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Dems press for hearings after Libby pardon

Dems press for hearings after Libby pardon
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Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee are pressing Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteRosenstein to appear for House interview next week Fusion GPS co-founder pleads the Fifth following House GOP subpoena House Judiciary chairman threatens to subpoena Rosenstein MORE (R-Va.) for hearings on whether President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Guardian slams Trump over comments about assault on reporter Five takeaways from the first North Dakota Senate debate Watchdog org: Tillerson used million in taxpayer funds to fly throughout US MORE has abused his pardon power after Trump's controversial decision to pardon Lewis “Scooter” Libby.

In a letter to Goodlatte, over a dozen Democrats raised concerns that Trump's decision to pardon the former George W. Bush administration official is an attempt to show potential defendants in special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's probe that Trump is willing to pardon them as well and reduce the prospect that they'll cooperate with Mueller. 

"We are particularly concerned that he may have pardoned Mr. Libby as a means of signaling to potential cooperating witnesses in the investigation conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller that he may pardon them, thereby encouraging them not to cooperate with the investigation," the Democrats wrote. 

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"In this way, the implicit promise of a future pardon to dissuade cooperation with an ongoing investigation may constitute obstruction of justice," they continued.

Trump pardoned Libby, former Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, on perjury and obstruction of justice charges. An investigation in 2007 found that Libby had leaked the identity of former covert CIA officer Valerie Plame in an act of retribution against her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, for his criticism of the Bush administration in the run-up to the Iraq invasion. 

Former President George W. Bush commuted Libby’s prison sentence to a 30-month prison sentence, but never offered him a full pardon. 

“I don’t know Mr. Libby, but for years I have heard that he has been treated unfairly,” Trump said in a statement at the time. “Hopefully, this full pardon will help rectify a very sad portion of his life."

The Democrats suggested the Libby pardon aims to send a signal to both people who have made plea deals with the special counsel —  like former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn — and those who continue to fight it out in court, like former Trump campaign manager Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortFormer FBI agent sentenced to 4 years in jail for leaking to reporter The Hill's 12:30 Report — Mnuchin won't attend Saudi conference | Pompeo advises giving Saudis 'few more days' to investigate | Trump threatens military action over caravan Mueller assembles team of cooperators in Russian probe MORE.

"We are concerned that, by pardoning Mr. Libby, President Trump is implicitly promising to pardon Mr. Manafort and potentially others in exchange for their silence," they wrote.

They also noted this may be aimed at Flynn and former Trump campaign adviser Richard Gates, who have both made plea deals with Mueller.

"President Trump’s statements and actions suggest that he has a disturbing view of the pardon power. He seems to believe that he may wield it as a tool to protect those willing to flout the rule of law in the face of a criminal investigation or legal proceeding," they wrote.

The Democrats also suggested that Trump bypassed the typical Department of Justice vetting process for Libby's pardon request.

The lawmakers have previously pressed Goodlatte to hold hearings on the president's pardon power, pointing to the committee's bipartisan hearing "on the appropriateness of President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonThe Democratic Donald Trump is coming Emmet Flood steps in as White House counsel following McGahn departure Dershowitz: Obama, Ellison have 'special obligation' to condemn Farrakhan MORE’s use of the pardon power."