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Commuting Libby's Sentence: Selective Moral Outrage by Democrats?

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," July 3, 2007, that has been edited for clarity.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: We get right to our top story tonight. Democrats are outraged at President Bush for commuting the sentence of Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

But isn't this just another instance of selective moral outrage? Weren't Bill Clinton's controversial pardons far worse?

Now, in this segment, pay very close attention to the bottom of your screen, because we're going to put up there on the screen all the people that Bill Clinton pardoned and their various offenses

And joining us now is former Clinton special counsel, Lanny Davis; also with us former Justice Department official for Presidents Reagan and Bush 41, David Rivkin is with us.

All right, Lanny, welcome back my friend.

DAVIS: Hi.

HANNITY: Here we go, another Clinton scandal — reminders for people.

Look, I read your piece on this. You thought it was a legitimate compromise until Tony Snow said earlier today that it may not be long- lasting. Eighteen months is pretty long-lasting. He's got to pay a hefty fine. For that period of time he's going to be under probation.

Doesn't that sound pretty heavy to you?

LANNY DAVIS, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL FOR PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: You mean it depends on the definition of "long-lasting."

First of all, I said that President Bush in his mind, I thought, when he said that this is a long-lasting penalty — to not be able to practice law and to have damaged your reputation — in his mind he saw it as a split between no pardon at all, which would be contrary to what he said was a serious felony of obstruction of justice and lying to a grand jury, versus not pardoning at all.

And for somebody loyally protecting the vice president of the United States — he didn't take the witness stand in his own defense in order to protect the vice president — I saw this as a George Bush compromise. I didn't think it was legitimate.

I thought there should have been some time served. But I do understand the president had that power...

(CROSSTALK)

HANNITY: Yes, just like Bill Clinton should have served time.

You've been on this program many times defending the lying under oath of your former boss, Lanny. And one of the things I want to point out to people here — and this is the hypocrisy of the Democrats. You know, Nancy Pelosi says that, you know, in this particular case, President Bush is condoning criminal conduct. Jesse Jackson Jr. is talking about impeaching the president.

You know, beyond all that, you defended Bill Clinton when he lied under oath.

DAVIS: It's interesting the double standard does work both ways. I defended President Clinton for what he said was lying in a civil deposition, where there was no conviction. And he admitted to making that false statement and he took...

(CROSSTALK)

HANNITY: ...under oath!

DAVIS: Whereas you have never said...

HANNITY: But you say Lewis Libby should spend time in jail but not Clinton?

DAVIS: Whereas your standard seems to be to want to hold somebody in a civil deposition and the case thrown out, acquitted by the Senate — not even a majority of the Republican Senate voted to convict on the perjury charge — yet you don't want Lewis Libby...

HANNITY: Let me tell you want the difference is.

DAVIS: ... to go to jail.

(CROSSTALK)

DAVIS: ... justify a double standard. I'm curious.

HANNITY: I think the prosecutor, once he discovered that it was somebody else that was responsible for the leaking, which was the original reason for the appointment of the special prosecutor, this case should have been over.

But let me bring our other guest in here...

DAVIS: And he was convicted by a jury, Sean.

HANNITY: Hang on a second, hang on. Let me bring David Rivkin in here.

And, David, I want to just point out this double standard, be it Sandy Berger — or I think even beyond Clinton's lying.

I want to show a tape to our audience, and this is — Bill Clinton pardoned members of the FALN terrorist group. This video is of the members he pardoned captured on video making bombs. These are terrorists convicted of seditious acts and multiple crimes that endanger the American people.

Isn't that far worse than when you hear the outraged expressed here?

DAVID RIVKIN, FORMER JUSTICE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL FOR FORMER PRESIDENTS REAGAN AND GEORGE BUSH: Of course, Sean. But I, frankly, accept the hypocrisy as something that's very much attendant to any, unfortunately, discussion of public policy.

One thing — apropos, what my good friend, Lanny, just said — I don't understand the argument that Bill Clinton, who admitted to perjuring himself — and there was no doubt about it — the fact that he was acquitted by the Senate — which by the way is nothing more a sentencing pronouncing body. It doesn't go to guilt or innocence.

If he was in front of Judge Reggie Walton I would bet you he would have gotten a lot more than 30 months.

Let's stipulate that Clinton did lie under oath, that other individuals involved have lied under oath, or at least obstructed justice. And we do not know — at best, we do not know what the situation has been with...

HANNITY: Well, let me ask Lanny.

RIVKIN: ... Scooter Libby.

HANNITY: Well, Lanny, that's a great question. If you say that he should have spent some time in jail — the guy that you worked for put his hand on a Bible and he purposely lied under oath on multiple occasions. He had the law license suspension. He paid a fine, et cetera. But he didn't go to trial for that.

