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   Pardon a sensitive topic for White House; Bush faces dilemma in case of ex-Cheney staffer Libby

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6/6/2007 10:00 am

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General

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Entered 6/6/2007, Updated 6/6/2007

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The sentence imposed on former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby yesterday put President Bush in the position of making a decision he has tried to avoid for months: Trigger a fresh political storm by pardoning a convicted perjurer or let one of the early architects of his administration head to prison. The prospect of a pardon has become so sensitive inside the West Wing that top aides have been kept out of the loop, and even Bush friends have been told not to bring it up with the president. In any debate, officials expect Vice President Cheney to favor a pardon, while other aides worry about the political consequences of stepping into a case that stems from the origins of the Iraq war and renewing questions about the truthfulness of the Bush administration. The White House publicly sought to defer the matter again yesterday, saying that Bush is "not going to intervene" for now. But U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton indicated that he is not inclined to let Libby remain free pending appeals, which means the issue could confront Bush in a matter of weeks when, barring a judicial change of heart, Cheney's former chief of staff will have to trade his business suit for prison garb. Republicans inside and outside the administration said that would be the moment when Bush has to decide.


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