Seems like I may have wasted my time writing that pardon post (Bush “Revokes” A Pardon (When Do Pardons Vest?))… The New York Times has a statement from the White House on the pardon revocation:
Based on information that has subsequently come to light, the president has directed the pardon attorney not to execute and deliver a grant of clemency to Mr. Toussie. The pardon attorney has not provided a recommendation on Mr. Toussie’s case because it was filed less than five years from completion of his sentence. The president believes that the pardon attorney should have an opportunity to review this case before a decision on clemency is made.
If we can believe what the Bush administration says (can we?) this suggests pretty strongly that we were at what I called “step one” — nothing had been signed or sealed. In which case, legally, it's a non-issue.
Update (12/26): Brian Kalt argues, with some reason, that maybe I gave up too easy. The key fact — as I suggested half-heartedly above, but couldn't quite bring myself to believe — is that the White House may have been misleading us about whether a formal pardon was actually executed. Here's part of what Prof. Kalt writes,
The anonymous fourth commenter on my original post makes some points that are helpful for untangling all of this. Because pardons are typically issued in big clumps, current practice is for the president to sign a master warrant with all of the names on it, then send it to the OPA, which prepares and delivers individual warrants for the people on the list. But (as the DOJ press release reflected) the master warrant doesn't purport to be an order to the OPA to execute and issue pardons. It purports to be a legal act by the president. As the excellent Pardon Power blog reports, from the NYT, the master warrant begins: “After considering the applications for executive clemency of the following named persons, I hereby grant full and unconditional pardons to the following named persons.” That sounds like an official act to me. My commenter reports that a former pardon attorney testified that, indeed, the master warrant is the legally significant act here. Perhaps that is what underlies the understated comment from former Pardon Attorney Margaret Love (the person who, I think, knows more about presidential pardons than anyone now alive) here, that “it’s not clear to me that [revocation is] as easy to do as all that.”
Enter the statement of the press secretary, introducing the notion that the pardon had not been executed. But the statement doesn't hold up.
Could this be another example of what Brad DeLong says: “The Bush Administration: Worse than You Can Imagine Even Though You Know It Is Worse than You Can Imagine”?