July 4th, 2007
01:40 PM ET
7 years ago

Bill Clinton blasts Libby clemency, says his pardons 'different'

Former President Clinton takes a break from the campaign trail in Iowa.

DES MOINES, Iowa (CNN) - Former President Bill Clinton blasted his successor's decision to spare ex-White House aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby from prison, telling Iowa radio listeners that Libby's case differed from his own administration's pardon controversy.

"You've got to understand, this is consistent with their philosophy," Clinton said during an interview on Des Moines news-talk station WHO. Bush administration officials, he said, "believe that they should be able to do what they want to do, and that the law is a minor obstacle."

Clinton was impeached in 1998 over perjury allegations stemming from his sexual relationship with a White House intern, but the Senate acquitted him. And a flurry of last-minute pardons issued as he left office in 2001 - particularly his absolution of fugitive financier Marc Rich - sparked largely partisan outrage. Critics alleged that the pardon of Rich was linked to contributions raised for Clinton's presidential library by Rich's ex-wife.

Libby's defenders have pointed to Democratic support for Clinton during that period to accuse critics of Bush's clemency order of hypocrisy.

"Wasn't it Bill Clinton that was handing out pardons like lollipops at the end of his administration?" former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, now seeking the Republican presidential nomination, told supporters in Iowa on Tuesday. "And isn't there some recognition that perhaps 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?"

But the former president said, "I think the facts were different."

"It's wrong to out that CIA agent, and wrong to try to cover it up - and wrong that no one was ever fired from the White House for doing it," he said.

Clinton's wife, Sen. Hillary Clinton, is now seeking the presidency and has been campaigning in Iowa during the Independence Day holiday. She put him on the phone during a Tuesday interview with Iowa political columnist David Yepsen.

Libby served as Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff before his October 2005 indictment. He was not accused of leaking Wilson's identity, but prosecutors argued his false statements hindered their investigation of the disclosure and left a "cloud" over the White House.

The leak occurred shortly after Wilson's husband, former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson, had gone public with allegations that the Bush administration "twisted" intelligence used to justify the invasion of Iraq.

Rich fled to Switzerland in the 1980s to avoid racketeering, tax evasion and fraud charges stemming from illegal oil trades with Iran. Libby, who represented Rich from 1985 to 2000, told a House committee in 2001 that prosecutors "misconstrued the facts and the law" in pursuing the tax evasion charges.

Filed under: Bill Clinton • Scooter Libby
soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. danny Washinton DC

    clinton is full of it. What about his pardons? especially his criminal brother? Who is clinton to talk about ethics? Lol

    July 4, 2007 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  2. Phil Honolulu

    It is the same abuse of power. If the Democrats nominate Hillary, then this issue may actually hurt the Democrats more than the Republicans. Theoretically, the Republicans could nominate a candidate who will distance himself from Bush. While Hillary is on record defending her husband's questionable pardons. More and more Hillary looks like the dream opponent for the Republicans.

    July 4, 2007 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  3. madeline, tacoma, wa

    Libby lied about a national security issue,I believe that George Bush decision to commute him put the country in a serious peril. We are joining third world countries pattern of governance in which justice comes last if you have connection to the top. Sad things are happening to America because of BUSH.

    July 4, 2007 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  4. Ben, New York, NY

    Bill Clinton is a bit of a hypocrite here. He fails to mention that Wilson, plames husband, was on his National Security Council and was totally unqualified to be in Africa. Any CIA agent who uses their status for political gain, as Plame and Wilson did, deserve to be outed and kicked out of the CIA.

    July 4, 2007 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  5. dave beckert

    Yes , I think the democrat that leaked the name of the CIA employee should be in jail

    July 4, 2007 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  6. tom, valley forge, PA

    Bill Clinton should just fade away like most other ex- presidents. He certainly lacks the ethical or moral basis to comment on anyone else.

    July 4, 2007 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  7. Bruce, Franklin, TN

    Both were wrong and neither should attempt to defend their actions. I don't believe either of these presidents acted with good judgement during the course of their terms. As an American, I'm disappointed in Clinton and Bush.

    July 4, 2007 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  8. elixelx

    Madelaine, how old are you?
    If you think that the USA is "in serious peril" (I'm surprised that you didn't add other cliches like "in grave danger" or "in terror's clutches") because Libby is not going to jail, you must run screaming to your psychiatrist everytime you see a mouse!
    Grow up kid! There are bigger dangers in this life for you to experience! The boogeyman won't always look like a Bush!

    July 4, 2007 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  9. sonny c. ville platte,la

    Ben: So Bush, Inc. was actually doing America a FAVOR by outing Wilson's wife? They should've done the country more favors by getting rid of Rumsfeld, Brownie & Gonzales while they were cleaning house. By the way, Wilson was Bush 41's appointee as Ambassador to Iraq but don't let the facts get in the way of your argument.

    July 4, 2007 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  10. Roman Numero

    Clinton pardoned hundreds who then just happen to donate to the Clinton library etc. Where's the outrage? oh yeah...the double standard I forgot.

    July 4, 2007 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  11. DAVID Antelope Ca

    "Clinton was impeached in 1998 over perjury allegations stemming from his sexual relationship with a White House intern, but the Senate acquitted him. And a flurry of last-minute pardons issued as he left office in 2001"

    I don't remember clinton being Impeached . I think this info is wrong.