Why wouldn't anyone in America think that you are — you know, expressing selective moral outrage here and a double standard for your boss?

DAVIS: Well, as long as your viewers can hear how differently you treat a perjury and obstruction of justice by a jury...

HANNITY: He should have been charged.

DAVIS: ... and you then immediately changed the subject to the prosecutor who was praised by President Bush as being a professional — you now change the subject to the prosecutor...

HANNITY: You didn't answer my question.

DAVIS: My answer to your question is there...

(CROSSTALK)

DAVIS: There is a big difference, Sean, in my mind between a civil deposition in a case that was thrown out on summary judgment versus..

HANNITY: Lying under oath.

DAVIS: ... a jury that convicts for lying to a grand jury in a criminal prosecution.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Let me get in here. I only have a limited amount of time.

COLMES: David Rivkin, first of all, Bill Clinton was tried, he was acquitted by the Senate. Even Republicans in the Senate acquitted him.

And you want to talk about terrorists — I mean, we're putting on the screen these people who Clinton pardoned. You've got Orlando Bosch, who Dick Thornburgh called an "unrepentant terrorist," the Justice Department indicated was a terrorist; pardoned by Bush 41. Bush 41 and Bush 43 both pardoned drug dealers.

Nobody wants to talk about that. Where's the Republican outrage at those pardons? All you want to talk about is Clinton. You want to change the topic.

RIVKIN: No, no. Alan, I am not interested in changing the topic. I would actually like to a little bit into the facts surrounding this particular prosecution.

I want to just stipulate again, to be clear, the impeachment is complete as to the guilt phase in the House. The fact that the Senate chose not to punish Mr. Clinton has nothing to do with his guilt or innocence.

As a matter of fact, in Scooter's case, the people who were supposed to provide sentencing recommendations of a judge advocated probation. It turns out that he had a very tough judge who threw the book at him.

So let's not pretend that the Senate desired not to punish the...

(CROSSTALK)

COLMES: I'm not pretending...

(CROSSTALK)

COLMES: ... impeached and not convicted. That's a fact, David. You want to play around with words and parse — which is what you accuse Clinton of. You've got a double standard here...

RIVKIN: No, no, no. He was convicted. He was not punished.

COLMES: About Scooter Libby

RIVKIN: Alan, he was convicted. He was not punished. The Senate...

(CROSSTALK)

COLMES: He was impeached. He was not convicted.

(CROSSTALK)

DAVIS: Very few people — and Alan's entitled to his opinion — very few people consider a House impeachment throughout history as anything more than the indictment phase. Andrew Johnson has always been said to have been acquitted by the Senate.

But a majority of the Republican Senate — there are 55 Republican senators — they couldn't get 51 votes to even agree with the House impeachment.

RIVKIN: For policy reasons, Lanny.

DAVIS: But look, going back to — Alan, I agree with you on one point: There is hypocrisy on both sides here. The president of the United States has the power to pardon. And lots of people disagree when he does that. Most of the times it goes through the Justice Department and he accepts the recommendation.

But every president throughout...

COLMES: But where is the outrage?

DAVIS: ... American history — and in this case, I believe that Scooter Libby, with a conservative judge following sentencing guidelines, Alan, sentenced him to 30 months.

COLMES: Let me ask Mr. Rivkin...

DAVIS: A commutation requires some time served before commuting.

COLMES: President Bush calls it excessive, and yet it is, as Lanny just pointed out, within federal sentencing guidelines. Patrick J. Fitzgerald, appointed by Bush's own Justice Department, called for a 30 to 37 month sentence within guidelines.

So how can that be considered excessive by any stretch of the imagination?

RIVKIN: I'll tell you what. I'll tell you what. The president here as a chief law enforcement officer chose, in my opinion, very carefully not to cast any doubt on what has happened here.

I'm not so restrained. I would say this. I have no problem with a jury. I have a serious problem with this particular prosecutor who's out of control.

Let me tell you very briefly why. He presented a narrative to this jury that suggested that the reason Mr. Libby had an incentive to lie is there was a nefarious conspiracy in the White House to sell this war to American people, to lie us into war.

That is absolutely not true. The president knows it's not true. The vice president knows it's not true.

He has fundamentally misbehaved.

HANNITY: All right, guys, we got to — Lanny, by the way, only you. He lies to a grand jury, lies under oath in the Jones case. Tries to get others to lie in that case, obstructs justice. And he...

(CROSSTALK)

HANNITY: ... only Libby, only Libby...

DAVIS: Sean Hannity is the jury to convict unlike the jury in Washington who...

(CROSSTALK)

HANNITY: If I had Bill Clinton on video robbing a bank, you'd defend him.

DAVIS: Acquitted by the Senate. Acquitted.

HANNITY: I got to run. Thanks, guys.

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