Romney campaigned in Iowa Tuesday.
(CNN) – Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, an opponent of pardons while he was governor of Massachusetts, defended President Bush’s decision to commute the prison sentence of former Cheney Chief of Staff Lewis “Scooter” Libby.
While appearing at a breakfast in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Romney said Mr. Bush issued the commutation after he “looked very carefully at the setting” and that commutation was justified because Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald “went after somebody even when he knew no crime had been committed."
"Once he had found out that someone else was the source of the information, he still went after Scooter Libby," Romney said. "Gosh, given that fact, isn’t it reasonable for a commutation of a portion of the sentence to be made?"
Romney had said earlier that he refused to grant pardons, which have eliminated the guilty verdict against Libby, because he didn’t want to overturn a jury’s decision.
The Massachusetts Republican also used the issue to take a shot at Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, who criticized the president’s decision Monday night while campaigning Iowa with her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
“Wasn't it Bill Clinton who was handing out pardons like lollipops at the end of his administration," Romney said, "and isn’t there some recognition that you might look a little silly if you didn't have anything to say when he was handing out pardon after pardon after pardon for political purposes only?”
– CNN Political Desk Managing Editor Steve Brusk