On 2 July 2007, George W. Bush announced that he had commuted the 30-month imprisonment portion of the sentence of former Vice Presidential Chief of Staff I. Lewis Scooter Libby. Libby had been convicted on four counts of perjury and obstruction of justice in a probe into the outing of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame in 2003. Bush, for now, has let stand the jury verdict of guilty and the accompanying $250,000 fine, although the two-year probation which was to have followed Libbys release is in a sort of legal limbo, as probation per se in the federal system only applies to felons who have served jail time.
Short of an outright pardon, the commutation is a canny legal device allowing Libby and the administration certain advantages which a pardon does not grant. First, Libby can continue to invoke the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in any subsequent legal proceedings against his former boss Dick Cheney or any other White House staffer, effectively allowing him to continue to obstruct justice in the future. Second, the commutation allows Libby to further delay the civil suit being brought against him by Valerie Plame and her husband Joseph Wilson, on the grounds that his conviction is still being appealed, and testimony in the civil suit could prejudice those appeals.
The commutation has provoked a broad rage of reaction, from disgust and disbelief on the part of Democrats, to full-throated approval by mainstream Republicans, to chagrined disappointment by ultra-conservatives who had called for a full pardon for Libby. The case has highlighted the administrations double standard, as in commuting the prison term Bush violated his own sentencing guidelines for these crimes, as well as its lack of respect for the rule of law, which the White House seems to see as an annoying hindrance to its wishes. While the presidential power of pardon is an absolute granted by the Constitution, with no oversight or review by Congress or any other governmental body, many felt that in granting this exception to a former administration official while legal proceedings were still in process, Bush crossed an ethical line and raised the specter of a quid pro quo rewarding Libbys false testimony.
As Chief of Staff to the Vice President, Libby is the first sitting government official to be indicted in 130 years, and the highest ranking White House staffer to be convicted since National Security Advisor John Poindexter in the Iran-Contra scandal of 1990.
Libbys conservative bona fides extend well over two decades. A protégée of former Deputy Secretary of State and World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, Libby worked in Reagans State Department in the early and mid-80's, and then as deputy under-secretary for defense at Cheneys Pentagon in 1989. When Bush Sr was defeated by Clinton in 1992, Libby entered private legal practice, though he retained strong ties to a cluster of radical conservatives which were becoming known as Neo-cons, including Condoleezza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld. He was a co-author and signatory of the infamous PNAC (Project for a New American Century) manifesto in 1997. Ironically, one of his most high-profile clients in private practice was financier Marc Rich, whose tax evasion conviction was erased in a controversial pardon by Bill Clinton during his final days in office.
After the Bush-Cheney coup of 2000, Libby became Chief of Staff to Dick Cheney, and was active in the Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee of the Pentagon until 2003, during the period where intelligence was being rigged to justify the American invasion of Iraq. His fervent pro-Israeli stance did not prevent him from accepting a key position in designing the supposedly neutral Bush administrations Road Map for Peace between Israel and Palestine.
In 2003, Libby became embroiled in the controversial Plamegate, the investigation into who had revealed the identity of Valerie Plame, a covert CIA operative, in an attempt to discredit her husband, Joseph Wilson, who had written a New York Times op-ed piece exposing some of the lies the administration used in the run-up to the Iraq War. Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald conducted a two-year investigation which failed to conclusively prove a conspiracy to reveal Plames identity, in part because of the false statements made by Libby to the Grand Jury empanelled in the case. Frustrated by his inability to make his case, Fitzgerald indicted Libby on 28 October 2005; hours later Libby resigned as Cheneys Chief of Staff.
The indictment included one count of obstruction of justice in impeding a Grand Jury investigation, two counts of perjury for lying under oath to the Grand Jury, and two counts of making false statements to federal investigators for lying to FBI agents who were pursuing the case. Libby pled not guilty to all charges, but was ultimately convicted on four counts. The trial began on 16 January 2007; Libby did not testify in his own defense, and was found guilty on 6 March 2007.
On 5 June 2007 US District Court Judge Reggie Walton sentenced Libby to 30 months imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, and two years probation. Libby appealed the conviction, but on 14 June Judge Walton denied bail during the appeals process, requiring Libby to surrender himself at a federal prison within 6-8 weeks. On 20 June this ruling was appealed to the US Court of Appeals of the DC Circuit, which on 2 July 2007 unanimously denied his request for release. Within hours, Bush issued the commutation order.
Born 22 August 1950, Scooter Libby has a strong galactic profile, and is a magnet for controversy. His 28 Leo Sun fills in the missing leg of a Galactic Grand Cross of energies comprising an opposition to the Black Hole at 27 Aquarius, and squares to the Quasar at 27 Scorpio and Maser at 27 Taurus. The Black Hole indicates an accumulation of power allied with shifting realities and the inherent instability which took him to the important position of Chief of Staff to a Vice President, then broke him in a flash, with even his license to practice law revoked by his conviction. The Quasar indicates his successful rise, but also the high visibility which accompanied his fall, while the Maser evoked the controversy, both of his actions and the removal of their harshest consequences.
