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THE SITUATION ROOM

Bush Commutes Libby's Sentence

Aired July 2, 2007 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, GUEST HOST: Thanks, Kitty.
Happening now -- spared from prison, President Bush commutes the sentence of former White House aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Tonight, the breaking news and the reaction -- are conservatives as angry as Democrats?

Also this hour, an explosive demonstration -- what if those car bombs in the U.K. had actually blasted their targets -- new developments in the investigation, including another arrest.

And first lady, Laura Bush, steps into the fray over Aids prevention and abstinence. I caught up with her in Africa for a one- on-one interview.

Wolf Blitzer's off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

It is not the pardon many supporters of Lewis "Scooter" Libby wanted. But it is in effect a "get out of jail free" card for the vice president's former chief of staff. President Bush disclosed today he's commuting Libby's 30-month sentence in the CIA leak case because he says it's excessive. But he notes Libby's convictions, his fines and the damage to his reputation remain intact. Tonight, Democrats are already pouncing.

Our White House correspondent, Ed Henry, and our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin are standing by.

First we go to Brian Todd. Brian, you've been following this case. Why did this happen today?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, from all appearances, Suzanne, the president did this because "Scooter" Libby was running out of time. This decision came just hours after a federal appeals court had left Libby staring at prison time, probably within a few weeks.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): His appeals for temporary freedom nearly exhausted, Lewis "Scooter" Libby gets a reprieve from his president. In commuting Libby's two and a half-year sentence, President Bush says in a statement -- I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive. The president leaves Libby's $250,000 fine intact. And says he will remain on probation. WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: The White House promptly made the calculation that the only people left standing by this president are conservatives, and they want him to keep "Scooter" Libby out of jail. Therefore, nothing much to lose.

TODD: Libby had been found guilty in March in obstruction and perjury in the investigation into who leaked the identity of former CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson. Just hours before the president's decision, a federal appeals court had rejected Libby's bid to remain free while he appealed the conviction. Analysts say he'll still likely appeal that guilty verdict and some believe he won't get the same break the president gave him.

SCOTT FREDERICKSEN, FORMER SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: I think his chances on appeal are not good. Judge Walton tried a clean case. The prosecutor put in a very strong, well-thought-out case.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Now, as for that prosecutor, we've tried to contact Patrick Fitzgerald for reaction to Libby's commutation. We have not yet heard back, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Brian Todd, thank you so much on the latest developments. And tonight reaction is coming in from top Democrats to the commutation of Libby's sentence. Here is senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama's statement. He says, quoting now -- "this decision to commute the sentence of a man who compromised our national security, cements the legacy of an administration characterized by a politics of cynicism and division, one that has consistently placed itself and its ideology above the law."

President Bush issued a statement on his commutation of Libby's sentence soon after returning to the White House from Maine. Our White House correspondent, Ed Henry, traveling with the president to Kennebunkport -- Ed, obviously it's already setting off a firestorm of controversy. You have talked to Democrats, you've talked to Republicans. What kind of feedback, what kind of reaction are you getting?

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's clear that this president was under a lot of pressure to act. Now that this judge was saying that "Scooter" Libby was going to go to jail imminently. Conservatives were ratcheting up their pressure basically saying, rather bluntly to the White House, look, the president is at 28, 30 percent in the polls, it's the conservatives that are holding him up.

He's already lost in their eyes Democrats and Independents chiefly over the war, the issue that "Scooter" Libby ended up getting into trouble over himself. And so the pressure was really building on the president to act. And what he's trying to do here is split the difference. Not go all the way to a full pardon, not make it like he's completely getting off the hook, but try to split the difference, Suzanne. MALVEAUX: And I imagine, too, Ed, that Democrats already really looking at this administration, various investigations that this perhaps will only incite them to get even more angry and perhaps even more active?

HENRY: Well, you're right. We're already seeing those statements that you're mentioning from Democrats who are charging that this makes a mockery of justice. They feel like "Scooter" Libby is getting off the hook. What's also interesting is there may be some conservatives who are not happy with this.

They wanted "Scooter" Libby to get a clean slate and that's why we're going to -- it will be very interesting to see what Vice President Cheney, remember, Libby served as his chief of staff, whether Vice President Cheney is satisfied with this outcome -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And Ed, it's a very good point that you bring up, because obviously we had heard from the vice president before, and it was some back channels, he was really pushing for a pardon. It will be very curious to see if this is good enough for the Cheney camp.

HENRY: Absolutely. As you know, they wanted a full pardon, because they felt like "Scooter" Libby, the punishment did not fit the crime in their eyes. And it will be interesting to see how it plays out. This White House knew that it would kick off a firestorm of controversy. But the president here thinks perhaps that he's found some middle ground. Time will tell obviously whether that is actually the case -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: OK. Ed Henry, thank you so much. We'll be joining you in a little bit.

And Libby was facing 30 months in prison for perjury and obstruction of justice in the probe into who leaked the name of CIA operative Valerie Wilson, whose husband discredited White House claims about Iraqi efforts to obtain uranium. I spoke to Joe Wilson right after the story broke.

Joining us on the phone now, Ambassador Joe Wilson. Thanks for joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Obviously you have heard the president's news that he has commuted the sentence of "Scooter" Libby, which means essentially that he is not doing any jail time -- your reaction?

AMB. JOE WILSON, HUSBAND OF OUTED CIA OPERATIVE (via phone): Well, I think the president is clearly short-circuited the system of justice and the rule of law in this country. But, that said, now that he has done so, he no longer can hide behind the veil of not being able to answer questions so long as there is a process ongoing, since he has short-circuited that process.

At a minimum, he ought to begin to level with the American people about what he knew and more particularly about the actions taken by the vice president in this, to clear the air on what Mr. Fitzgerald has called a cloud over the office of the vice president. And he can begin doing so by instructing the special counsel to release all the documents related to this investigation. And particularly the interview that he and the vice president did with Mr. Fitzgerald.

MALVEAUX: So far, the White House has not been very eager to release documents, as you know, Joe. Valerie Plame, your wife, is she aware of what has happened here?

WILSON: Yes, first of all, her name is Valerie Wilson. She took -- Mr. Novak needed to get that part of the story right. And, yes, she most certainly is aware of it. I'm not surprised that the office of the president and the White House is not willing to come clean with the American people. I think this is a clear indication of just how utterly and totally corrupt this entire administration is, from top to bottom.

