Ex-Cheney aide Libby is pardoned by Trump
President calls Libby, convicted of perjury in 2007, a “good guy who got screwed,” his lawyer says.
President Donald Trump issued a pardon Friday to Lewis “Scooter” Libby, offering forgiveness to a former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney who was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in the leak of a CIA officer’s identity.
“I don’t know Mr. Libby,” Trump said in a statement, “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.”
In a statement explaining Trump’s action, the White House noted that in 2015, one of the key witnesses against Libby had recanted her testimony, among other factors.
The White House also said that Libby’s past government service and his record since his conviction have been “similarly unblemished, and he continues to be held in high regard by his colleagues and peers.”
Libby was convicted of four felonies in 2007 — for perjury before a grand jury, lying to FBI investigators and obstruction of justice during an investigation into the disclosure of the work of Valerie Plame Wilson, a former covert CIA agent and the wife of former ambassador Joseph Wilson.
Libby was sentenced to 30 months in prison and fined $250,000, but his sentence was commuted by then-President George W. Bush. Although spared prison time, Libby was not pardoned.
Cheney lobbied Bush aggressively for a pardon for Libby, and Bush’s refusal was said to have caused a strain in the relationship between the two men.
Trump’s pardon has been under consideration for several months, two people familiar with the president’s thinking said.
Victoria Toensing, Libby’s lawyer, said Friday that Trump called her personally around 1 p.m. to break the news. She said Trump told her Libby was “a wonderful person who got screwed.”
“Justice called out for it, is what the president said to us,” Toensing said. “He was a good guy who got screwed. The facts are compelling.”
Toensing declined to say what conversations she had with the White House about Libby in recent days and weeks. She and her husband had been in talks to represent Trump in the Russia investigation.
Toensing submitted materials to the White House last year asserting Libby’s innocence.
“Suffice to say, he’s thrilled,” she said of Libby, whom she said had just gotten out of an MRI.
Given the nature of Libby’s crimes, Trump came under fire from critics Friday after he took to Twitter to accuse former FBI director James Comey of leaking classified information and lying to Congress.
“On the day the President wrongly attacks Comey for being a ‘leaker and liar’ he considers pardoning a convicted leaker and liar, Scooter Libby,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., wrote on Twitter. “This is the President’s way of sending a message to those implicated in the Russia investigation: You have my back and I’ll have yours.”
Asked whether she thought Trump had been trying to send a message to others aside from Libby with the pardon, Toensing said: “I’m going to tell you what I did before: the merits of the case cry out for a pardon; this isn’t just a be-nice pardon. A key witness recanted. This cries out for a pardon.”
The chief federal prosecutor in Libby’s case was Patrick Fitzgerald, then the U.S. attorney from the Northern District of Illinois. Fitzgerald is a longtime friend and colleague of Comey, whose new memoir paints a scathing portrait of Trump’s character and conduct in office.
In a statement released after the pardon, Toensing called out Comey, who was deputy attorney general during Libby’s case and appointed Fitzgerald as special prosecutor to investigate the matter.
“Our law firm, diGenova & Toensing, was honored to represent Lewis (Scooter) Libby to request a pardon for the injustice inflicted on him and his family by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald and then-Deputy Attorney General James Comey,” Toensing said.
She claimed that both Comey and Fitzgerald knew before the investigation began that another person was responsible for the leak.
Libby, in a statement released by Toensing, said he and his family were “immensely grateful to President Trump for his gracious decision to grant a pardon,” and he criticized what he viewed as “defects” in the justice system that he said were “so evident in the handling not just of my matter, but also that of Senator Ted Stevens and others.”
“For over a dozen years we have suffered under the weight of a terrible injustice,” Libby said. “To his great credit, President Trump recognized this wrong and would not let it persist.”
Libby said that others had told him that they would not go into public service after seeing how he was treated because of his government role.
“Perhaps one day public service in America will prove less of a blood sport,” he said. “Until then, we are all fortunate that there are those who will enter the arena for their love of our country and our freedoms.”
Trump has rarely used his presidential power to pardon, but last August granted clemency to Joe Arpaio, a controversial Arizona sheriff who had been a longtime Trump ally and campaign-trail companion.
Arpaio was found in contempt of court for defying a federal judge’s order to stop detaining people simply because he suspected them of being undocumented immigrants.
In addition to racial profiling, Arpaio was long criticized for what many in the community decried as inhumane prisons in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix.
Lewis “Scooter” Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, leaves a federal courthouse in March 2007 with his wife, Harriet Grant, after being convicted of perjury in the case of of a covert CIA agent.