Additionally, the Sun forms the apex of a Yod, or Finger of Destiny, with inconjuncts to both his own North Node, exactly conjoined the Black Hole at 28 Pisces, and the nations Pluto at 27 Capricorn, representing the abuse of power in the commutation. The nodal emphasis, as well as the Yod configuration itself, suggests a fated or predestined quality to these events, which may grow to encompass not only his own future, but that of George W. Bush and the presidency itself. As with the Watergate scandal, the initial events which provoked the subsequent cover-up were complicated, confusing and largely ignored by the public. It was Nixons firing of the Special Prosecutor in that case which ultimately crystallized the publics attention on the issue of abuse of power, leading to the impending impeachment and Nixons resignation. Similarly, Bushs commutation of Libbys sentence is a much clearer example of the blatant cronyism and contempt for the rule of law which has characterized this administration, and could result in increased public support for impeachment (which now, in a recent American research Group poll, stands at 46%).
Libbys Mercury, representing his speech, testimony, and memory, lies at 26 Virgo, in exact square to the supermassive Black Hole at the Galactic Center, 26 Sagittarius. GC contacts, in addition to typical Black Hole qualities of instability and reversal, promote a high profile, sometimes of a global or universal nature or import. Libby has certainly become internationally noted, not to say notorious, for his testimony and the supposed failed recollection about who exactly revealed Plames identity to him, and when.
Venus at 7 Leo conjoins one Black Hole and squares another, which could indicate someone who is ethically challenged. Pluto at 18 Leo and Saturn at 19 Sagittarius are both in aspect to the Black Hole at 18 Sagittarius, Pluto by trine and Saturn by square. This duo in combination with Black Hole energies could suggest power plays in the Executive branch, as well as official sanction (Saturn) for revealing a covert agents (Pluto) identity.
The issues of both imprisonment and pardon fall in the bailiwick of the Twelfth House, with Piscean associations, and thus co-ruled by both Jupiter (the ancient ruler) and Neptune (the modern ruler). Libbys natal Jupiter and Neptune are fortuitously placed for a cosmic get-out-of-jail-free card, with both planets conjunct Quasars, which promote success and positive outcomes. Neptune, representing the quality of mercy (strained or otherwise), at 15 Libra is conjunct both the Quasar at 14 and a Black Hole at 13 Libra, indicating the potential for both the conviction and incarceration, via the Black Hole, and the commutation, via the Quasar. This Neptune sits atop Bushs Libra stellium of Chiron, Moon and Jupiter at 15, 16 and 18 Libra, making him a natural conduit for dispensing mercy, and dispensing with justice. The commutation has an emotional appeal (Moon) for Bush, as he considers Libby a personal friend, and also allows him to stroke his ego with a magnanimous gesture (Jupiter) which is in some sense self-sacrificing (Chiron). Libbys natal Jupiter, representing the potentates powers, is similarly split in its galactic loyalties; at 2 Pisces it conjoins the Quasar at 5 and is in square to a Black Hole at 3 Sagittarius.
Jupiter and Neptune were also galactically active for the indictment, the start of the trial, the verdict, the sentencing, and the commutation. At the indictment on 28 October 2005, Jupiter at 0 Scorpio was conjunct the Black Hole at 29 Libra, with Neptune at 14 Aquarius conjoined the Black Hole at 13 Aquarius (and also trine Libbys natal Neptune at 15 Libra). When the trial began on 16 January 2007, Jupiter at 11 Sagittarius was conjunct the Black Hole at 10 Sagittarius, and Neptune at 18 Aquarius sextile the Black Hole at 18 Sagittarius. At the verdict on 6 March 2007, Jupiter at 18 Sagittarius had moved to an exact Black Hole conjunction, with Neptune still in sextile from 20 Aquarius. For the sentencing on June 5, 2007, Jupiter at 15 Sagittarius retrograde was exactly sextile Libbys natal Neptune at 15 Libra and the Quasar at 14, and Neptune at 22 Aquarius retrograde squared the Black Hole at 24 Taurus.
When Bush commuted Libbys sentence on 2 July 2007, the sky was an intricately interlaced web of energies pertaining to the act itself, the major players, and the prior key dates in the prosecution. Jupiter at 11 Sagittarius retrograde conjunct the 10 Sagittarius Black Hole and inconjunct the 10 Cancer Sun was back at its position for the start of the trial, indicating an adjustment (inconjunct) and reversal (Black Hole) of that judicial process (Jupiter) on that particular day (Sun). That 10 Cancer Sun also conjoined Bushs natal Sun at 13 Cancer and Libbys natal Uranus at 8 Cancer, evoking the sudden (Uranus) commutation, restoring his freedom (also Uranus), by that particular individual (Bushs Sun).
Transit Mercury at 4 Cancer was exactly conjoined a Black Hole, another indicator of a reversal (Black Hole) in an important decision (Mercury), and a voiding (Black Hole) of the jurys verdict (Mercury). Transit Venus and Saturn were exactly conjunct at 22 Leo (also conjoined Bushs natal Venus at 21 Leo), questioning the ethics (Venus) of the Chief Executive (Saturn), and stimulating Neptunes 22 Aquarius position for the sentencing by exact opposition. Transit Uranus at 18 Pisces was prodding Neptunes 18 Aquarius degree for the start of the trial, by semisextile; Jupiters position at 18 Sagittarius for the verdict, by square; and forming a Yod with inconjuncts to Libbys natal Pluto at 18 Leo and Bushs natal Jupiter at 18 Libra, all aspects exact.
As the Libby commutation recedes into the haze of malfeasance, incompetence and corruption that is the Bush administration, we are left wondering what ethical principle is considered sacrosanct, what decision too ill-conceived to enact, what act too outrageous to perform? As the impending expiry of his term of office looms, freeing him from any restraint or fear of retribution, what further shackles of decency will Bush cast off?