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.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By John Wag­ner, Matt Zapo­to­sky and Josh Dawsey

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.

DOUG MILLS / THE NEW YORK TIMES 2007

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.

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