MALVEAUX: The Bush administration, some officials that we've spoken to, are painting this almost as a compromise here, saying that the president could have commuted -- rather pardoned "Scooter" Libby, but, rather, he commuted the sentence. That this has not something as harsh as he could have carried out.

WILSON: In actual fact, Mr. Libby was indicted by the U.S. government, he was judged in our system of justice by a jury of his peers. He was found guilty on four counts of perjury, lying and obstruction of justice in a case that involved a direct subordinate of the president of the United States and the vice president of the United States. In my judgment, this process, this so-called compromise, just prolongs that obstruction of justice and prohibits the special counsel from getting to the truth.

And, in fact, the -- as to the suggestion it's a compromise, in fact, what it is, it's the president bending to a neo-conservative sect, doing the special pleading that the president has decided takes precedence over rule of law and the system of justice in this country. And I would remind people that this is the president who was governor of Texas, refused to commute the first execution of a female prisoner, even after the Pope pleaded for clemency.

MALVEAUX: Joe, now, Congress can't do anything about this, commuting the sentence here. But obviously you and your wife, you still have a civil suit that's pending. What is next for you?

WILSON: Well, I believe first of all, I think Congress should open up an immediate investigation into whether or not the vice president and the president were, themselves, complicit in obstruction of justice in executing this commutation of the sentence. We have a civil suit pending. We will take this suit to the limits, if the justice will allow. And we believe in the system of justice in this country. And justice will be done.

MALVEAUX: "Scooter" Libby was not indicted, obviously, for leaking the identity of your wife, but for lying in that particular case. Do you have anything to say to him?

WILSON: To "Scooter" Libby?

MALVEAUX: Yes.

WILSON: I have nothing to say to any of these people. The fact that you know as well as I do, because you followed this case, there were lots of reasons why the underlying crime was -- he was not indicted on. Not least of which because he lied, committed perjury, and obstructed justice. But I certainly don't owe this administration anything in terms of a comment. They certainly owe my family and my wife in particular, an apology for having betrayed her, essentially committing treason. "Scooter" Libby is a traitor.

MALVEAUX: Ambassador Joe Wilson, thank you so much for joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

WILSON: Thank you. Bye-bye.

MALVEAUX: And now also joining us on the phone, former U.S. Attorney Joseph Digenova. You have been very critical of the prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald. You've also been very supportive of "Scooter" Libby. You heard Joe Wilson's comments. He essentially says that this is treason here and he is getting away with a crime.

JOE DIGENOVA, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY (via phone): Well, you know, Ambassador Wilson represents the worst in American politics and diplomatic service. His comments about treason are utterly remarkable. He from the beginning of this case, first of all, I'm very pleased with the president's commutation. I think it was the least the president could do. I had hoped for a pardon. But I expect the pardon -- the president will pardon "Scooter" Libby probably on his last day in office.

But that aside, what Ambassador Wilson just said is remarkable. From the beginning of this case, he has given out misstatements about his role, his wife has given three separate explanations under oath about her role in sending him on this mission to Niger. His reaction is understandable. Because "The Washington Post" in its last editorial about this case, called Joe Wilson a liar. Now, coming from "The Washington Post", no friend of this White House, that seems to me to tell everything we need to know about Mr. Wilson.

MALVEAUX: This is obviously -- it's not a closed case at this point. They still have a civil suit that is pending. This could -- this could actually go on for quite some time.

DIGENOVA: That's exactly right. The Wilsons have filed a baseless lawsuit, and it will be very interesting to see what testimony this time Ms. Plame gives under oath.

MALVEAUX: I'm going to bring in our legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin here. Jeff, obviously, this is a highly, highly unusual move for the president to make essentially midway through his second term.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: That's an understatement. I mean, this president has given fewer pardons than any president in recent history. Just 113 through six and a half years. I'm not sure how many commutations. The number may be zero. But, certainly, as Joe knows, there is a pardon office. There is a procedure that is followed for pardons and commutations. That has been completely short-circuited in this process. The Department of Justice was not involved in this decision. This was entirely an act of presidential grace. Entirely within the president's rights, but let's not underestimate how completely unusual this was.

DIGENOVA: I agree with Jeff about how unusual it is. There's no question about it. And, in fact, it is the kind of unusual thing that President Clinton did when he pardoned Susan McDougal, John Deutsch, the former director of central intelligence, and Marc Rich, who, by the way, was represented by "Scooter" Libby. And I must say, that it was unusual. It was unusual for President Clinton to do that, and it's unusual for President Bush to do this.

MALVEAUX: Well, Joe, are you saying...

DIGENOVA: That's why the president has this power, however.

MALVEAUX: Are you saying, Joe, that this perhaps it's political payback for what President Clinton had done?

DIGENOVA: No. No. I'm saying that presidents do this. This is not payback for that, for heavens sake. I didn't say that at all or even suggest it. I'm agreeing with Jeff. I'm saying these are unusual things that presidents do. And sometimes they appear not to be very understandable. This one is very understandable.

This was a close confidante of the vice president who was charged in the case, where we know who the original leaker of Valerie Plame's name was, Richard Armitage, the deputy secretary of state who was never charged with anything, who gave different answers to Mr. Fitzgerald and was never charged.

I think the president looked at this, he issued a very, very fine statement in which he said he believed the jury found Mr. Libby guilty of perjury, that people should pay a price for that, but that Mr. Libby had been a very valuable public servant and that he should not serve any time in prison. To me it is a compromise. There's no question about it. I certainly would have preferred a pardon. But I think the president has explained himself well.

MALVEAUX: Jeff Toobin...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Suzanne...

(CROSSTALK)

MALVEAUX: Go ahead...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry...

MALVEAUX: Go ahead.

TOOBIN: Well I just would like to add -- it was something that -- Joe mentioned the statements that the president issued. And one word in that statement really jumped out at me, which was the president's belief that the sentence of 30 months, two and a half years, was excessive. Well, you know, there are federal sentencing guidelines that Joe dealt with every day when he was the U.S. attorney and I dealt with when I was an assistance U.S. attorney.

