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Bush, Cheney Express Support for Former White House Aide


President Bush says he feels terrible for the family of a former high-ranking White House staffer who has been sentenced to 30 months in prison for lying to federal investigators. But VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, the president would not discuss a possible pardon.

Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, was convicted in March of lying to investigators looking into the case of a CIA agent whose identity was leaked to the news media. He was sentenced Tuesday.

In addition to the 30-month jail term, the judge fined Libby $250,000 and gave him two years probation, following his jail term.

Speaking to reporters in Germany before the G8 summit, President Bush said it is a very sad day for Libby and his family. Asked about a possible pardon, Mr. Bush said there is an ongoing appeal process and it would not be appropriate for him to discuss the issue further until that process has run its course.

No one has been charged with leaking the name of CIA operative Valerie Plame, which was the original offense that led investigators to question Libby. But the judge said people in high positions have a special responsibility to the nation and obstruction of justice cannot be condoned.

Following Libby's sentencing, Vice President Cheney released a written statement saying his former aide has served the nation tirelessly and with great distinction at the State Department, Defense Department, and White House.

Cheney says he has always considered Libby to be a man of the highest intellect, judgment, and personal integrity, fully committed to protecting the security interests of the United States.

As friends, Cheney said he and his wife hope Libby's appeal returns a final result consistent with what they say they know about him.

Defense attorneys are trying to get Libby's sentence delayed until his appeals are heard. That delay would give Mr. Bush more time to consider a presidential pardon.

Many Republicans, including some of the party's presidential candidates are asking the president to pardon Libby. Opposition Democrats in Congress say that would send the wrong message.

Libby is the highest-ranking White House official convicted in a government scandal since the Iran-Contra affair during the Reagan administration.