President Bush has commuted the prison sentence of a top administration aide, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who had been sentenced to 30 months in prison for perjury. The president's action keeps Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, from going to jail.
In a statement issued late Monday, Mr. Bush said he took action because Libby's prison term was excessive.
While the president commuted Libby's time behind bars, other aspects of his sentence remain in effect. Libby still has to pay a 250-thousand dollar fine, and he will remain on probation for two years. The president can pardon Libby at a later date if he wishes to -- with the fine, probation and conviction being dropped entirely.
Libby was convicted in March of lying to a grand jury investigating the disclosure of the identity of an undercover operative for the Central Intelligence Agency. The grand jury was trying to determine who exposed the agent's identity to the media.
Earlier Monday, an appeals court refused a request from Mr. Libby to delay his prison sentence while he appealed his conviction.
The United States Constitution gives the president the power of clemency to be used when he deems it to be warranted. Mr. Bush said he believes the commutation of Libby's prison term was warranted. The president said the remaining elements of Libby's senctence constitute harsh punishment.
Opposition Democratic Senator Charles Schumer criticized the president's action, saying it tramples on the principle of equal justice under the law.
Libby is the only person charged in connection with the leak of the CIA agent's identity. He is the highest-ranking White House official convicted of a felony since the Iran-Contra scandals of the 1980's.
The CIA agent, the now-retired Valerie Plame, is married to former diplomat Joseph Wilson, who openly criticized the Bush administration about its reasons for invading Iraq in 2003.
No one has been charged in the actual leak of Plame's identity.Some information for this report provided by AP and Reuters.