Ex-Cheney aide Libby gets par­don

Move comes amid crit­i­cism of for­mer di­rec­tor Comey, who over­saw ’05 case

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - NEWS - Gre­gory Korte

WASHINGTON – Pres­i­dent Trump has par­doned Scooter Libby, the Ge­orge W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion aide con­victed of ly­ing to the FBI in an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into a leak of the iden­tity of a covert CIA agent.

The par­don marks a stun­ning epi­logue to a story of Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion in­trigue, as Libby was a cen­tral fig­ure in at­tempts to dis­credit re­ports that the govern­ment ma­nip­u­lated in­tel­li­gence in or­der to jus­tify the in­va­sion of Iraq.

“I don’t know Mr. Libby,” Trump said in a state­ment re­leased by the White House press sec­re­tary. “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.”

But it also comes amid an FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion and at­tempts by Trump and his al­lies to dis­credit for­mer FBI di­rec­tor James Comey — who was the Jus­tice De­part­ment of­fi­cial with over­sight over the Libby case in 2005.

Comey, who was fired by Trump last year, has just writ­ten a book call­ing the pres­i­dent “un­eth­i­cal and un­teth­ered to truth.”

Democrats saw the par­don as a trans­par­ent at­tempt by Trump to thwart the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into whether Trump as­so­ciates col­luded with Rus­sia to in­ter­fere in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

“This par­don sends a trou­bling sig­nal to the pres­i­dent’s al­lies that ob­struct­ing jus­tice will be re­warded,” House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Fri­day.

“The sug­ges­tion that those who lie un­der oath may be re­warded with par­dons poses a threat to the in­tegrity of the spe­cial coun­sel in­ves­ti­ga­tion and to our democ­racy,” she said.

Libby was the chief of staff to thenVice Pres­i­dent Richard Cheney and be­came a key fig­ure in what be­came known as the Valerie Plame af­fair.

Plame’s hus­band, Joseph Wil­son, was a for­mer am­bas­sador asked by the CIA to con­firm whether the Iraqi regime had tried to ob­tain raw ura­nium known as “yel­low­cake” from Niger in or­der to make nu­clear weapons. Wil­son said he found no such ev­i­dence.

Cheney had as­serted that Iraqi leader Sad­dam Hus­sein was try­ing to ob­tain nu­clear weapons. And so Libby told a num­ber of jour­nal­ists that it was Plame who de­cided to send her hus­band on the mis­sion — thus blow­ing her cover.

But one of those jour­nal­ists — New York Times re­porter Judith Miller — re­canted her grand jury tes­ti­mony in 2015.

Libby was con­victed of ly­ing to the FBI and was sen­tenced to 30 months in prison in 2007.

A month later, Bush com­muted his prison sen­tence — but that fell short of the full and un­con­di­tional par­don Cheney had urged Bush to grant.

MONSIVAIS/AP PABLO MAR­TINEZ

Lewis “Scooter” Libby was con­victed in what be­came known as the Valerie Plame af­fair.

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