” says the first Libby ally. “But we all assume — ‘we’ meaning people who know the case and who know Scooter — that the VP has interceded with the president and made his pitch. It would be irrational not to assume that.”
That seems likely, but unless you’re Dick Cheney, or George Bush, or White House counsel Fred Fielding, it’s probably not possible to know, because no one in that tightest of inner circles is talking. On January 7, for example, Cheney met with a small group of conservative journalists at the vice president’s residence. Asked whether he was pushing for a pardon for Libby, Cheney replied that he is “a huge fan of Scooter’s,” but “the question of a pardon is — really falls within the president’s purview, and his alone.”
“So you’re not offering any advice?”
“That’s as much as I’m going to say.”
“Do you think Scooter is innocent?”
“I don’t want to discuss the case.”
And that was that. For his part, the president is no more forthcoming. His 2007 statement accompanying the commutation of Libby’s prison sentence did not rule out a future pardon, but it seemed to suggest that Bush believed Libby should suffer lasting consequences from his conviction. Although the president concluded that Libby’s prison sentence was “excessive,” he wrote, “My decision to commute his prison sentence leaves in place a harsh punishment for Mr. Libby…The consequences of his felony conviction on his former life as a lawyer, public servant, and private citizen will be long-lasting.” That didn’t sound like a man who intended to pardon Libby in 18 months or so.