All the papers except the Wall Street Journal lead with U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton sentencing I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby to 30 months in prison and ordering him to pay a $250,000 fine for lying during the investigation into the leak of a former CIA operative’s identity. The Washington Post says that before hearing the judge’s decision, Libby “did not follow the usual custom of seeking judicial sympathy by expressing contrition.” Instead, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff asked the judge to “consider, along with the jury verdict, my whole life.” In the end, Walton said he respects those who choose to pursue public service but, “I also think it’s important we expect and demand a lot from people who put themselves in those positions.” Libby now faces the prospect of becoming the first high-level White House official to go to prison since Watergate. The threat became even more real when Walton said he was not inclined to allow Libby to remain free on bail during any appeals because his conviction is unlikely to be overturned, but the final decision will be made next week.
The Los Angeles Timessays Walton’s reluctance to let Libby go free on bail, “appeared to throw the defense team off guard.” USA Today emphasizes that Libby and his attorneys now have to show there is at least a chance that an appeal would be succesful. If they don’t, Libby will be heading to prison within the next 45 to 60 days. As the New York Times notes, Libby’s supporters had hoped he could stay out of prison for more than a year during the appeals process because President Bush “might find it more palatable to issue a pardon down the road, perhaps just before leaving office.” The WSJ fronts a look at the almost 200 letters that were sent to the judge, most of which spoke favorably of Libby and urged leniency. Letters were sent from all sorts of Washington luminaries, including Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, and Henry Kissinger (the NYT has a nice graphic). Interestingly enough, Democratic strategist James Carville also sent a letter, which he co-signed with his wife, Mary Matalin, as did Leon Wieseltier, the literary editor of the New Republic. Neither Bush nor Cheney wrote letters.
Through a spokeswoman, President Bush expressed sympathy for Libby and his family but said he will not intervene for now. The pardon question is, of course, on everyone’s minds but in a Page One story, the WP says that, inside the White House, the issue “has become so sensitive … that top aides have been kept out of the loop, and even Bush friends have been told not to bring it up with the president.” The NYT notes many are wondering whether Cheney will work behind the scenes to try and secure a pardon. Everyone agrees that a pardon would be controversial, although the Post says some believe it could be pulled off with minimum damage. But as the LAT notes, Bush criticized President Clinton’s pardons and, so far, has only pardoned people who have already served their sentences.
Bush learned of the sentence while traveling in Europe, and the WSJ tops its world-wide newsbox, while the other papers front, Bush’s speech in Prague where he stepped up the rhetoric against Russia and said that “reforms that were once promised … have been derailed, with troubling implications for democratic development.” He also said that the United States has “strong disagrements” with Russia and China. The NYT emphasizes that the comparison with China risks raising the already-high tensions between Russia and the United States. Bush also used the opportunity to say that Putin “shouldn’t fear a missile defense system” and, once again, urged him to cooperate with the United States.
Meanwhile, on the same day that Bush spoke about the importance of democratic institutions, the WP goes inside with news that the Pakistani government arrested hundreds of opposition party workers yesterday morning and continued to place restrictions on the country’s independent television stations.
All the papers go inside with the developments relating to the indictment of Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., as both Republicans and Democrats tried to gain the upper hand in showing that they take ethics seriously. The House of Reprentatives approved a measure that says the ethics committee must investigate any indicted lawmaker within 30 days. Lawmakers also ordered a panel to investigate Jefferson and recommend whether he should be expelled from the House. Jefferson announced that he was stepping down from his seat on the small-business committee.
The LAT fronts a look at Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and paints a picture of a leader who can’t control or unite members of his own government. Even those who once supported Maliki are now speaking up against him, saying that he missed many opportunities and now can’t get anything done.
The WP fronts yesterday’s Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire. All the papers focus on how immigration was a big topic, and Sen. John McCain found himself having to repeatedly defend the current legislation, as most of the other candidates attacked it relentlessly. The candidates also weren’t shy about criticizing President Bush.
The LAT fronts a must-read first-person column by Megan Stack, who was, until recently, the paper’s Cairo bureau chief and frequently made reporting trips to Saudi Arabia. Of course, it’s widely known that the sexes in Saudi Arabia are segregated, but reading Stack’s experiences of how she felt when she was kicked out of a Satrbucks, or was yelled at by a security guard for standing on the street, is a powerful reminder of how women are constantly treated as second-class citizens. “I spent my days in Saudi Arabia struggling unhappily between a lifetime of being taught to respect foreign cultures and the realization that this culture judged me a lesser being.”