And under the federal sentencing guidelines which apply to everyone, 30 months is precisely within the range for obstruction of justice. So it's a little hard for me to see how a 30-month sentence within these federal sentencing guidelines is excessive.

DIGENOVA: Well, as you know, Jeff, there was a very substantial legal argument as to whether or not the 30 months was applicable in this case. I don't want to get into the weeds of sentencing guidelines. But there was a very, very serious legal question as to whether or not the judge had the right to impose the additional time in this case.

But that -- that question aside, the issue is -- that may very well be decided. Because as you know, this case now continues on appeal. The appeal does not stop now because of the commutation of sentence. The appeal goes forward. The only difference is, if it is affirmed, he will only have to pay the $250,000 fine. He cannot go to prison now under any result from the court of appeals.

MALVEAUX: Now, Jeff Toobin, this question to you. President Bush appointed Judge Walton in this case here, and yet he is saying that the sentence here is excessive. Does that seem odd to you? I mean some people are saying this is kind of a partisan move, but that seems unusual. This is somebody who was obviously in the Bush administration's camp.

TOOBIN: Well, it's tough to make the argument that Judge Walton is some sort of Democratic hack. Also, the three-judge panel today that said "Scooter" Libby had to go to jail ruled unanimously. One of those judges was David Sentelle, who was one of the most conservative judges in the D.C. circuit.

Someone who is no friend at all of Democrats, who appointed Kenneth Starr, independent counsel. So, you know, the problem with arguing that this was some sort of unfair legal proceeding is that it has been now sanctioned and approved and affirmed so far by judges who are hardly loyal Democrats and, in fact, they're mostly Republican appointees.

DIGENOVA: I think Jeff makes a very good point. That I think anybody who wants to say that this was a partisan proceeding -- I mean you can criticize Patrick Fitzgerald's judgment when he knew who the leaker was and knew that it wasn't "Scooter" Libby, knew that it was Richard Armitage and decided to go on anyway and whether or not he did that because he had some vendetta against Libby because he represented Marc Rich, which was a case that Fitzgerald was involved in.

The bottom line is this -- these judges in this case had nothing to do with politics. Judge Walton is a fine judge. I will say this about the sentence, the Probation Department in his court recommended a sentence of 15 to 21 months. So they believe that the 30-month sentence was excessive. But that aside, this has nothing to do with politics.

These judges act on the record. They act on what's going on in front of them and none of them is affected by the politics or the wrangling that goes on outside the courtroom.

MALVEAUX: Jeff Toobin, how much of this do you think is politics and how much of it is really law? I mean what -- do we have a sense at all of how often people's sentence are commuted? This sounds like this is an extremely rare situation.

TOOBIN: To say it's rare is an understatement. I mean maybe Joe knows about a commutation that took place in the last 10 years. I certainly don't. I mean, there have been a handful of pardons, I know about that, and certainly as Joe points out, President Clinton issued those horrendously unpopular pardons at the end of his presidency, but my expectation is that this pardon -- or this commutation will be similarly unpopular, because it's outside the legal process.

This is something that the president does, has the authority to do outside of any legal proceeding. It is entirely a power of the presidency. And the public, whether it's Gerald Ford pardoning Richard Nixon or Clinton pardoning Marc Rich, doesn't like these sorts of acts by presidents.

DIGENOVA: Well I can only say that it's not outside the legal process, Jeff. This is a constitutional power that the president has. So, it is clearly within the legal system and the legal power of the president to do it. I do agree with you that there will be many people who will be very, very dissatisfied with this. And all you had to do was listen to Joe Wilson to figure that out.

So, I think you're absolutely right. It's going to be very, very unpopular, and of course, Ambassador Wilson -- I'll call him ambassador for the moment. I'll give him a break for a minute. You know, to listen to him is to really hear the -- the anger that will be coming out, the venom that will be spewing shortly.

MALVEAUX: I want to bring in our Bill Schneider to talk a little bit about the politics of all of this, Bill. And also a poll that was conducted earlier in the week CNN/Opinion Research Corporation. This presidential pardon for "Scooter" Libby, essentially 19 percent saying that they favor a pardon and 72 percent saying that they oppose a pardon.

Now, we have not seen a pardon today. This is a commutation. It's different here, what the administration is describing as some sort of compromise here. But based on -- on what the public here wants, is this something that you think the Bush administration is reacting to? Is reacting to public opinion?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No, it's reacting against public opinion. It's very clear, just as Jeff said, that this will be horrendously unpopular. Joe agreed with that. Politically there will be direct repercussions, of course President Bush can't run for re-elections, but there's going to be a lot of anger out there.

I don't think it's going to be restricted simply to Democrats. Independents and some Republicans are going to be angry, and it's going to feed into the anger at Washington that seems to be poisoning the mood of the country and informing everything happening in the campaign so far. Americans are very resentful over the fact that someone who was convicted of a serious crime, for which many, many other people are in jail right now had his sentence commuted and will not go to jail. That's the important thing. Will not go to jail, because he has friends in high places. That's exactly what enrages people about business in Washington.

MALVEAUX: So what's the political calculus here? The fact that he has got approval ratings that are under 30 percent now, below the freezing level that it doesn't make any difference at all what he does? He might as well just go for it and commute the sentence?

SCHNEIDER: Well, it may be a calculation that conservatives want this to happen. There's been a lot of pressure on the White House from conservatives in Washington. Some of the presidential candidates said they favor the pardon. And that, therefore, the president could solidify his support in his base.

That this would be popular with the base. Maybe it will be. I'm dubious about that. I don't know. But when you have only 19 percent who would support a pardon, that's not a commutation, it's a pardon, but I'm not sure many people will see a big difference. The important thing is staying out of jail. I'm not sure that...

MALVEAUX: Sure.

SCHNEIDER: ... this could have any positive repercussions for the president.

MALVEAUX: And I want to bring back Joe Digenova, if you're still on the phone here. This is not -- it's not what you wanted, it's not what a lot of conservative Republicans were looking for. We know the vice president certainly lobbying behind the scenes. He wanted a pardon for "Scooter" Libby.

Is this something that they're going to be satisfied with here? Do you think we might even see a little bit of a bump, a sense of some goodwill from so many people, the conservatives that he has, quite frankly, angered over his policies?

