President Bush commuted Monday the prison term of former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, facing 30 months in prison after a federal court convicted him of perjury, obstruction of justice and lying to investigators.
A commutation is distinct from a pardon, which is a complete eradication of a conviction record -- making it the same as if the person has never been convicted.
Bush has only commuted the jail term which means that the conviction remains on Libby's record and he must still pay a $250,000 fine.
Commutations are rarely granted, says CNN's chief legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin. A commutation is a total right of the president and it cannot be challenged by any attorney or court, he said.
scooter had sought a stay that would've prevented him from having to go to jail while his appeal was pending. the appeals court enthusiastically and unanimously rejected his plea, but that's okay, because scooter's old pal george pulled some strings.
this isn't quite a "get out of jail free" card, as scooter still must pay his quarter-million-dollar fine, but i'm sure paying such an amount won't be a problem for someone like scooter. of course, justice has been obstructed, but the story isn't over quite yet:
But the commutation does nothing to prevent Libby from appealing his conviction. And if the appeal fails or is still in process at the end of Bush's term, there is nothing to prevent the President from granting Libby a full pardon before he leaves office.¶