Trump pardons Cheney aide ‘treated unfairly’ by special counsel
Scooter Libby was was convicted in 2007 of lying to investigators.
President Donald Trump has issued a full pardon to Scooter Libby, a former top aide to vice president Dick Cheney, after suggesting he had been “treated unfairly” by special counsel.
Mr Cheney’s former chief of staff was convicted in 2007 of lying to investigators and obstruction of justice following the 2003 leak of the covert identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame.
President George W. Bush later commuted Libby’s 30-month prison sentence but did not issue a pardon despite intense pressure from Mr Cheney.
“I don’t know Mr Libby,” Mr Trump said in a statement issued by White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders. “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.”
The White House said a witness against Libby later changed her version of events and noted that he had a decade of public service and an “unblemished” record since. He had already been reinstated to the bar by the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.
Libby thanked Mr Trump for issuing the pardon.
He said that he and his family are grateful and that they have “suffered under the weight of a terrible injustice”. He added that Mr Trump “recognised this wrong and would not let it persist”.
Libby’s case has been criticised by conservatives, who argue he was the victim of an overly zealous and politically motivated prosecution by a special counsel.
Another twist is that the special counsel, Patrick Fitzgerald, was appointed by James Comey, deputy attorney general at the time. Mr Comey later became head of the FBI but was fired by Mr Trump and has since written a book highly critical of the president.
The criticism echoes critiques of Robert Mueller, the special counsel leading an investigation into Russian election interference, possible coordination with Trump associates and potential obstruction of justice by the president. Mr Trump has called that probe a “witch hunt”.
Libby’s attorneys, Joseph diGenova and Victoria Toensing, issued a statement thanking Mr Trump for “addressing a gross injustice” they said was inflicted by Mr Fitzgerald and Mr Comey.
Mr Trump knows the attorneys and had sought to add them to his legal team defending him in the Russian investigation, but it was determined Mr diGenova and Mr Toensing had conflicts of interest that would prevent them from joining.
White House adviser Kellyanne Conway earlier on Friday said: “Many people think that Scooter Libby was the victim of a special counsel gone amok.” Asked if a pardon would be about Mr Comey, Ms Conway said no.
Ms Plame said a pardon would send a message “that you can commit crimes against national security and you will be pardoned”.
The pardon was the third for Mr Trump. He granted one last year for former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was awaiting sentencing for contempt of court. Mr Trump also pardoned a US Navy sailor who was convicted of taking photos of classified portions of a submarine.