DIGENOVA: Well, I think -- you know you have to understand that the "Scooter" Libby case has taken on a life of its own because of the nature, the manner in which the prosecution was conducted. And I'm talking about Patrick Fitzgerald. I'm not talking about the judge here. The judge did his job. He tried the case.

That is another -- Patrick Fitzgerald, however, is another question. His conduct in this case raises very serious questions about prosecutorial discretion and judgment. That is the issue here. When you know from the beginning that it was not "Scooter" Libby who leaked this information to Robert Novak, but rather, it was Richard Armitage, no friend of the president and vice president, a great foe of the Iraq war, and someone who kept silent about this and could have answered this question publicly by simply saying after he had told officials, I'm the person who did it.

I know what all the hubbub's about, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to do it. But -- and that's why people got angry. Because they knew all along. And when they found out that Mr. Fitzgerald had known that from the day he was appointed, people began to ask perfectly legitimate questions. And I think once "Scooter" Libby was convicted on these related procedural crimes, which are very serious, and I don't mean to undermine the notion of whether or not people should tell the truth to the system, they absolutely should.

MALVEAUX: OK.

DIGENOVA: But, we shall find out more about that case on appeal. But in terms of the politics of it, I think Bill Schneider had it just about right. I think there are going to be a lot of people who are not going to be happy with this. But presidents exercise this power, not to make people happy, but to do the right thing.

For example, President Clinton felt very strongly that Susan McDougal had been persecuted by Ken Starr. He felt it to his core. And he felt he was absolutely justified in pardoning Susan McDougal. A lot of people were not happy with that. And the president suffered a great diminution in popularity, one of the few drops during his presidency for issuing those series of ugly pardons at the end of his presidency.

MALVEAUX: And Joe...

DIGENOVA: But you know what? He weathered it and he did the right thing in his own mind.

MALVEAUX: Joe, we're going to get back to you. Of course, later in this show on this breaking news on this very interesting and controversial story. Also Jeff Toobin, stand by, as well as our Bill Schneider. We'll get back to you on that.

We're going to now go to another one of our major stories that we're covering this hour, that we're tracking, that is the terror threat in Britain tonight. It is at the highest level. That is critical. As new details emerge about those failed attacks in London and Glasgow.

Sources tell CNN that investigators are focusing on foreign-born doctors, including an Iraqi and a Jordanian. And now there's been an eighth arrest in the case.

CNN's senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson is live and he joins us now. What are we learning about the doctors?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We're learning some very interesting details. The Iraqi doctor, Bilal Abdullah is one of those men that attacked the airport building and the police have already tied with those attempted bombings in London as well. It's not clear if he's the man that the police currently have under armed guard at the hospital, close to here, who was severely burnt in the attack on the airport, or if he is the relatively unscathed attacker who is in the police station right behind me here.

But Bilal Abdullah, according to people that knew him in the area here, was a doctor at the -- at a local hospital here. That hospital today was the scene of an investigation by the police. They arrested two men at the doctors' residences there today. They scoured the area. They had forensic tests done inside the doctors' residence, and they also called in a bomb disposal squad. It's not clear how much of this is linked to Bilal Abdullah's presence and work at that hospital.

He is understood to have been here recently. And, again, as part of this new dimension, a new type of al Qaeda-affiliated operation, we're learning here. These are overseas attackers. We have learned as well that one of the men arrested in England was a doctor from Jordan, a Palestinian. It is not clear at this stage what his role in all of this is. The police say he has been arrested in connection with the investigation.

Bilal Abdullah, very definitely, the Iraqi doctor, connected with the attack. Mohammed Asha, it's not clear his involvement. A high- flying doctor in Jordan. A high performer at school. Top grades. The third highest when he graduated from school. A scholarship to study medicine.

His father said he just came to Britain to study medicine. It's not clear exactly his involvement. Surprising his family, Asha's family, to find out he's arrested -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And Nic, do we know about a possible motive?

ROBERTSON: You know the best indication we've had of a motive so far I think perhaps comes from Britain's prime minister and from the home secretary, both saying that this attack is affiliated with al Qaeda. There is an assessment here that because Prime Minister Tony Blair handed over to the new -- the new prime minister, Gordon Brown, recently, that al Qaeda has seen that as a time to target and soften up Brown's administration, to see if they can push them out of Iraq, the same way they tried to influence political events in Europe and Spain with the attack in Madrid several years ago.

So, that's one assessment. I spoke to one M.P. also said the attack here in Scotland, that is a direct message, this M.P. from Glasgow told me, a direct message to Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who is from Scotland, who was born close to Glasgow, a direct message for him we can target in your backyard -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Nic, thank you so much. And we've got a lot of other developments in that story.

A night of fast-moving developments. Each new bit of information raising anxiety across Britain. Our chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour is in London. Christiane, you've been watching all of this -- this problem in the U.K. for quite some time. Do you think that this is an isolated incident, or do you suspect more?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's not isolated. It's after a string of events such as this which started back two years ago, and because the threat is now critical and has been since Saturday, that means the government here expects another one, although, they have no specific information, neither they nor Scotland Yard, metropolitan police, say they don't have any specific indication. But they do expect another one could be imminent.

So, they have blanketed out. There's a huge police investigation. It's up and down the breadth of the country. They've been very, very lucky, first, that there were no casualties yet, and, second, that there was so much preserved evidence because of the failure of these explosives. They say that they are absolutely confident that they will know not only the people involved but the motive and the network.

And one of the things that they are looking at is the possibility that this could now be a network of medical professionals who have come from outside the country to create these kinds of terrorists' attacks. So far, we're being told that none of those arrested are, in fact, British born and raised. Those, British born and raise minority, the same kind of people who did the 7/7 attack, that was on the subways and buses two years ago.

They were British born and raised. And much of Scotland Yard and the police counterterrorism investigations have centered on homegrown cells. This they don't believe, is a homegrown cell. In fact, we know that there are certainly at least several who have been arrested who are from either Jordan or Iraq or various other countries -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And Christiane, it seems to be that these suspects are well educated. They are middle-class. Is that unusual?

AMANPOUR: Well, yes and no. There have been, you know, whether you take the terrorist attacks here or whether you take the ones in the United States, 9/11, these were educated enough to learn how to fly planes. Here, you've already heard the evidence of at least one of the doctors who has been arrested. We're not quite sure yet what his involvement was, but potentially -- well, he is a suspect, the British say.

