July 5th, 2007
12:56 PM ET
10 years ago

Snow slams Bill Clinton over Libby criticism

The Clintons are campaigning in Iowa this week.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - White House spokesman Tony Snow fired back Thursday at Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her husband after former President Bill Clinton charged at a campaign stop that the Bush administration believes the law is a "minor obstacle" in the wake of the commutation controversy.

"I don't know what Arkansan is for chutzpah, but this is a gigantic case of it," Snow told reporters in an off-camera briefing.

Snow took the shot at the Clintons after again being pressed by reporters about President Bush's decision to commute the 30-month prison sentence of Lewis "Scooter" Libby and leave the door open to a future pardon.

Asked about House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers' plan to probe the Libby commutation, Snow snapped that the congressman should "knock himself out," but also probe the slew of pardons granted at the end of the Clinton administration.

In an op-ed piece in USA Today Thursday, Snow defended Mr. Bush's action by charging that Mr. Clinton was "in a mad rush to push through pardons with dizzying hasteā€ - 141 grants on Clinton's final day in office, part of 211 in the final nine weeks.

Asked by a reporter if he was asserting that "two wrongs make a right" and thus it was okay for Mr. Bush to abuse his power, Snow said: "Do we feel we've done wrong? Do we feel we cut corners? The answer is no."

Snow also asserted the White House feels it is on safe legal ground in contending that Libby will serve two years of probation, despite questions now being raised by Judge Reggie Walton, who issued an order July 3 suggesting Libby cannot serve any probation since he never served any prison time before the commutation.

"Strictly construed, the statute authorizing the imposition of supervised release indicates that such release should occur only after the defendant has already served a term of imprisonment," Walton wrote.

After first suggesting he wasn't sure, Snow said White House Counsel Fred Fielding had "absolutely" checked on this question before the President signed off on the commutation. "The White House did not make a misstep," he said.

Despite the certainty expressed by Snow, he did add that there's some "gray area in the law."

- CNN White House Correspondent Ed Henry

Filed under: Bill Clinton • Scooter Libby
soundoff (51 Responses)
  1. Jim, Merrimack, NH

    IF Mr. Snow wants to fire back at Bill Clinton so be it, but when you pick on an entire state like Arkansas, then Mr. Snow needs another job. Another fine example of idiotic chaos ruling the white house.

    July 5, 2007 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  2. rbe1, Napa California

    Normally, presidents pardon or commute at the end of their terms, Tony, in order not to make their attempts to hide their activities too visible.

    July 5, 2007 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  3. D.S. -- Lansing Michigan

    The real issue here is "why" did President Bush pardon Libby. Libby was sentenced by a Bush appointee and in accordance with federal sentencing guidelines. The plausible explanation is that President Bush purchased Libby's continued silenece. There seems to be no doubt that President Bush will grant him a full pardon on the way out the door.

    July 5, 2007 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  4. d.daring Seattle WA

    Snow does nothing but blow...and shows us real Americans what this White House is all about by hiring him in the first place.

    July 5, 2007 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  5. DJ

    Politics as usual on both sides.

    Data points: Recent Presidents of BOTH parties...Nixon, LBJ, Ike and Truman...each issued far, FAR more last minute pardons than Clinton did, but not a word about that.

    Also, Conservatives blasted Clinton for pardoning "shady" Mark Rich, but Rich was represented by Scooter Libby
    in the late 1990s! Small world, eh?

    All I ever hear is "selective damnation".

    July 5, 2007 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  6. Tim, San Antonio, Texas

    Of course Tony Snow is going to fire back. The crooked crooks have to continue to defend each other.

    July 5, 2007 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  7. Jackie-Gainesville, Ga

    Who cares what Tony Snow thinks, or says. He is a nobody.

    July 5, 2007 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  8. L Bass, Portland, Or

    The Bush government thrives on the "gray areas in the law". Unfortunately, they seem to think all those dark little marks on the paper are gray.

    July 5, 2007 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  9. Becky, Phila,Pa

    Out of all the pardons President Clinton signed, were any of them for someone who was found guilty of a crime that required jail time? And not one day of that time being served?

    July 5, 2007 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  10. Rodney, Nashville, TN

    When are the American people going to get their head out of the sand and realize what this administration is doing? They refuse to release information that has been subpoenaed in the case of the fired attorneys. Bush seems to know better than the jurors and the judge that heard the whole Libby case. Bush said the same thing about Iraq. He said the same thing about the 9/11 commissions report. He knows better than everyone else. Where does this all end?

    I don't have a problem with commuted sentences, but I do have a problem with a commuted sentence that was given to a member of the very administration who committed the crime to begin with.

    Maybe Libby was the fall guy for someone higher up who really committed this crime (Cheaney or Rove). It's unfortunate, but someone in that administration has to pay for this and many other crimes that they've committed.

    Unbelievable and sickening!!!

    July 5, 2007 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |


    July 5, 2007 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  12. Jeff Spangler, Arlington, VA

    How do they say "chutzpah" at Fox, Tony? How do you sleep? If there's a Hell for flacks, you're surely headed there.

    July 5, 2007 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  13. Stuart Jones, Winchendon, MA

    Typical Bush administration wise cracks and side steps. We knew this was coming but Bush got his hand forced. This administration will go down in history as the worst ever.

    July 5, 2007 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  14. LJ Lefleur

    Considering he's presently living on borrowed time, maybe it would be a good time for Mr. Snow to stop the political double-talk & show us that he indeed still has an ounce of credibility left. Every time their backs are against the wall, the White House blames Clinton. Next, they'll be blaming him for Christ's cruxifiction!!

