When Richard Nixon fired Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox as part of the October 23, 1973 “Saturday Night Massacre”, he did it to prevent information being released that could directly implicate him in wrongdoing. Cox had issued Nixon a subpoena requesting the now infamous Nixon tapes and Nixon acted to protect himself and in doing so obstructed justice in the ongoing Watergate investigations. This is not entirely different from what we have with Bush and his commutation of Libby’s sentence. Patrick Fitzgerald filed obstruction of justice charges against Libby because he believed that Libby had information relevant to the investigation and lied or refused to divulge that information. A jury agreed, found him guilty and Libby received 30 months in prison. One of the things prosecutors hope happens in situations like this is when the person obstructing justice is faced with a lengthy prison term, in exchange for avoiding prison they start providing the information they were withholding. Bush’s commutation takes the threat of prison away from Libby and is thus an act of obstruction of justice.
Nixon’s actions in the Saturday Night Massacre lead directly to several articles of impeachment being filed against him in congress in the ensuing days. A President cannot be allowed to take such a brazen act to impede an investigation in which he is one of the potential suspects. Congress should ALWAYS respond to acts like these with impeachment hearings otherwise Presidents will feel like they can live above the law and take action to prevent any consequences.
I wonder if the public realize another important aspect of this. The commutation is a virtual admission of guilt by Bush that the outing of Plame was part of a generalized conspiracy in the White House that involved major players, i.e. either Bush or Cheney themselves. There is no other reason the President would intervene. It was not a matter of, as Bush tried to suggest, “the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive”. As of the morning of July 2, a few hours before Bush would commute the sentence, Libby had six to eight weeks before he had to report to prison and concurrently as of July 2, the appeals process would take a few months. If Libby was innocent and the administration had nothing to hide and Libby nothing to tell prosecutors, Libby would do a month or two in prison before the appeals process got into full swing and then he would have a strong shot at being set free. Bush’s commutation of Libby’s sentence shows that none of this was true and that Libby was close to breaking and telling Fitzgerald everything he knew.
Fred Thompson and other prominent Republicans eye-deep in the cover-up
As I write this, I note another article with similar themes by the esteemed Amy Goodman who directs us to another important point. Bush claimed in his statement about the commutation that Libby still faces a stiff fine and probation. You can kiss the fine goodbye. There is a fund to pay the fine that has been raised by many prominent Republicans including Fred Thompson. Thompson and other Republicans know what kind of a mess it would be for their party if the real facts regarding Plamegate came out so they are paying Libby’s fine for him. Now Libby has no repercussions and nothing to fear at all, the jail sentence is gone, the fine has been paid, and next I am sure will come a cushy job courtesy of the Republican good old boy network.
Bush’s commutation of Libby’s sentence is a knowing and intentional act of obstruction of justice designed to hide another obstruction of justice regarding an investigation of a serious criminal act by the White House that involved lying the country into war in Iraq. I realize that is confusing, so let’s lay it out in bullet points:
1. President Bush and Vice President Cheney decide to go to war and remove Saddam from Iraq even before 9/11.
Bush and Cheney are convinced by their cronies (people like Paul Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld) in the conservative think tank Project for the New American Century who had been petitioning various Democrats and Republicans to remove Saddam since as early as 1996. The problem they was how to sell the war to the American People.
2. 9/11 happens. The administration takes advantage to advance their Iraq plans
It had nothing to do with Saddam or Iraq, but it fit the bill of something that could be sold to the American People as a causus belli or “Reason for war”, or it almost does. Too many Americans know that Iraq and Saddam had nothing to do with the attacks of September 11 so the administration has to come up with something more for those people. They decide to go with Weapons of Mass Destruction and fantasy Iraqi weapons programs like the pilotless drone (remember that?) that Saddam could supposedly launch from Iraq and hit the United States. I know it seems laughable now. The problem is there was no direct evidence that Saddam and Iraq still had weapons of mass destruction.
3. Bush and the Administration Sell the idea of Iraqi WMD
Bush and the administration go on a year plus long campaign to convince the American people that the Iraqis have a monstrous amount of Weapons of Mass Destruction and that those Weapons could be used to attack us.
4. Plame and Wilson learn that Bush and the Administration are lying
Valerie Plame, a covert CIA agent, learns from contacts that at least one of the items the Bush administration is pushing as WMD justification is a lie. Plame’s current role in the CIA is “an agency operative assigned to investigate Weapons of Mass Destruction”. Bush said in a State of the Union address that Saddam was “seeking significant quantities of Uranium in Africa”. This claim had long been debunked in intelligence circles and rested on a piece of documentation that was such a poor forgery that anyone with even a modicum of savvy could recognize it as such. An official at the CIA senior to Plame made the request of her husband to go to Africa to investigate the claim without Plame’s involvement and in February of 2002, 13 months before the Iraq war, and 11 months before the State of the Union address where Bush would make the accusation, Wilson went to Niger to investigate the possibility that Saddam Hussein had tried to buy uranium yellowcake. Wilson met with the current Ambassador, Owens-Kirkpatrick, at the embassy, and was informed that she had already debunked that story. Everyone who has seen the documents surrounding the allegation quickly came to the same conclusion.
5. January 28, 2003 – President Bush delivers his State of the Union address where he makes the accusation that Saddam Hussein has sought significant quantities of Uranium from Africa.
6. March 6, 2003 - In a report dated 2 weeks BEFORE THE START OF THE IRAQ WAR, The UN Weapons Inspectors indicate they have not found Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq after 4 months of on the ground Inspections