But he clearly has had a very, very sterling medical qualification, and academic record. And many of these people, we're being told, are in the medical profession. And that indicates, you know, a level of intelligence and professionalism. So, this is something that's, you know, actually has been the case in many of these cells.

MALVEAUX: Meanwhile, we are looking into what kind of damage those car bombs in London that the police defused might have caused. Our CNN's David Mattingly is in New Mexico.

David, I want to play this tape for our viewers so they can get a sense to see firsthand just how destructive this car bomb could have been. And then describe for us what you found out about this demonstration.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What we'll be looking at here is the result of commissioning of a test that we asked the experts here at New Mexico State to conduct for us. They constructed a car bomb similar -- there it goes, similar to what they saw they recovered in London, to see what sort of explosive effects it would have had, had those devices gone off in downtown London.

You can see the tremendous fireball coming up from those automobiles. And here you can see the aftermath of what was left. This is the Jeep Cherokee after one of those devices went off. And look at the building next to it. This was constructed to see what would happen to a structure near one of those fiery bombs.

Imagine if this had been a disco full of dancers at the time in downtown London. Experts, after seeing this, tell us it likely would have been a lot of fire damage. A lot of people harmed in the immediate area.

One other thing that the terrorists were using in this device, they wrapped the fuel inside that they were using with explosives with nails. Well, we couldn't use nails, because that two cause problems littering the test site here. So we put metal nuts instead out here. And everywhere, 20 to 50 yards away, these things are spewing out like bullets.

So people out on the street could have been the recipients of some very serious harm as well -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And, David, could it have been much, much worse? We're seeing that demonstration. I imagine if you had several vehicles that damage would have been just exponentially even, even tougher, even a lot difficult.

MATTINGLY: The experts -- well, the experts are telling us this was a very crude bomb. It was made used making -- using materials that anybody could buy. Gasoline, propane tanks. These guys did not have a lot of resources when they were putting these together, and they were not out to do a lot of damage.

But they were out to spread a lot of terror. And that's exactly what these bombs of would have done.

MALVEAUX: David, thank you very much. And for David Mattingly's full report, tune in to "ANDERSON COOPER 360." That's at 10:00 p.m. Eastern here on CNN.

Now reaction is still coming in to the breaking news tonight. President Bush commutes the sentence of former White House aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Mr. Bush said Libby's 30-month prison term in the CIA leak case was excessive. Libby's conviction on perjury and other charges stand along with his $250,000 fine and two years on probation.

Many Democrats are offering angry reaction tonight. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is calling the commutation a "betrayal of trust of the American people."

And we now have reaction from Vice President Dick Cheney, quoting now: "Scooter has dedicated much of his life to public service at the State Department, the Department of Defense and the White House. In each of these assignments he has served the nation tirelessly and with great distinction. I relied on him heavily in my capacity as secretary of defense and as the vice president. I have always considered him to be a man of the highest intellect, judgment and personal integrity. A man fully committed to protecting the vital security interests of the United States and its citizens.

"Scooter is also a friend and on a personal level, Lynne and I remain deeply saddened by this tragedy and its effect on his wife, Harriet, and their young children. The defense has indicated it plans to appeal the conviction in the case. Speaking as friends, we hope that our system will return a final result consistent with what we know of this fine man."

And we are told, once again, that the vice president supports the president's decision.

For more reaction on this hour's breaking story, Scooter Libby's sentence commuted by President Bush, we are joined on the phone by Lanny Davis, former special counsel to President Clinton.

What do you make of this? Do you think that this is actually a compromise as the Bush administration is billing to it be?

LANNY DAVIS, FMR. WHITE HOUSE SPECIAL COUNSEL: Well, first of all, it's a form of continuing protection for the man who just announced that he agreed with the commutation. This is about Vice President Cheney, always has been, his unwillingness to tell the truth, his hiding behind the prosecution of a loyal aide, who I've actually had sympathy with, because he took the fall for Vice President Cheney's instructions.

He lied to a grand jury. Was convicted of perjury before a grand jury, and you now have the vice president of the United States dismissing that crime. And in a way that he never dismissed what was a false statement in a civil deposition by President Clinton, the sanctimonious Dick Cheney talked about that as a high crime and misdemeanor, but now we hear the very man responsible for, I think, Mr. Libby loyally lying to a grand jury, as the jury found him to have done, now announcing that he's pleased by the commutation.

This is about the vice president of the United States, make no mistake about it. He was protected by Mr. Libby, who is now a felon, thanks to protecting the vice president.

MALVEAUX: Do you think we need to -- do we need to hear from the vice president at this point? DAVIS: This is the main issue that I believe is before the Bush administration, and the American people. Vice President Cheney has refused to tell the truth because he has hid behind the fact that Mr. Libby was either involved in a trial, or now involved after a conviction on an appeal.

He can no longer hide, unless he continues his habit of refusing to tell the American people the facts. He is responsible for what happened to Mr. Libby. We now all know that. I do have sympathy for anyone who takes a fall for his boss, but the fact is that Mr. Libby was convict of lying before a grand jury.

He declined to take the witness stand. Let's not forget, he had an opportunity to take the witness stand to defend himself. I actually looked forward to his doing that, to get his explanation for why he forgot certain answers in front of the grand jury. Instead, he declined to testify. In my mind, that was because he was still protecting Vice President Cheney.

MALVEAUX: I want to bring in former U.S. Attorney Joseph DiGenova here to react to some of that, because obviously during the time of Clinton, he had also -- he was convicted for lying under oath, and this is obviously a crime that this judge has said that Scooter Libby has committed.

Do you believe that he has committed a crime?

JOSEPH DIGENOVA, FMR. U.S. ATTORNEY: Do you mean, do I believe that Scooter Libby committed a crime?

MALVEAUX: Yes.

DIGENOVA: Well, the jury found that he did. What I believe doesn't matter. And in fact, the president obviously indicated that he supported the jury verdict. That there had been a trial based on the facts and that he supported the verdict but he felt that the sentence was excessive.

In my view -- my personal view about Mr. Libby was, this ended up being a contest of whose memory was best and which forgetful memory was going to be forgiven by Mr. Fitzgerald. Tim Russert's memory was bad. Everybody that testified in the case, testified -- had bad memories.