    July 5, 2007 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  15. Ed Fort Worth TX

    Tony Snow should be thankful that there are still people like the Clintons and hope for fewer like this 'thing' we are stuck with who says he is president but likes to act like a dictator. The Dixie Chicks were right. We should all be ashamed of Bush/Cheney.

    July 5, 2007 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  16. Ken, Dallas, Texas

    President Clinton is absolutle correct!!!
    It's about time someone has the guts to publicly say it.
    If the law gets in the way of Presendent Bush's personal agenda, he just changes it.

    July 5, 2007 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  17. Bill Lepto Charleston SC

    It always amazes me when I read the criticism of the Bush administration. Ladies and gentlemen, this president has the guts to stand in the face of public opinion and LEAD. That is exactly what he was elected to do. I for one find this refreshing in this day of governing through polls. I support his decision to pardon Mr Libby, as do I support many of his other decisions. Politics be damned, we need more like George Bush in government.

    July 5, 2007 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  18. Tom - Dedham, Mass

    So when Clinton pardoned terrorists that were caught ON TAPE planning and plotting the making of bombs to kill Americans (yes even the Clintonistas), you are all ok with that?

    Mark Rich was wheeling and dealing with the Iranians while they were HOLDING HOSTAGES, are you ok with that as well?

    Lastly, Libby, Bush or Rove were not the leaker, why are we not going after well known Bush hater Richard Armitage for being the one?

    It's ok to pardon people as long as it's 190 or so of them on HIS LAST DAY?

    July 5, 2007 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  19. Shawnie - Grants Pass, OR

    I read all the comments. Bill is getting the better end of the stick here.

    Although I COMPLETELY agree the White House needs to ignore the hypocritical Clintons and just stick to their own issues, address their own ethics – COME ON!

    The Clintons pointed their finger quite loud and showy, I can understand Snow's frustration over the enormous, narcissistic hypocrisy. And the frustration of what seems like a lack of media coverage for anything Bill does.

    I believe the Clintons will die out anyway, but the most important point is whoever is in the Presidents chair needs to stay completely accountable.

    July 5, 2007 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  20. Kirsten, Virginia

    Why is it that when a Republican pardons someone, people always say" Republicans think they're above the law", but when a Democrat pardons someone people say, "The person who was pardoned must not have done anything wrong". Am I the only one who sees the problem with that? While I don't condone what Bush did, people need to at least try to look unbiased.

    July 5, 2007 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  21. Jeff in Columbus, Ohio

    Since you can't vote Pres. Bush out of office for this, just remember in 2008 that the rest of the GOP backed him on it.

    July 5, 2007 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  22. Steve, Odenton, MD

    You get 'em, Tony. Another inconvenient truth for the Libs.

    July 5, 2007 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  23. Glenn, Birmingham, Al

    The Clinton's learned from George Wallace that if you promise enough ,say what people want to hear, it doesn't matter if you do it or not. Were is the national heath care program we elected them to provide. They want power & they have sold out to get it and the money.If you go to the trouble of looking at the pardons Clinton gave you will be leaning toward Obama or some other person that hasn't proved they can be bought yet. Fool me once shame on you fool me twice shame on me.

    July 5, 2007 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  24. Eric Roberts, Naperville, IL

    The problem here is conflictof interest. It's like a fox commuting the sentance of another fox for raiding the henhouse. At least none of Clinton's pardons involved someone commiting acts of treason. Libby and everyone else involved should be strung up for revealing Plame's identity. Notice how none of the republican shills are bothered by that while they puff up like they are really patriotic. If they were truely partiotic, they would be calling for Bush and Cheney's impeachment as well as federal charges agaisnt Rumesfeld and Rice. As a veteran, I am completely applled and sickened by the actions of the Bush administration. The Bush administration does not deserve to be in the White House...they all deserve to be in jail. He is not standing up to public pressure and leading, he is ignoring his bosses...the citizens of the United States...and doing whatever the heck he wants, regards of how much the country is agaisnt him. He is doing things in our name that we don;t want him to do. He is not acting like an elected leader, but more like a dictator who can care less what the people of his country want. That is not how a democracy works. It's too bad the democrats in congress don't have the cajones to stand up and start impeachment proceedings. That is the only cure for the cancererous boil in the White House. The Bush administration is the domestic enemy spoken of in the oaths our servicemen and women have taken. His casual disregard for constitutional processes is disgusting. His abuse of power must be stopped.

    a very pisssed off Veteran

    July 5, 2007 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  25. Richard, Ewing, NJ


    When did Clinton pardon a terrorist? If he did, he didn't know. For isntance, you hold Osama Bin Laden's elementary school teacher responsible, can you?

    About Libby's case, I do think the whole trial is idiotic. Everyone know Richard Armitage leaks the information to Bob Novak and he himself admitted to it and apologized. Though, everyone knew he did so unintentionally. Yet, the prosecutor Fitzgerald did not prosecute Armitage, instead he went after Libby and possibly Cheney. In fact, the strangest is this: Richard Armitage felt so guilty about his mistake that he wanted to go public about it, but Fitzgerald told him not to because the investigation was on-going. Yet, this does not make sense to me. If the investigation is about the who leak Plame's identity, and you (Fitzgerald) already know the source to be Armitage, then isn't the investigation over? What so "on-going" about it. At the end, Libby was charged but not Armitage. What the hell?

    The only reason I can come up with is that Richard has been a mild anti-Iraq war critics, but should that plays any role? So it is ok to leak CIA identity if you are war critics and it is not ok to leak if you are a war supporter?

    July 5, 2007 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
1 2 3