Monday, January 19, 2009

Who Will Bush Pardon Today?


Last week hack Republican pols, led by Snarlin' Arlen Specter, did all they could to associate self-serving and outrageous pardons with Democrats through the Eric Holder confirmation hearings. No one thinks Holder isn't going to be confirmed but Republicans are happy to smear him and stick his shaken and damaged credibility-- at least among Fox News and Rush Limbaugh consumers (those who Krugman includes this morning, in another context, as cranks, charlatans, and Republicans)-- in the bank for future use.

Of more immediate use is the breathing room Bush needs as he prepares to flee town, his tattered Bush Legacy Program stuffed into bags, his own pardons left behind. Yep, today's the day for the Bush pardons. Josh Gerstein has a list of the most likely recipients over at Politico, although he left off big Republican donor Roger Clemons and convicted cranky old ex-Senator who knows where the bodies are buried Ted Stevens.

I guess the preemptive pardon for Cheney is out (same for himself), but the case I'm most interested in following is that of former Republican Congressman Duke Cunningham, convicted of taking more bribes than any other member of Congress ever. One of Cunningham's "clients" was another GOP crook, Gus Kontogiannis who paid Cunningham $400,000 to get him a pardon from Bush. That $400,000 has never been fully accounted for and many think it will now go towards buying Cunningham himself a commutation (if not a pardon). Politico rates Cunningham's chances a mere 50 to 1 shot; I think they're wrong. We should know by the end of the day. I sure would love to hear from a disappointed and vindictive Duke Cunningham.


Wingnuts of the Lou Dobbs variety will be dancing in the streets. Bush just commuted the sentences of border agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean who shot a fleeing drug suspect in the back (and then tried covering it up). It's not a black-and-white case that lends itself to simple answers and Alex Koppelman at Salon did the best writing I've found on it, back in 2007.
With the help of reporters and activists promoting -- and embellishing -- the defense's version of the case, the two convicted agents were transformed into martyrs for the battle against illegal immigration. Instead of rogue officers who shot a fleeing, unarmed suspect and then lied about it, they became stand-up cops who were forced to shoot an armed drug dealer and then sent to prison by a legal system run amok. After they went to prison in January 2007, they even became the tragic heroes of a country song called "Ramos and Compean."

Nearly 400,000 people have signed a petition demanding a presidential pardon for the agents. There are two bills to pardon them pending in Congress, one with more than 100 cosponsors, including five Democrats [xenophobic reactionaries Zach Space, Bart Gordon, Tim Holden, Lincoln Davis and Buddy Cramer].

How did Ramos and Compean get reinvented as right-wing heroes? The answer lies in the way Americans get their information, from a fragmented news media that makes it easier than ever to tune out opposing views and inconvenient truths. When people seek "facts" only from sources with which they agree, it's possible for demonstrable untruths to enter the narrative and remain there unchallenged. The ballad of Ramos and Compean is a story that one side of America's polarized culture has gotten all wrong and that much of the other side-- and the rest of the country-- has never even heard.

Federal prosecutions of law enforcement agents are not undertaken lightly. "No prosecutor ever wants to be in a position of prosecuting a cop or a federal agent," says Johnny Sutton, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas, whose office prosecuted Ramos and Compean. "They're our co-workers, they're our friends, we represent them in court ... But when one steps over the line and commits a serious crime, it's very important that they be held accountable ... [and] most agents would say what these guys did was outrageous."

Prosecutors in Sutton's office considered the conduct of Ramos and Compean outrageous enough that the two men were charged with seven and nine counts, respectively. Both were charged with assault with intent to commit murder. At trial, government prosecutors presented a case, supported by eyewitness testimony, that alleged the following: On Feb. 17, 2005, Aldrete-Davila led Border Patrol agents on a high-speed car chase that ended at a ditch about 120 yards from Mexico. Aldrete-Davila abandoned a van with 743 pounds of marijuana inside and made a dash for the border. Compean, on foot, intercepted Aldrete-Davila, who put his hands in the air to surrender.

The NY Times is reporting that that's it for Bush and he's not going to grant any other commutations or pardons in the hours left of his term. This one means that "the prison sentences of the men, both from El Paso, will expire on March 20, the Justice Department said. The supervised release and fines will still apply."
“These agents shot someone whom they knew to be unarmed and running away,” said the prosecutor, United States Attorney Johnny Sutton. “They destroyed evidence, covered up a crime scene and then filed false reports about what happened. It is shocking that there are people who believe it is O.K. for agents to shoot an unarmed suspect who is running away.”

...The leniency was granted to the former agents even though the Justice Department had not completed its review of the case, according to officials at the agency. A president’s constitutional power to grant pardons or commutations is unfettered, but Justice Department officials sometimes feel resentful if leniency without their full review.

A commutation is not as generous as a presidential pardon, which essentially erases a crime from a defendant’s record. There had been speculation that President Bush would grant clemency to some high-profile defendants, but the White House official said the two ex-agents would be the last to benefit.

I. Lewis Libby Jr., former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, could have been granted a pardon for his role in the leaking of a C.I.A. agent’s name and an attempted cover-up. In July 2007, Mr. Libby’s prison sentence was commuted. Nor was there any clemency for former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, who in late October was convicted of ethics violations for not reporting gifts and services given by friends. Mr. Stevens would lose his bid for a seventh term.


Michael Isikoff is confirming: no pardons for Scooter Libby, Alberto Gonzales, Duke Cunningham, Michael Milken, George Ryan, Conrad Black, Edwin Edwards, Ted Stevens, Roger Clemens, et al. On his last day in office, Bush finally does something right!

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At 11:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is just the beginning. By the end of today, many, if not all, of the Bush criminals will be pardoned.

At 2:17 PM, Blogger Dr. Know said...

Probably just running up the bids. Expect a flurry of pre-midnight pardons.

At 6:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wouldn't bet that the Decider's pardon list hasn't been redrawn by Dick, they will greet us with flowers, Cheney, so a 11:59 am is possible tomorrow.

I also would not bet that Bush2 is going to go out gracefully. Aren't they the ones that put whacko Howard from Australia in to placehold one of 300 beds so Obama's family couldn't stay on WH digs?

At 9:56 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Here are two final pardons by Bush. One we saw coming, the other not so much:

At 2:53 PM, Blogger The Den Mother said...

After a month, I'm surprised that so few people have pointed out how wrong you were.

Recent history:

George W. Bush - 189 pardons, 11 commutations

William J. Clinton - 456 pardons (140 of those on 01/20/2001)

George H.W. Bush - 75 pardons, 3 commutations

One of these things is not like the other.....

At 11:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...



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