FBI agents made mistakes during the trial. Their memories were wrong. What the case showed was that when you ask people about questions about things that happened two years earlier, it is inevitable that people will make mistakes and have memory problems.

Now whether or not someone does that purposely is a question for a jury. And a jury in this case obviously decided that they did not believe that this was about forgetting. My own personal view was that this is a case that never should have been brought once it was known that Richard Armitage was the original leaker and the person who started this ball rolling. Lanny's view of the issue of the vice president and Mr. Libby is one that I do not share. But it's a position he can take. I'm not going to criticize Lanny for taking that position. But as I said, I am fascinated by the fact that all of the Democrats have lined up to criticize this. I don't remember hearing one of them say a word about Sandy Berger purloining highly classified documents from the National Archives and getting probation and a $50,000 fine.

MALVEAUX: Well, Lanny Davis, what do you think of that?

DAVIS: Sandy Berger acknowledged that he did something terribly wrong. And I think he paid a pretty heavy price professionally and personally. But I respect Joe DiGenova as a prosecutor who actually declined to prosecute when he was independent counsel. So, he's absolutely right to question -- prosecute his discretion. But that's really what he's doing about Mr. Fitzgerald.

Mr. Fitzgerald would respond, as an honorable man, that he believed that Mr. Libby was not being truthful, which the jury found was purposeful. Impeded his investigation to really get to the bottom of what we now know was an effort by Vice President Cheney to smear Ambassador Wilson, rather than doing it publicly, rather than holding a press conference, rather than disagreeing with people.

The vice president told Scooter Libby, whisper in a reporter's ear, get this information out and smear both Ambassador Wilson and, in the process, you can certainly let people know that his wife works at the CIA.

MALVEAUX: I want to bring in...

DAVIS: We want Vice President Cheney to tell the truth, hold a press conference, answer questions on programs like this. He now owes that to the American people to be transparent, if that word possibly appears in his vocabulary anywhere.

MALVEAUX: Lanny Davis, covering the president and vice president, I have serious doubts whether or not we're going to see a full-fledged press conference from the vice president at this point. I want to bring in our legal analyst, Jeff Toobin here. And I want you to talk a little bit about whether or not you think there's a double standard here.

Clearly President Clinton was impeached for lying under oath. You have the situation with Scooter Libby. Are the Republicans, are they -- are they playing it both ways here, both sides, when they complain about what is taking place?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: You know, in Washington, everything, especially legal issues, are viewed through a partisan prism. And that is true of criminal cases, it's true of civil cases, it's true of constitutional cases.

But, I just think the important point to mention about today is that Joe makes some very interesting and fair arguments about whether this was an appropriate use of prosecutorial discretion and whether people's memories were good in that trial, but those are arguments that are made about obstruction of justice prosecutions all the time.

And this was a case that went to a trial and there was a verdict, and a guilty verdict and a sentence. This is the only commutation of an obstruction of justice conviction I've ever heard of, ever, in the history of the United States. That's what's extraordinary about today.

The case is over. What's unusual is that the president of the United States got involved at this level, at this time, and that's something that almost never happens. And I think that's going to be the significance of today. Not the debate over whether the jury was right or wrong and whether Fitzgerald was right or wrong.

MALVEAUX: This president obviously has made no secret that he is very loyal to his staff, his senior administration officials on down, and that that loyalty goes both ways.

Lanny, you working with President Clinton, what's wrong with that?

DAVIS: Well, actually, I have a soft spot for President Bush, we were college friends, and to this day, I feel he's a sincere but awfully wrong about policy president. I think you have tapped exactly the George Bush that decided to split the difference between a full pardon and doing nothing, which is a commutation.

I think he saw Scooter Libby as a loyal associate, who was put in this position by somebody higher up and took the fall. And whether consciously or not, I think President Bush understood that the person who was put out there and whose life has basically been ruined was doing the bidding of the vice president of the United States, who recently told the American people he didn't have to follow the law and report on classified documents, which is the law, because he's not a member of the executive branch.

Believe it or not, he actually took that position. I'm not trying to demonize Vice President Cheney. I think he's a good man, a good parent, a good husband and a good public servant. It's just that he doesn't understand American democracy requires public accountability. He doesn't understand that he has got to answer questions, tell the American people why he told Scooter Libby to release classified information, to smear an ambassador who came back telling the truth, that there was no nuclear weapons of mass destruction, contrary to what the vice president believed.

He didn't do it openly. He did it secretly by whispering in people's ears. That's the culture that I think Vice President Cheney should be held accountable for and it is what President Bush must have felt sympathy for Mr. Libby as not being truly the one that was responsible here.

And, of course, his closeness to Vice President Cheney, he's even more loyal to the vice president than he is to Scooter Libby.

MALVEAUX: I think we had also heard from jurors as well who had expressed some sympathy towards Scooter Libby, saying that they really didn't feel -- although they'd gone ahead with the sentence and the verdict, they didn't really feel like he was at fault here in some ways. That perhaps he was the fall guy.

I want to weigh in here on what the public is saying about all this. It was just last month that Wolf Blitzer posed the question of a possible Libby pardon to the Republican presidential candidates. This is not a commutation, rather, but a complete pardon, and here's what they had to say in the debate.

((BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Do you think it would be appropriate for President Bush to pardon Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who was sentenced today to 30 months in prison for his role in the CIA leak case?

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know what I think, Wolf, to make a determination on that, you'd have to look at the transcript.

BLITZER: Quick yes or no. And I'm going to go down the rest of the group and let everybody just tell me yes or no. Would you pardon Scooter Libby?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. I'm steeped in the law. I wouldn't do that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, not without reading the transcript.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not without read reading the transcript.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's going through an appeal process. We've got to see what happens here.

RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think the sentence was way out of line. I mean, the sentence was grossly excessive in a situation in which at the beginning the prosecutor knew who the leak was.

BLITZER: So yes or no, would you pardon him?

GIULIANI: And he knew a crime wasn't committed. I recommended over 1,000 pardons to President Reagan when I was associate attorney general. I would see if it fit the criteria for pardon. I'd wait for the appeal. I think what the judge did today argues more in the favor of a pardon because this is excessive punishment. When you consider, I prosecuted 5,000 cases...

BLITZER: All right. I'm trying to get a yes or no.

