Trump pardons Scooter Libby, former top Cheney aide
President Trump on Friday pardoned I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the former George W. Bush administration official convicted in the investigation into the leak of a CIA officer’s identity.
“I don’t know Mr. Libby, but for years I have heard that he has been treated unfairly,” Trump said in a statement. “Hopefully, this full pardon will help rectify a very sad portion of his life.”
The White House issued a 236-word statement explaining Trump’s decision, saying a key witness recanted her testimony in 2015 and that Libby regained his law license after presenting “credible evidence” of his innocence.
The White House also said Libby “had rendered more than a decade of honorable service to the nation” and that his post-conviction record “is similarly unblemished, and he continues to be held in high regard by his colleagues and peers.”
Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in the probe into the disclosure of the identity of former covert CIA officer Valerie Plame.
She is married to former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who published a 2003 op-ed that questioned the Bush administration’s findings about Iraq’s efforts to obtain weapons of mass destruction.
The leak of Plame’s identity by Bush administration officials was seen as retribution against Wilson.
Former President George W. Bush commuted Libby’s prison sentence but never offered him a full pardon, which created friction between him and Cheney.
Libby’s case has been a cause célèbre for many of Trump’s conservative allies. His lawyer, Victoria Toensing, is married to Joseph DiGenova, who had discussed joining the president’s outside legal team in the Russia investigation.
Cheney applauded Trump’s move in a Friday statement.
“Scooter Libby is one of the most capable, principled, and honorable men I have ever known. He is innocent, and he and his family have suffered for years because of his wrongful conviction,” the former vice president said. “I am grateful today that President Trump righted this wrong by issuing a full pardon to Scooter, and I am thrilled for Scooter and his family.”
Critics slammed the pardon, calling Trump a hypocrite because he often accuses political opponents of the crimes Libby committed.
The pardon came just hours after the president took to Twitter to label former FBI Director James Comey a “LEAKER & LIAR” who “should be prosecuted” for leaking classified information.
“President Trump’s pardon of Scooter Libby makes clear his contempt for the rule of law,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement.
Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, tweeted that the pardon is Trump’s “way of sending a message to those implicated in the Russia investigation: You have my back and I’ll have yours.”
The Libby case has several connections to the ongoing Russia probe.
The investigation was led by a special counsel, Patrick Fitzgerald, a former U.S. attorney in Chicago who was appointed by Comey, who was then serving as deputy attorney general and overseeing the leak probe.
White House aide Kellyanne Conway on Friday denied that Trump was trying to send a message to Russia probe witnesses with the pardon, but said that “many people think that Scooter Libby was a victim of a special counsel gone amok.”
Trump has issued just two other pardons thus far in his 15-month presidency.
One went to former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, an immigration hardliner who was convicted on a criminal contempt charge.
The other was granted to Kristian Saucier, a Navy sailor who served a year in federal prison for taking photos in classified areas on a submarine.
Trump often cited Saucier’s case during the 2016 campaign in criticizing Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of State.
Here’s the White House’s full statement on the pardon:
Today, President Donald J. Trump issued an Executive Grant of Clemency (Full Pardon) to I. “Scooter” Lewis Libby, former Chief of Staff to Vice President Richard Cheney, for convictions stemming from a 2007 trial. President George W. Bush commuted Mr. Libby’s sentence shortly after his conviction. Mr. Libby, nevertheless, paid a $250,000 fine, performed 400 hours of community service, and served two years of probation.
In 2015, one of the key witnesses against Mr. Libby recanted her testimony, stating publicly that she believes the prosecutor withheld relevant information from her during interviews that would have altered significantly what she said. The next year, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals unanimously reinstated Mr. Libby to the bar, reauthorizing him to practice law. The Court agreed with the District of Columbia Disciplinary Counsel, who stated that Mr. Libby had presented “credible evidence” in support of his innocence, including evidence that a key prosecution witness had “changed her recollection of the events in question.”
Before his conviction, Mr. Libby had rendered more than a decade of honorable service to the Nation as a public servant at the Department of State, the Department of Defense, and the White House. His record since his conviction is similarly unblemished, and he continues to be held in high regard by his colleagues and peers.
In light of these facts, the President believes Mr. Libby is fully worthy of this pardon. “I don’t know Mr. Libby,” said President Trump, “but for years I have heard that he has been treated unfairly. Hopefully, this full pardon will help rectify a very sad portion of his life.”
Updated at 3:24 p.m.