WASHINGTON (CBS News) – President Donald Trump Friday issued a full pardon to I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the former chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney who was convicted of perjury in relation to the 2003 leak of CIA agent Valerie Plame’s identity.
Kellyanne Conway, counsel to the president, explained to reporters earlier Friday that many believe Libby was the victim of a “special counsel run amock.”
“Today, President Donald J. Trump issued an Executive Grant of Clemency (Full Pardon) to I. “Scooter” Lewis Libby, former Chief of Staff to Vice President Richard Cheney, for convictions stemming from a 2007 trial. President George W. Bush commuted Mr. Libby’s sentence shortly after his conviction,” the White House said in a statement. “Mr. Libby, nevertheless, paid a $250,000 fine, performed 400 hours of community service, and served two years of probation.”
Although former President George W. Bush commuted Libby’s sentence in 2008, and Libby was spared jail time, the conviction remained on his record, and he had to pay a substantial fine. His case became a cause celebre for many conservatives who feel he was unfairly targeted by the special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald.
In 2010, Mr. Bush said Cheney was angry at his decision not to pardon Libby.
“Scooter is a loyal American who worked for Vice President Cheney who got caught up in this Valerie Plame case and was indicted and convicted,” Mr. Bush told NBC News in 2010. “It was the last decision of the presidency, really. I chose to let the jury verdict stand after some serious deliberation, and the vice president was angry.”
The process to pardon Libby began when Reince Priebus was chief of staff, but it was stalled in the White House counsel’s office. It was revived recently by former U.S. attorney Joseph diGenova, who assists Mr. Trump’s legal team but did not formally join it, and his wife and law partner Victoria Toensing.
DiGenova has long argued for a pardon and has accused former FBI director James Comey of misconduct in Fitzgerald’s investigation of Libby. When Libby’s law license was restored in Nov. 2016, the Daily Caller reported that diGenova made accusations against Fitzgerald and Comey. “False testimony was coerced by Jim Comey’s friend Patrick Fitzgerald, and Comey was part of the team to destroy the vice president of the United States, and it didn’t happen.”
The president’s pardon coincides with the release of Comey’s tell-all book. In the book, Comey blasts Mr. Trump as unethical and “untethered to truth” and calls his leadership of the country “ego driven and about personal loyalty.”
Mr. Trump has already pardoned another controversial conservative, former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of defying a judge’s order.
Read the full statement from the White House below:
“Today, President Donald J. Trump issued an Executive Grant of Clemency (Full Pardon) to I. ‘Scooter’ Lewis Libby, former Chief of Staff to Vice President Richard Cheney, for convictions stemming from a 2007 trial. President George W. Bush commuted Mr. Libby’s sentence shortly after his conviction. Mr. Libby, nevertheless, paid a $250,000 fine, performed 400 hours of community service, and served two years of probation.
“In 2015, one of the key witnesses against Mr. Libby recanted her testimony, stating publicly that she believes the prosecutor withheld relevant information from her during interviews that would have altered significantly what she said. The next year, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals unanimously reinstated Mr. Libby to the bar, reauthorizing him to practice law. The Court agreed with the District of Columbia Disciplinary Counsel, who stated that Mr. Libby had presented “credible evidence” in support of his innocence, including evidence that a key prosecution witness had ‘changed her recollection of the events in question.’
“Before his conviction, Mr. Libby had rendered more than a decade of honorable service to the Nation as a public servant at the Department of State, the Department of Defense, and the White House. His record since his conviction is similarly unblemished, and he continues to be held in high regard by his colleagues and peers.
“In light of these facts, the President believes Mr. Libby is fully worthy of this pardon. “I don’t know Mr. Libby,” said President Trump, “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.”
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