July 23, 2009 MSNBC
SCHULTZ: Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.
Dick Cheney pleaded, cajoled, and even pestered President Bush to pardon convicted former chief of staff Scooter Libby. Cheney argued, "We don`t want to leave anyone on the battlefield."
The president wouldn`t do it. "TIME" magazine has an explosive front- cover story showing just how much Dick Cheney put on the line for Scooter.
It was "... a crusade for Cheney, who seemed prepared to push his nine-year-old relationship with Bush to the breaking point and perhaps past it."
Joining me now is Michael Weisskopf. He co-wrote the story and is a senior correspondent for "TIME" magazine.
Mr. Weisskopf, good to have you with us tonight.
As a journalist, this had to be kind of a fun story to do, wasn`t it?
MICHAEL WEISSKOPF, SR. CORRESPONDENT, "TIME": Dealing with the Bush administration has always been like chipping rock, Ed. And so it was a hard story to get, and -- but it was gratifying.
SCHULTZ: What was the most startling piece of information that you came across that you think is going to be a real interesting point for the American people who are fascinated with exactly how that administration was run, the nuts and bolts of it?
WEISSKOPF: Oh, just the 11th hour nature of it, the fact that after a couple of wars and an economic meltdown, you know, right at the end of the administration, that what really dominated was this political issue, this question of loyalty and the kind of lingering question of how this administration would be seen.
SCHULTZ: One of the comments from a Bush family friend was "Cheney really got in the president`s face. He just wouldn`t give it up."
Give us a description of what these conversations were like from what you know.
WEISSKOPF: Direct, lawyerly, insistent, persistent. And it got to the point where the president was uncomfortable with hearing more about it.
SCHULTZ: Are they friends today?
WEISSKOPF: Yes, they are. And interestingly, although this caused some strain at the end of the administration, it doesn`t seem to have colored their relations since.
SCHULTZ: It seems that President Bush made the personal determination that he thought that Scooter Libby was a liar.
Can we take it any other way?
WEISSKOPF: Well, he might not put it quite in those terms, but yes, you can equate it that way.
I think the question he asked over and over was, did the jury get it right? He also wanted to know whether Scooter lied. And when the answer came back in both cases yes, he decided that it was no good to pardon this verdict, that the jury did get it right.
It`s important to note that two years earlier, he commuted the sentence. And that commutation hung over the final deliberations because the president thought then and he thought two years later that he had done enough.
SCHULTZ: Now, the former vice president has responded to the article in "TIME" magazine. He says, "Scooter Libby is an innocent man who was the victim of a severe miscarriage of justice. He was not the source of the leak of Valerie Plame`s name. Former deputy secretary of state Rich Armitage leaked the name and hid that fact from most of his colleagues, including the president."
"Mr. Libby is an honorable man. He deserved a presidential pardon."
What`s your response to Cheney`s response to your work?
WEISSKOPF: Well, this was not a response to our work. This was the argument he was making internally, and it was rebuffed, his argument.
You`ll notice that he didn`t take exception with the nature of the story. And whether or not Scooter Libby was a guilty man or not is an issue that will be debated for a long, long time. But there is a verdict. It was maintained. It was not overturned by the president`s pardon. And so, really, the jury system speaks for itself.
SCHULTZ: Mr. Weisskopf, good to have you on THE ED SHOW tonight. Great work. Thank you so much.
WEISSKOPF: You`re welcome. Bye-bye.