[JURIST] US President George W. Bush spared former vice-presidential aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby [defense website; JURIST news archive] from prison Monday, commuting his punishment [Grant of Executive Clemency; statement] to the $250,000 fine and the two years of supervised release ordered by the court. Bush said that although he respected the jury's verdict, the 30-month sentence [JURIST report] was "excessive" and said commuting the jail term was an "appropriate exercise" of the power of clemency. Bush pointed to Libby's damaged reputation, and the consequences that the felony conviction will have on his ability to practice law, as factors he considered in making his decision. Democrats immediately denounced the clemency grant, which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) [official website] called "disgraceful" [statement]. Reid said history will judge Bush harshly for using the power to commute sentences to benefit a member of his administration who "deserved to be imprisoned for lying about a matter of national security." House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) [official website] called the commutation "a betrayal of trust of the American People" [statement].
Despite calls from conservatives for Bush to pardon Libby immediately following his conviction, Bush had said that he would not make any such decision until after Libby's appeals were exhausted. Bush made his decision the same day that the federal appeals court overseeing the case unanimously rejected [order, PDF; JURIST report] Libby's request [filing, PDF] to delay the start of his prison sentence pending his appeal [JURIST report]. AP has more.