President Trump on Friday issued a pardon to Lewis “Scooter” Libby, a former chief of staff to Vice President Richard B. Cheney who was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in connection with the leak of a CIA officer’s identity.
“I don’t know Mr. Libby,” Trump said in a statement, “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.”
In a statement explaining Trump’s action, the White House noted that in 2015 one of the key witnesses against Libby had recanted her testimony, among other factors.
The White House also said that Libby’s record since his conviction had been “unblemished, and he continues to be held in high regard by his colleagues and peers.”
Libby was convicted of four felonies in 2007 for perjury before a grand jury, lying to FBI investigators and obstruction of justice during an investigation into the disclosure of the work of Valerie Plame Wilson, a former covert CIA agent and the wife of former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV.
Libby was sentenced to 30 months in prison and fined $250,000, but his sentence was commuted by then-President George W. Bush. Although spared prison time, Libby was not pardoned.
Bush, whom Trump often derides in caustic terms, could not be persuaded to pardon Libby. He was lobbied aggressively by Cheney, and his refusal was said to have caused a strain in the relationship between the two men.
The pardon has been under consideration for several months, two people familiar with the president’s thinking said. Trump has often privately expressed a willingness to pardon Libby.
Given the nature of Libby’s crimes, Trump came under fire from critics on Friday after he took to Twitter to accuse former FBI director James B. Comey of leaking classified information and lying to Congress.
“On the day the President wrongly attacks Comey for being a ‘leaker and liar’ he considers pardoning a convicted leaker and liar, Scooter Libby,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) wrote on Twitter. “This is the President’s way of sending a message to those implicated in the Russia investigation: You have my back and I‘ll have yours.”
The chief federal prosecutor in Libby’s case was Patrick Fitzgerald, then the U.S. attorney from the Northern District of Illinois. Fitzgerald is a longtime friend and colleague of Comey, the fired FBI director whose new memoir paints a scathing portrait of Trump’s character and conduct in office.
Trump has rarely used his presidential power to pardon, but last August granted clemency to Joe Arpaio, a controversial Arizona sheriff who had been a longtime Trump ally and campaign-trail companion.
Arpaio was found in contempt of court for defying a federal judge’s order to stop detaining people simply because he suspected them of being undocumented immigrants. In addition to racial profiling, Arpaio was long criticized for what many in the community decried as inhumane prisons in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix.
Read this story at The Washington Post.