GIULIANI: Well, this is a very important issue. This is a very, very important -- a man's life is at stake. And the reality is this is an incomprehensible situation. They knew who the leak was, and ultimately there was no underlying crime involved.

BLITZER: All right.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is one of those situations where I go back to my record as governor. I didn't pardon anybody as governor because I didn't want to overturn a jury. But in this case you have a prosecutor who clearly abused prosecutorial discretion by going after somebody when he already knew that the source of the leak was Richard Armitage. He had been told that. So he went on a political vendetta.

BLITZER: So is that a yes?

ROMNEY: It's worth looking at that, I will study it very closely if I'm lucky enough to be president. And I'd keep that option open.

BLITZER: Senator?

SEN. SAM BROWNBACK (R-KS), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes. The basic crime here didn't happen. What they were saying was that the identity of an agent was revealed, but that agent has to be in the field for that to be a crime. That didn't occur.

BLITZER: Governor?

TOMMY THOMPSON (R),PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Bill Clinton committed perjury in a grand jury, lost his law license. Scooter Libby got 30 months. To me, it's not fair at all. But I would make sure the appeal was done properly and then I would examine the record.

BLITZER: Congressman?

REP. TOM TANCREDO (R-CO), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes.

BLITZER: Yes. All right. We heard from all of them.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: OK. I want to bring in Candy Crowley for a moment. Obviously, you've been covering a lot of these candidates. The campaign here. How does this issue play to voters? Is this even going to be an issue for the presidential contest for '08?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: On the Republican side, I think that's doubtful. On the Democratic side, it just feeds into the anti-Bush sentiment that is very obvious out here. And you can tell, Suzanne, by the reactions of the various Democratic presidential candidates when they've been coming in sort of steadily and you get things like, this is breathtaking arrogance, the cause of equal justice in America has taken a serious blow, and on and on and on from the candidates.

It will be interesting. We're here waiting for both Bill and Hillary Clinton to come and make an appearance at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. It will be interesting if we can get to her to find out how Hillary Clinton feels about this. She was asked how she would feel about a pardon a couple of weeks ago at a union event and she sort of blew it off. So it will be interesting given, of course, as you mentioned several times, that President Clinton did execute some pardons that were quite controversial at the end of his presidency.

MALVEAUX: And, Candy, do you think that she is likely to go forward and make a statement about that? Is it in her best interests now to speak out about this? What do you think?

CROWLEY: Well, I think probably they would rather not do this tonight, when they've started this, you know, three-day tour through Iowa, the first time that she has done any major campaign events that weren't fundraisers with her husband.

So, I think they wanted this to be a Fourth of July huge kickoff. I think she's going to have to say something, though, is the bottom line.

MALVEAUX: Sure. And, Bill, I want to bring you in very quickly here. It sounds like to me what Candy is saying and other political analysts here, is that it's going to reinforce what voters already believe about this president, about the vice president, that they either don't trust them. That this is a cover-up here. That they're not fair.

Or the Republicans, who are going to think of this and say, well, he was a good guy. He was a public servant, and he got caught in something that was kind of partisan.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think they will do that. But I think it does go beyond partisanship here. To a lot of people, this is special treatment, special treatment, for someone who had friends in very high places. The vice president and the president of the United States. And that angers an awful lot of Americans.

I think what it will feed into is something we've already seen developing in this campaign. And that is a very powerful anger at Washington, at Congress as well as the president, both of which are suffering very, very low ratings right now. A sense that there's -- Washington is an alien and closed environment, where shady things are going on all the time.

And a desire to find someone to vote for who is not tainted by that. Barack Obama is presenting himself as that kind of candidate. We'll see how it plays out in the campaign. That's certainly one of the reasons why his fundraising has gone so well. John McCain has become a close supporter of President Bush on Iraq and immigration, and I think he has been tainted by that. And that's one of the reasons why his fundraising is going so poorly.

This anti-Washington, anti-establishment feeling, because of this instance of special treatment, is likely to become much more powerful.

MALVEAUX: And, Candy, I want to follow-up with that. Do you think that President Bush's ratings, below the 30s at this point, according to some polls, can it get any worse for this president? Do you think that that is really part of the political calculus here, is that come what may, I'm going to go ahead and do what I believe and what I want to do here, because it just can't get any worse?

CROWLEY: I think you're right. I think he went ahead and did what he believed was the right thing to do. The political calculation has to be, where can it go from here? The people that are left supporting this president are the ones most likely to think that Scooter Libby was the victim of prosecutorial overreach.

So, those that are left still supporting the president are much more likely to commend him for this commutation than to condemn him for it.

MALVEAUX: Candy, thank you very much. Bill as well. I want to go to our Abbi Tatton. Bush's commutation of Scooter Libby's jail sentence is making waves online, among bloggers, grassroots activists on the left as well as the right.

So, Abbi, you've been following all of this. What are they saying about this Libby controversy online?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Well, this is just the latest and something that has been covered online for years and years. And if we're starting on the left, a huge amount of anger, that not is surprising. Starting with TalkLeft that really has been posting hundreds and hundreds of times on this story today, calling it a "blatant disregard for the law."

And for Firedoglake, a liberal site that has followed this story so closely, they even have their staff credentialed to go and cover the Libby trial earlier on this year, reporting every single little development, every facial expression, all the time being read by their loyal liberal readership online, the title is simple at this development, just "Outrage."

Going to the conservatives, there has been calls for a pardon. Just earlier on today after the rule ruling from the federal appeals court. Redstate, a conservative group blog saying "the president must pardon Scooter Libby now."

Also at the National Review Online, that topic of a pardon has come up again. This, a statement from former Senator Fred Thompson -- potential Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson, that statement: "While for a long time I've urged a pardon for Scooter, I respect the president's decision. This will allow a good American who has done a lot for his country to resume his life."

So we know it wasn't a pardon. We know that the sentence was commuted. How is that going down amongst the conservatives? Well, early reaction looks pretty positive to this news, from the Power Line blog, they're calling this a possible restoration of Bush's standing amongst conservatives.

Now, Suzanne, these are conservative sites who have been absolutely furious with the president, with the White House, over the last few weeks, over the issue of immigration. They've been absolutely railing against him on their sites. So with this development, I think the conservative group blog PoliPundit summed it up just earlier this evening, saying, "we've been railing against the president, finally something we can find agreement on," -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: So maybe a little bit of support, the conservatives coming back around to President Bush's side. Let's bring in CNN political analyst and Democratic strategist Paul Begala; as well as Republican strategist, John Feehery. They join me now on the phone.

