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Cheney furious at Bush for not pardoning Libby

February 17, 2009 |  7:45 am

President Bush with Vice President Cheney looking over his shoulder

It is being described as a full-court, all-out campaign, waged in the last days of the Bush administration by then Vice President Dick Cheney, to get George W. Bush to grant a full pardon to I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

The effort failed, but the snub by the Texas Lone Ranger has left Cheney furious. As the New York Daily News reported, Cheney "tried to make it happen right up until the very end," pressing his case in many conversations, both in person and on the phone. Cheney was relentless, said one ally.

He went to the mat and came back and back and back at Bush. He was still trying the day before (President) Obama was sworn in.

Libby, Cheney's chief of staff, was convicted of lying to a federal grand jury about his role in the administration's leak of CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity. This in an effort to discredit her husband, former envoy to Iraq Joe Wilson, who was penning Op-Eds critical of Bush's plans to go to war in Iraq.

CIA agent Valerie Plame and her husband Iraq War critic Joe Wilson

Bush commuted Libby's 30-month sentence, saying at the time that he wanted to respect  the judgment of the jury that had convicted Libby but felt the sentence was excessive. With Cheney on offense to get Libby a full pardon, an exasperated Bush told aides he didn't want to talk about it anymore.

Bitter over the outcome, Cheney has now gone public, arguing that his chief of staff was railroaded by the administration's political critics. As he told the Weekly Standard:

He was the victim of a serious miscarriage of justice, and I strongly believe that he deserved a presidential pardon. Obviously, I disagree with President Bush's decision.

And the Ticket thinks the former vice president has a point.

This was a planned leak, and two other administration figures -- political guru Karl Rove and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage -- had already confessed to telling reporters about Plame's covert role. Libby's only crime was lying.

But in Washington, it's always the cover-up, rarely the crime, that gets you in trouble.

-- Johanna Neuman

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Photo credit: Getty Images