    July 4, 2007 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  12. Shawnie - Grants Pass, OR

    Did you notice that Clinton is wearing black in the photo? That's because it's the pot calling the kettle black.
    Clinton's pardons raised quite a few eyebrows because they were absolutely self-serving. Talk about the "Boy's Club".

    I am glad that Libby was tried and convicted however:

    First, Bush didn't pardon, he commuted the sentence.

    Second, Libby got a far harsher sentence then what the crime historically has called for, that isn't justice.

    Third, it doesn't take a lot of talent for Bill Clinton to jump on the band wagon and criticize, it is not a leadership quality.

    Fourth, Clinton just smacks of narcissism and hipocrisy.

    July 4, 2007 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  13. Glenn, Birmingham, Al

    I looked over the people that Clinton pardoned. Its something Bill & Hillary need to be mum on. Even thier supporters can see this.

    July 4, 2007 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  14. Tom, Wadsworth, Ohio

    Ben in New York, you are no better than Bush, Cheney, Rove and Libby. Lives were potentially put at risk and years of work were blown to bits when Plame was outed. For you to say she deserves to be outed for ANY reason shows that you are petty and partisan. Simply put, you just don't know what you are talking about.

    July 4, 2007 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  15. Jorge Bequomente, Laredo, TX

    Not to sound like a conspiracy nut here, but what's the Bush Administration really trying to hide here? The timing of the commutation is illogical and suspect. The case is still under appeal meaning a commutation with its ensuing political heat this early in the ajudication stage is foolhardy. Certainly Karl Rove knows this and wouldn't allow it. Unless.

    Unless there is a far bigger new story they are trying to lose in the cycle.

    As an example, if a drug dealer wants to smuggle in 10 tons of drugs into the country, he distracts drug enforcement officials with an "anonymous tip" about a 1/2 ton "find" elsewhere. While all the law enforcement officials are patting themselves on the back about the "bust" the narcos drive right on by with the motherload.

    I can't help but think something far bigger is really going on under our noses and we are taking the bait with this silly commutation cheese.

    July 4, 2007 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  16. Ben, Irvine, California

    Bill Clinton is an extreme hippocrit, and Mitt Romney was right to point it out. I agree with commenter Phil: if Hillary gets the democratic nomination the Republicans will be in awesome shape. And if Mitt Romney gets the Republican nomination, the Country will be in the best shape possible. Go business genius, family values, economic strength, sincerity, and integrity!

    July 4, 2007 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  17. Shawnie - Grants Pass, OR

    Roman, Another reason is the political bias reporting. It used to be something the media could get away with, but the general public has learned to disregard and look past it. It is part of the reason many people turn to alternative news sources. I'm watching to see when journalists from flag ship news organizations will catch up to their audiences IQ's. CNN included.

    July 4, 2007 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  18. San Diego

    "Second, Libby got a far harsher sentence then what the crime historically has called for, that isn’t justice" – You are incorrect on this point. It was in-line if not more lenient than others handed down during the Bush presidency. http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-libby4jul04,0,2336671.story?coll=la-home-nation

    July 4, 2007 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  19. Bruce, Franklin, TN

    David in Antelope, check your history and the dictionary. Impeachment is the action of Congress to try the President by the legislative branch. Clinton was impeached, but the impeachment was voted down.

    I can never figure why partisans are so bent on defending people in their own party even when logic tells you it's not justified. Come on people...give things a little independent thought!

    July 4, 2007 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  20. Jeff Spangler, Arlington, VA

    "Different" all depends on what the definition of "different" is, and that, in turn, depends on what the definition of "is" is. Bubba the Barrister should give it a rest on legal issues and worry about what he must do to make his unelectable wife less unelectable so she can save face after she is not nominated.

    July 4, 2007 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  21. Mark, Dunkirk, NY

    The Clintons are the last people who should be debating judgement. A leopard doesn't change its spots and Clinton has his own mis-judgements and will probably do it again. Libby probably should have served some time, or else we get away from the rule of law. Still pardons are a political football

    July 4, 2007 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  22. Mike, Yorkville, Illinois

    Both Bush and Clinton(s) are perfect examples of the double standard that both parties apply to their own rich, powerful and/or well-connected associates. There are millions in prison in this country for lesser crimes than those pardoned and/or commuted by presidents of both parties. The only thing Bush or Clinton(s) should say on this topic is "Do as I say, not as I do"!

    July 4, 2007 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  23. Bill W, Coatesville, PA

    Can somebody tell Bill Clinton the meaning of the word "is"?

    July 4, 2007 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  24. Arnold White Toccoa, Georgia

    I feel for President Bush. He gets ethical criticism from Clinton and foreign policy criticism from Carter? My head would be spinning, too!

    July 4, 2007 10:39 pm at 10:39 pm |
  25. Tom W - Dedham, Mass

    Among Clintons MANY FULL pardons were individuals who were caught on tape planning for and making bombs to kill Americans. We normal folk would call them terrorists, but Billy boy treated them as criminals and let them go.

    Talk about a REAL threat to national security! But according to Edwards and company, the war on terror is just a bumper sticker anyway.

    Bush, Libby, Rove etc, etc did NOT out Valerie Plame, a known Bush basher, Richard Armitage did and if this was such a big deal, why aren't hubby and wife and Fitzpatrick going after him?

    This is the smartest thing Bush has done.

    July 5, 2007 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
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