I want to start off with you, Paul. President Bush was impeached for lying before -- before -- I'm sorry, President Clinton was impeached for lying before a grand jury. What do you think? What do you make of this? Does this smack of a double standard?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, of course, it's a double standard. President Clinton was found not guilty by a Republican-controlled Senate. Not guilty. Mr. Libby was found guilty, in a case brought by a Republican prosecutor and heard before a Republican judge. Mr. Libby was found guilty.

He was found guilty of four felonies. Now, the president has an untrammeled right to commute that sentence. He's well within his power to do so. But I think he is going to pay an enormous price in terms of his credibility and his legacy. And the notion that is going to take hold out there I think in the country, that there is a double standard that some of the other commentators referred to, that George Bush is only compassionate when it comes to conservatives.

MALVEAUX: John, does this cut both ways here? We heard Bill Schneider saying he doesn't really think this is going to play out so much in a partisan way, he believes that there are going to be a lot of Republicans who see it the same way as Democrats and say, you know, this is just preferential treatment.

JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I don't think that's true. I think that Paul -- if you are hearing this from Paul Begala, it is hilarious because of what President Clinton did with Marc Rich.

You know, the fact of the matter is that Scooter Libby, I think what the president found was that that he was not innocent, but yet, the proper amount of -- was the fine was the proper -- the proper sentence, and the actual sentence itself was just too much.

So, I think that the president has done exactly the right thing. I think that conservatives are going to love this decision. I think liberals already can't stand this president, so it's really a wash.

BEGALA: Let me pick up the point John makes about Marc Rich, because it's an important one. President Bush -- President Clinton, Bill Clinton, pardoned Marc Rich, who was a fugitive financier who had ripped off the government for millions of dollars. And I thought it was outrageous. I love Bill Clinton. I worked for him in the White House. It was one of the great honors to work for him for many years. But I thought that pardon was completely unjustified.

By the way, Marc Rich's lawyer who got him that pardon? Scooter Libby. So the world has an odd way of turning. Now I can -- as a Democrat, I have the intellectual honesty to say that the Marc Rich pardon was indefensible. And I'm looking for a few good men and women in the Republican Party who will look at this commutation as "get out of jail free" card for Scooter Libby and say the same thing.

And I think Bill Schneider is right that a lot of Republicans are going to look at this and say, look, Republicans ought to be the party of equal justice, and this is just completely unfair to take a man, because he's powerful, because he's privileged and give him a "get out of jail free" card.

MALVEAUX: I want to bring in our legal Jeff Toobin, who is dying to get into this conversation -- Jeff.

TOOBIN: Well, I would just like to make reference to a point that you said the White House was putting out and Lanny Davis made a reference to it. That this was somehow a compromise between going all the way to a pardon and leaving the sentence alone.

This wasn't a compromise. A pardon and a commutation are about two inches apart. A conviction and going to prison is two miles in the other direction. This was a huge victory for Scooter Libby. This was a tremendous gift. There are thousands of people in federal prisons today saying, compromise me!

In other words, let me out, too. And it's not going to happen. This was extraordinary, enormously unusual and Scooter Libby got the deal of a lifetime here.

MALVEAUX: So I want to bring in Bill Schneider real quickly. What do you think that means for the president's legacy here?

SCHNEIDER: I think the legacy will probably be forever affected by this. Probably tarnished in the eyes of a lot of people, again, because of the perception of special treatment. A compromise, as Jeff indicated, might have been to cut the sentence, something a president cannot do. He only has the power to pardon or commute the sentence.

I think a lot of people are going to be outraged and, again, they're going to see this as special treatment, the thing that they've always resented about Washington and about politics in this country.

MALVEAUX: Where does it go from here, Paul?

BEGALA: I think Congress will be outraged and in an uproar, but there's really nothing they can do. There was a similar uproar, as John pointed out, and I've mentioned, when Bill Clinton pardoned Marc Rich and a few others. But there's really not very much that they can do.

I mean, the president is within his rights to do this. But, you know, my hope, and this is just a pipe dream, is that maybe some of this compassion and commutation will spread. You know, there are tens of thousands of Americans in prison, Jeff mentioned, many of them are there for crack cocaine. Well, turns out, if you have just five grams of crack cocaine, you get a five-year mandatory minimum sentence. But you have to have 500 grams of powdered cocaine. Well, overwhelmingly the people convicted of crack are black. Overwhelmingly the -- well, not overwhelmingly, the people convicted of powder are white.

So there's a huge issue in this country about the racial disparity in how we sentence people for different forms of the same drug. And I'd like maybe the president to extend some of that milk of human kindness to some of those people who are serving lengthy prison sentences for a crime that in a different form, the cocaine wouldn't get them any prison time.

MALVEAUX: John Feehery, do you predict we're going to see anything like that?

FEEHERY: I doubt it very much. I think that this is probably -- you know, obviously conservatives are going to love this decision, once again. I think that liberals, this point is going to be moot. It's going to be a debatable point. It's going to be another thing that the conservatives and liberals are going to heatedly disagree with.

The middle of the country is going to care about, you know, the issues that make them live every day, the lunch-bucket issues, you know, how much health care they have got, how secure they are, crime. Those are the issues that most Americans care about. And the Scooter Libby thing, I think that the timing of this, you know, by the end of the July 4th recess, people will be -- in middle America will talking about something else.

MALVEAUX: OK. I want Jeff Toobin to wrap this up for us very quickly here. Is this case dead or is it still live at this point?

TOOBIN: Well, it is almost kind of a theoretical exercise. Now there is an appeal that will continue, but the only thing at stake in the appeal is the fine and the probation. So yes, Scooter Libby will be -- will continue his appeal. But this is a case that he lost in front of the jury, but won in front of President Bush.

MALVEAUX: OK. Thank you very much, Jeff Toobin, for wrapping that up for us. And for all of our guests, and thank you for joining us as well. Join us every day from 4:00 to 6:00 and at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. I'm Suzanne Malveaux in today for Wolf Blitzer. Up next, Glenn Beck in for Paula Zahn.

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