Was President Trump’s pardoning of “Scooter” Libby an act of compassion, or rather a means to an end?
President Donald Trump on Friday pardoned Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the chief of staff to former Vice President Dick Cheney who was caught up in the investigation into the leak of the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame.
“I don’t know Mr. Libby,” Trump said in a statement, adding, “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.”
Libby came under scrutiny in connection with the leak in 2003 of the identity of Plame, who had worked undercover overseas and was married to a prominent George W. Bush administration critic, Joseph Wilson. Libby was never charged with leaking, but was indicted in 2005 on charges of obstruction of justice, perjury and making false statements to investigators, largely for denying his contacts with the media about Plame.
Trump so far has used his pardon power sparingly, but there has been intense speculation over whether Trump may pardon any of his aides facing charges in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, particularly former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who has so far refused to cooperate with Mueller’s probe.
Plame, appearing on MSNBC on Friday, suggested that Trump is telegraphing a message to Manafort and other aides, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn and son-in-law Jared Kushner, who are also key figures in the Russia investigation.
“This is definitely not about me. It’s absolutely not about Scooter Libby. This is about Donald Trump and his future,” Plame said before the formal announcement hit. “It’s very clear that this is a message he’s sending that you can commit crimes against national security and you will be pardoned, so I think he’s got an audience of three right now. That would be Manafort, Flynn and Kushner, and perhaps others.”
“The message being sent is you can commit perjury and I will pardon you if it protects me and I deem that you are loyal to me,” she added.
Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, also saw ulterior motives in a Libby pardon.
“On the day the President wrongly attacks Comey for being a ‘leaker and liar’ he considers pardoning a convicted leaker and liar, Scooter Libby,” Schiff tweeted on Friday. “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.”