President Bush commuted the prison sentence of former White House aide I. Lewis ''Scooter'' Libby on Monday, according to news reports.
Bush's move came after a federal appeals panel in Washington, D.C., earlier Monday ruled that Libby had to begin serving a 2 1/2-year prison term. Libby was convicted in March for lying and obstructing the investigation into the 2003 leak of the identity of Valerie Plame, a CIA operative,
The New York Times
reported on its Web site.
Although Libby, 56, the former chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, was spared a federal prison sentence, his conviction still stands.
"My decision to commute his prison sentence leaves in place a harsh punishment for Mr. Libby,'' Bush said in a statement. "The consequences of his felony conviction on his former life as a lawyer, public servant and private citizen will be long-lasting.''
Libby still must pay a $250,000 fine and serve two years' probation, according to
The Associated Press
, but can continue to appeal his conviction and the fine.
The issue of whether to pardon Libby has been an issue in candidates' debates for the 2008 presidential election.