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White House Dismisses Rumors of Pardon for Libby

Almost as soon as an obstruction-of-justice conviction was read out for I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, conservatives began calling on President Bush to pardon the former White House aide. Libby, Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, was convicted of lying to obstruct the investigation into who leaked CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity.

Just two hours after the jury foreperson read the verdict in court, the Web site of The National Review posted an editorial titled "Justice Demands that President Bush Issue a Pardon."

David Rivkin, a contributing editor to the magazine, says, "I think that the best thing to do would be to pardon him now and prevent this matter from going forward."

Rivkin believes Libby never should have been prosecuted in the first place, and he thinks President Bush should rectify the situation now. Still, he doesn't think a pardon is imminent.

"I think the far more likely scenario is he'll be pardoned toward the end of the administration," Rivkin says. "Not because it's a matter of waiting till the end of the administration, but I think there'll be enough people in the White House who say, 'Let's see how the appeals go.'"

When reporters at the White House asked spokeswoman Dana Perino about a presidential pardon for Libby, she called it a wildly hypothetical situation and refused to speculate.

"There is a process in place for all Americans," Perino said, "if they want to receive a pardon from a president, any president that is in office. And I'm aware of no such request."

There is a long history of presidents pardoning people who've gotten into trouble because of their work for an administration.

One of the most famous is President Ford, who pardoned his predecessor Richard Nixon after the Watergate scandal. And the first President Bush pardoned some of the people convicted in the Iran-Contra affair.

After the verdict came down, a reporter asked one of the jurors how he'd feel if President Bush pardoned Libby. Denis Collins replied that he wouldn't be upset a bit.

"I just don't have any spite or anger about Mr. Libby," Collins said.

President Bush has issued fewer pardons than other recent presidents. Most of those that he has issued have not been controversial.

President Clinton's pardon choices were more widely criticized. For example, Clinton came under fire for pardoning fugitive financier Marc Rich in January of 2001. Rich's ex-wife was a major Democratic donor.

The lawyer who represented Rich during that affair was one I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

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Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.