With less than 48 hours left of the Bush presidency, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski's spokesman said today that Murkowski had asked the White House to pardon the former senior senator of Alaska, Ted Stevens.
Michael Brumas, Murkowski's communications director, said the pardon request was made earlier this month. He declined to give other details, including whether Stevens himself wanted the pardon and had asked Murkowski to pursue it on his behalf. "It's just a very sensitive issue and a sensitive time -- a couple days left," Brumas said. "We're just not saying anything more."
Stevens, a Republican, was convicted in Washington, D.C., Oct. 27 of seven felony charges of failing to disclose gifts and services he received from 2000 to 2006. A week later, Alaska voters turned him out of office in November after 40 years in the Senate.
Stevens is asking for a new trial, alleging prosecutorial misconduct, juror misconduct and other issues. A hearing is scheduled next month, but would be rendered moot by a pardon.
Stevens, 85, had vowed to continue to fight the charges and said he would appeal if he doesn't get a new trial.
In a recent interview, former Gov. Bill Sheffield said he had heard that several people had asked the White House for a pardon for Stevens, but that Stevens himself wasn't among them.
While Sheffield is a Democrat, he has been close to Stevens over the years and held and participated in numerous fundraisers for him. "I've been told that he said he'll never ask for a pardon," Sheffield said. "I don't think he wants one. I think he's going to want to clear his name with an appeal."
Stevens has maintained a low profile since he lost the election to former Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich.
Sheffield said he hasn't talked to Stevens but has received several notes from him in recent weeks. The only thing Stevens said about his case was that he was working on his appeal, Sheffield said.
"He's living in Washington, D.C. He's trying to go through his papers and everything, because he can't leave there because he's got to be close to his attorneys," Sheffield said. "He's trying to go through his papers, get the boxes out of the office and get them someplace. There's a ton of work, you know."
After his election, Begich said that Stevens shouldn't serve jail time, but wouldn't talk about a possible pardon.
The Constitution grants the president nearly unlimited discretion in asserting his power of pardon and clemency.
President-elect Barack Obama is due to be sworn into office in ceremonies Tuesday.
In his final speech to the Senate, Stevens vowed to "remove the cloud" surrounding him. He later told reporters he would not seek a pardon, but also didn't rule out the possibility he would later.
Sheffield said Stevens was a fighter and would be hard-pressed to give up his case, especially since his legacy would be forever clouded by the conviction.
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By RICHARD MAUER