President Donald Trump issued a full pardon to I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, a former top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, the White House confirmed Friday afternoon.
The pardon had been under consideration for months.
Trump said in a statement that ‘I don’t know Mr. Libby, 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.’
Libby, Cheney’s former chief of staff, was convicted of lying to investigators and obstruction of justice following the 2003 press leak of the name of CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson, an event for which another man, Richard Armitage, later took responsibility.
President George W. Bush quickly commuted Libby’s 30-month prison sentence, but didn’t issue a pardon despite intense pressure from Cheney. No one was ever charged for the leak itself.
President Donald Trump pardoned I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, on Friday
Trump said in a statement that ‘I don’t know Mr. Libby, but for years I have heard that he has been treated unfairly’
Since then, the Libby case has been criticized by conservatives, who argue he was the victim of an overly zealous and politically motivated prosecution by a special counsel.
Libby was convicted for lying about the leak, not for participating in it. He has always asserted his innocence, despite paying a $250,000 fine, serving two years of probation and performing 400 hours of community service.
He later persuaded the District of Columbia Court of Appeals to reinstate his license to practice law after a bar association investigation found that ‘it appears that one key prosecution witness’ against him ‘changed her recollection of the events in question.’
That witness, then-New York Times reporter Judith Miller, had determined that prosecutors falsely told her Plame was working under a CIA cover, when in fact her cover was with the State Department.
WHY ‘SCOOTER’? BEHIND LIBBY’S ODD NICKNAME
Scooter Libby’s full name is usually cited as Irve (or Irving) Lewis Libby, but his childhood nickname has stuck with him for decades.
Libby has never said publicly where the name came from. But The New York Times reported in 2001, based on a phone call with his brother, that ‘Scooter’ came from their father, Irving.
‘His nickname derives from the day Mr. Libby’s father watched him crawling in his crib and joked, “He’s a Scooter!”‘ the Times related.
The following year during an interview with then-CNN host Larry King, Libby acknowledged that the nickname ‘goes way back to when I was a kid.’
He also name-checked another famous ‘Scooter,’ a New York Yankees legend.
‘Some people ask me … if it’s related to Phil Rizzuto,’ he said. ‘I had the range but not the arm.’
That, Miller realized too late, meant that when Libby told her Plame worked at the CIA, he was talking about her official job, not her secret undercover role at State.
Prosecutors told Libby’s jury that because Plame’s identify was disclosed in the press, CIA assets could be ‘arrested, tortured or killed.’
That, former CIA general counsel John Rizzo wrote later, was untrue. Outing Plame, he wrote in his memoirs, never damaged the agency or any of its agents.
Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage apologized in 2006 – before Libby’s conviction – for mistakenly telling columnist Robert Novak in 2003 that Plame worked for the CIA.
‘I feel terrible. Every day, I think I let down the president. I let down the Secretary of State. I let down my department, my family and I also let down Mr. and Mrs. Wilson,’ he told CBS News, adding that ‘I didn’t know she was an operative.’
Another twist is that the special counsel, Patrick Fitzgerald, was appointed by James Comey, deputy attorney general at the time. Comey later became head of the FBI but was fired by Trump, and has since written a book highly critical of the president.
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said earlier on Friday that ‘many people think that Scooter Libby was the victim of a special counsel gone amok.’
Asked if a pardon was about Comey, Conway said no.
Plame appeared on MSNBC Friday morning, saying a pardon would send a message ‘that you can commit crimes against national security and you will be pardoned.’
‘Many people think that Scooter Libby was the victim of a special counsel gone amok,’ White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said Friday morning
The pardon is Trump’s third.
He granted one last year for former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was awaiting sentencing for contempt of court. Trump also has pardoned a U.S. Navy sailor who was convicted after taking photos of classified portions of a submarine.
Conservative criticism of the special counsel in the Plame case echoes critiques of Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. Mueller is special counsel leading an investigation into Russian election interference, possible coordination with Trump associates and potential obstruction of justice by the president.
Trump has repeatedly called that probe a ‘witch hunt.’