Two major prosecutions for abuse of power make the news today. First, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby will go to prison for perjury and obstruction of justice:
Former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison Tuesday for lying and obstructing the CIA leak investigation.
Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, stood calmly before a packed courtroom as a federal judge said the evidence overwhelmingly proved his guilt.
"People who occupy these types of positions, where they have the welfare and security of nation in their hands, have a special obligation to not do anything that might create a problem," U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton said.
Regardless of the ludicrous nature of a three-year investigation where the perpetrator never got charged with the initial suspected crime, Libby got what he deserved, having lied to investigators and the grand jury. People cannot commit perjury to block an investigation and expect to simply walk away from it. A jury concluded that Libby did exactly that, and the sentence is commensurate with the crime.
Will the conviction survive on appeal? Likely it will. Again, the special-counsel investigation got out of control, like just about every special-counsel investigation that preceded it. That doesn't give Libby the right to commit perjury and obstruct justice. It's more likely that Bush will eventually pardon Libby, but probably not until after the 2008 election.
A pardon is much less likely for William Jefferson, who apparently gave new meaning to the word "globalization" in his quest for cash:
Nearly two years after federal agents reported finding $90,000 in a freezer in his Washington home, U.S. Rep. William Jefferson has been charged with a global campaign to solicit bribes, obstruct justice and engage in racketeering, Justice Department officials said Monday. ...
The charges are based on 11 schemes in which Jefferson allegedly solicited bribes for himself and his family from government and business officials in the United States, Nigeria, Botswana, Equatorial Guinea and Sao Tome e Principe, U.S. Attorney Chuck Rosenberg said at an afternoon news conference.
"Mr. Jefferson corruptly traded on his good office and on the Congress where he served ... to enrich himself and his family through a pervasive pattern of fraud, bribery, and corruption that spanned many years and two continents," Rosenberg said.
Jefferson sought millions of dollars in cash and company stock and received "somewhat less than $400,000," Rosenberg said.
CNN does a better job of reporting on Jefferson's status in Congress than the Post did yesterday. Kevin Bohn and Kelli Arena note that Pelosi removed Jefferson from the Ways and Means Committee last year, but then also report that she tried to assign him to Homeland Security this year. They credit the Republicans with ending that maneuver.
One prosecution ended, and another begins. It's another day in Washington DC.
UPDATE: Commenters are complaining about Sandy Berger getting a walk while Libby does 30 months. Put aside for the moment that the same exact Justice Department handled both (no one told them to go easy on Berger, after all, and they did just that), what exactly is the argument here? Because they screwed up the Berger prosecution, that no one else should be prosecuted for obstruction? Sorry, that doesn't fly. That puts the entire DC culture in a tit-for-tat game that allows no consequences for abuses of power. I don't want that kind of government -- do you?
A jury of Americans found Libby guilty of the charges against him. The sentencing is commensurate with the convictions. If Libby obstructed justice and perjured himself, which the jury found that he did, then he should be punished for it. If Berger got off scot-free, then blame the DoJ under George Bush and Alberto Gonzales, but it doesn't give Libby a pass on lawbreaking.
I would have no problem if George Bush chose to pardon Libby, and I think it's appropriate in this case, considering the circumstances. But that's not the same thing as saying that he should have been somehow shielded from prosecution because of the incompetence in handling the Berger case. A jury found that he committed perjury and obstruction of justice, and just like anyone else convicted of those crimes, he should be punished for them.
UPDATE II: Apparently, people still believe I'm being unclear. Let me lay it out this way:
* A duly constituted jury heard the evidence in front of a judge. Libby and his lawyers presented their defense. That jury found that Libby committed perjury and obstruction of justice. That's the way the criminal-justice system works in this country.
* A 30-month sentence for obstruction of justice and perjury is not out of line, especially for multiple counts. Both are serious crimes against the rule of law, and should be punished accordingly.
* Whether Clarice Feldman thinks I've been following the case is immaterial. A jury convicted Libby, and they followed the case better than anyone. I'm going to accept the result of the justice system and respect that decision.
* Libby has plenty of opportunity to appeal the decision. If it's wrong, it will likely be overturned. It will not be overturned on the basis of Victoria Toensing's opinions on the law she wrote, because Libby didn't get convicted of violating that law. It's immaterial to the charges Libby faced and on which he got convicted.
* If George Bush wants to pardon Libby, I don't see a problem with that. That's part of due process as well, and it's a political decision for George Bush. I think it would be a political mistake to offer one before the appeals run out. There are extenuating circumstances that warrant consideration of a pardon -- but that doesn't mean that Libby should have gotten a pass from the judge after the convictions. (It certainly would be a more supportable pardon than most of those granted by Clinton at the end of his term.)
If you support the rule of law, then this sentencing was a foregone conclusion. He was convicted weeks ago, and people who get convicted on these charges get sentenced to prison time, especially those who work in the executive branch of our federal government. I fail to see the reason for all the current hysteria over this sentencing.