It’s a big day in cyberspace for the law and the breaking thereof: Bloggers respond to Rep. William Jefferson’s indictment, Scooter Libby’s sentencing, and columnist Eric Alterman’s bizarre arrest.
Iced!: Democrat William Jefferson, the Louisiana congressman famous for allegedly storing $90,000 in his freezer, was indicted yesterday on 16 charges including bribery, obstruction of justice, and racketeering. Jefferson, who was re-elected in 2006 while still under investigation by the FBI, has not resigned, although Republican lawmakers are moving for his ouster. Bloggers agree it’s about time.
Liberal Steve Benen at The Carpetbagger Report urges Democrats to dissociate themselves from Jefferson ASAP: “If the bribery charges have merit, and it appears they do, I don’t want him in our caucus; I don’t want him in our party; and I don’t expect him to get any support from Democrats anywhere.”
At conservative Red State, Mark I criticizes House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for failing to sic the House ethics committee on Jefferson: “[T]he Speaker’s inability to police her House has left the Congress woefully unprepared to deal with the indictment. … The ‘most open and ethical Congress in the nation’s history’ is looking more and more like a euphemism for ‘business as usual.’ ” In a lengthy post, conservative Ed Morrissey at Captain’s Quarters analyzes Pelosi’s bind—she’s caught between the Congressional Black Caucus, which “smells a double standard,” and her campaign promise to crack down on corruption “While Jefferson should never have had any committee assignments, and should be removed from the last one he has, the House should not expel him unless he receives some sort of due-process hearing,” he writes. “Either that means a trial, which may take a long time, or an ethics hearing, which will require Pelosi’s endorsement and will invoke the wrath of the CBC all over again.”
Matt Margolis at GOP Bloggers argues that Pelosi has her own double standard: “Democrats are given the benefit of the doubt–they are considered innocent until proven guilty–while Republicans like Tom DeLay, who was the victim of a politically motivated indictment, are immediately part of a ‘culture of corruption.’ ” Liberal DownWithTyranny!, on the other hand, draws a distinction between “a lone wolf scumbag like Jefferson and DeLay’s Culture of Corruption”—comparing the two, he says, is “like comparing a street thug to an organized crime syndicate.”
Michael Crowley at the New Republic’s The Plank proposes a possible solution: “Is there some way Nancy Pelosi could leverage Jefferson’s Congressional pension–which under current law he’ll be able to keep, even if convicted–to force him out?”
Judgment day: A federal judge sentenced Scooter Libby to 30 months in prison and fined him $250,000 Tuesday for lying to a grand jury and FBI agents in the CIA leak case.
Liberal Paul Delehanty at Kid Oakland Blog calls the sentence “an incredibly significant turning point”: “Scooter Libby is a man who was central to the ‘big lie’ that led to the U.S. invasion of Iraq and a man who, despite the media’s silence on this fact, worked directly for President Bush. Scooter Libby is also a convicted felon who will soon be headed to jail for 30 months. In America that still means something.”
At Conservative Blogger, William Smith cries foul: “Scooter Libby gets jail time. Bill Clinton got a slap on the wrist. I’m not saying that Scooter shouldn’t have gotten jail time. I am saying that this is political and a double standard that exists. Perjury is perjury is perjury.”
Marty Kaplan at The Huffington Post argues in favor of a presidential pardon—sort of: “I want American history to possess forever a crystalline illustration of Cheney’s whack-ball theory of the unitary executive exempt from the rule of law. … I want the persistent presidential nullification of the Constitution to be perpetually exemplified by an unambiguous act of unmistakable arrogance.”
The Smoking Gun collects some of the 198 letters submitted to Judge Reggie B. Walton urging for stricter or more lenient sentencing. The batch includes notes from Donald Rumsfeld, Douglas Feith, and Paul Wolfowitz. Oregon-based law blogger tekel vets the letters: “With friends like that, I’m not sure Libby needs any enemies. Anyone looking for evidence of a vast right-wing conspiracy should have a field day combing through the pile of notes.” Wonkette notes a glaring omission: “Perhaps oddly, there’s no message of support from Dick Cheney. We figured he’d be a shitty boss, but he won’t even write a recommendation?”
At Bench Conference, the Washington Post’s Andrew Cohen points out one “bright side” to Libby’s appeals prospects: “Libby now can argue that Judge Walton incorrectly factored into his sentencing decision the underlying event – the leaking to the public of CIA Agent Valerie Plame Wilson’s name – even though no one ever was charged with (much less convicted of) that crime.”
Just One Minute’s Tom Maguire wonders what happens next: “Does Dick Cheney still have any sway in this Administration, and how hard will he push for a Libby pardon? Will a Libby pardon be offered as an olive branch to the righties who are furious with Bush over immigration? … If Bush wants to mend fences with the right, he better start mending the border fence.” Mark Kilmer at conservative Red State agrees: “He has no political capital to lose by [pardoning Libby]; in fact, he would gain some respect, probably, from those in his political base he is alienating by pushing a bizarre immigration bill.”
Liberal Firedoglake has a comprehensive live blog of the sentencing.
Read more about Libby’s sentencing.
Cops and bloggers: Liberal pundit and Nation columnist Eric Alterman was arrested Sunday and charged with trespassing at the New Hampshire Democratic debate, after police claim he refused to leave the spin room after being asked. At HuffingtonPost, Alterman disputes CNN’s account that he refused to leave seven times, and calls the whole thing “a misunderstanding.” Bloggers alternately slam and defend Alterman.
Liberal Dennis Perrin admits to feeling a “happy jolt” at Alterman’s plight: “This guy is one of the biggest pricks in American political journalism, a classic liberal elitist devoted to the US corporate state, and a firm believer in the ‘gatekeeper’ role of what passes for intellectual culture in this country.” Law blogger Ann Althouse adds that “there’s some poetic justice when the wannabe gatekeeper gets ousted.”
Conservative Hoystory is skeptical of Alterman’s account: “It’s generally a good idea to be polite and respectful to cops. You’ll forgive me if, based upon the persona Alterman displays on television, I’m somewhat skeptical of his claims to meek, respectful behavior.” “Remarkably, he hasn’t blamed Bush,” writes conservative JammieWearingFool. “Yet.”
Read more about Alterman’s arrest.