Update: In what some may see a swipe at former FBI Director Comey, The White House has just confirmed that President Trump has pardoned "Scooter" Lewis Libby.
Statement from the Press Secretary Regarding the Pardon of I. "Scooter" Lewis Libby
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."
This action could well be a side jab at Comey, as he was the deputy attorney general who assigned Patrick J. Fitzgerald, a U.S. attorney from Chicago, as the special counsel.
No one was ever charged for outing Plame, but Libby was charged with federal obstruction of justice and perjury charges for lying to investigators.
And as Joe diGenova told the Daily Caller:
“Comey and Fitzgerald tried to frame Scooter Libby, and they did, but then they didn’t get it done. And then of course that idiot George W. Bush didn’t give him a pardon.”
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As we detailed earlier, National Security Advisor John Bolton has barely been working in the West Wing for a week, but already his influence is being strongly felt.
In addition to pushing out a handful of security advisors who had been brought in either by his predecessor, HR McMaster or former President Barack Obama, Bolton has apparently convinced President Trump to consider issuing a full pardon to I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby - who famously took the fall for the Valerie Plame scandal following an investigation by a special prosecutor who many of Libby's allies have accused of overreaching (sound familiar?).
Libby was convicted on four felony counts in 2007 for perjury before a grand jury, lying to the FBI and obstruction of justice. George W Bush commuted Libby's 30-month prison sentence, but refused to offer a full pardon - a decision that strained Bush's relationship with his Vice President, Dick Cheney, per the New York Times.
Pardoning Libby has long been a priority for conservatives - particularly the neoconservatives like Bolton who helped push the War in Iraq on the American people. Though such a pardon would put Trump in a potentially awkward position: Absolving one of the chief architects of the War in Iraq.
Some of the president's critics have accused him of considering the Libby pardon to send a message to Manafort and other Trump associates who've been indicted by Mueller: If you stay loyal and refuse to turn on your boss, you will be protected.
Libby, who was not the first person to disclose Plame's identity to reporters, has long insisted that his conviction stemmed from an innocent discrepancy between his memory and the memories of other witnesses.
The Plame leak, which ultimately set in motion the events that would lead to Libby's conviction, was purportedly a response to Plame's husband, diplomat Joe Wilson, who had published an op-ed in the New York Times suggesting that Vice President Dick Cheney had ignored evidence that contradicted the administration's view that Saddam Hussein possessed a stockpile of weapons of mass destruction.
Mr. Libby’s prosecution became a symbol of the polarizing politics of the Iraq war during the Bush administration. Ms. Wilson’s husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, was a former diplomat who wrote an op-ed article in The New York Times in 2003 implying that Mr. Cheney ignored evidence that argued against the conclusion that Iraq was actively seeking to build nuclear weapons.
To undercut Mr. Wilson’s criticism, administration officials told reporters that he had been sent on a fact-finding mission to Niger because his wife worked for the C.I.A., not at the behest of Mr. Cheney. But federal law bars the disclosure of the identities of C.I.A. officials in certain circumstances and the leak prompted a special prosecutor investigation.
Charged with lying to investigators about his interactions with journalists, Mr. Libby insisted he simply remembered events differently. But his version of events clashed with the testimony of eight other people, including fellow administration officials, and a jury convicted him. Mr. Bush decided that the prison sentence was “excessive,” but he said he would not substitute his judgment for that of the jury when it came to the question of Mr. Libby’s guilt.
Libby's defenders have argued that the special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, overstepped by prosecuting Libby, who was not the first administration official to reveal Wilson's true identity to a reporter.
Mr. Libby’s advocates argued that Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor, went too far because he had already discovered that the first administration official to disclose Ms. Wilson’s identity to a journalist was Richard Armitage, the deputy secretary of state in Mr. Bush’s first term, who was not charged. They also argued that Ms. Wilson was not undercover at the time and her employment was well known. Ms. Wilson has denied that she recommended her husband for the mission to Niger and said her career as a C.I.A. official was “over in an instant” once her identity was leaked.
While Libby served no jail time, New York Times reporter Judith Miller ultimately served nearly three months in prison for refusing to give up Libby's identity to investigators.
The case tested the limits of journalistic independence. Judith Miller, then a reporter for The Times, went to prison for 85 days rather than disclose that Mr. Libby had discussed Ms. Wilson with her. She was freed after Mr. Libby released her from any promise of confidentiality.
The issue became a major point of contention between Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney in the last days of the administration in late 2008 and early 2009. Mr. Cheney repeatedly pressed Mr. Bush to go beyond his commutation and issue a full pardon, bringing it up so often that the president grew irritated by the matter.
Contrary to the popular perception, President Trump has actually been very judicious with the use of his pardon power. As the NYT points out, Trump has issues only two pardons and commuted one sentence in nearly 15 months in office. That's roughly in line with his predecessors, Barack Obama, Bush and Bill Clinton.