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Donald Trump

Donald Trump pardons ‘Scooter’ Libby for lying to investigators in possible dig at James Comey

Comey, then deputy US attorney general, had appointed the special counsel who prosecuted  Libby in 2007. Trump’s pardon comes a day after previews of Comey’s new book, critical of the president, emerged

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 April, 2018, 3:20am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 April, 2018, 5:31am

US President Donald Trump issued a full pardon Friday to I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, a former top aide to George W. Bush’s vice-president, Dick Cheney, who was convicted of obstruction of justice in 2007.

Trump said he does not know 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,” according to a statement issued by White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders announcing the pardon.

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The pardon came one day after excerpts were released of ex-FBI director James Comey’s new book, A Higher Loyalty, which is highly critical of Trump, who fired him. Then the deputy attorney general, Comey appointed the special counsel, Patrick Fitzgerald,  who pursued the Libby case.

Libby, Cheney’s former chief of staff, was convicted of lying to investigators and obstruction of justice following the 2003 leak of the covert identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame. Her husband, Joseph Wilson, a former career U.S. diplomat, had criticized the Iraq war and contended that reports of Nigerian sales of uranium to Iraq were false.

Bush later 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.

Since then, the Libby case has been criticised by conservatives, who argue he was the victim of an overly zealous and politically motivated prosecution by a special counsel. 

“President Donald Trump has granted a pardon to I. Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby on the basis that he was ‘treated unfairly.’ That is simply false. Libby was convicted of obstruction of justice and perjury in a fair trial,” Plame said in a statement.

A spokesman for Bush said that the former president was “very pleased” for Libby and his family.

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Sanders said on Friday that the pardon was not a warning to Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, saying that “one thing has nothing to do with the other and every case should be reviewed on their own merits.” 

She said Trump issued the pardon because he “thought it was the right thing to do.”

Trump has been attacking the FBI amid the investigation of his 2016 presidential campaign for possible links to Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, and a key Manafort associate are among those who have been indicted in Mueller’s inquiry.

White House aides said earlier this week that Trump was fuming over FBI raids related to the investigation on Monday of the office and home of his personal attorney, Michael Cohen.

House of Representatives Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement, “This pardon sends a troubling signal to the president’s allies that obstructing justice will be rewarded.”

Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said that the Libby pardon was Trump’s way “of sending a message to those implicated in the Russia investigation: You have my back and I’ll have yours.”

The pardon was the third for Trump. He granted one last year for former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was awaiting sentencing for contempt of court. 

Trump also pardoned a US Navy sailor, who was convicted after taking photos of classified portions of a submarine.