Why did President Trump today suddenly decide it was the right time to pardon Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the former Chief of Staff to then-Vice President Dick Cheney, who was convicted in 2005 on four counts including obstruction of justice, perjury and making false statements?
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Despite repeated pleas from Cheney, President George W. Bush refused at the time to grant a full pardon to Libby, who had been convicted of the 2003 leak of classified information to the press – the name of a covert CIA agent, Valerie Plame – apparently as revenge because she was the wife of Iraq war critic Joseph Wilson – although Bush did commute Libby’s sentence to keep him out of prison.
In his statement today, Trump said he did not know Libby, adding that “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.”
Considering that Trump spent his morning fuming and tweeting about former FBI Director James Comey being a “liar and a leaker,” the pardon of a convicted leaker was clearly very curious.
Valerie Plame, however, sees a direct link between today’s pardon of the man whose leak put the life of her and her husband in danger and the current investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Trump’s involvement in Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election, and the cover-up since.
“It’s absolutely not about Libby,” Plame said today on MSNBC. “It’s about Donald Trump and his future.”
“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,” continued Plame.
“I think he has an audience of three right now,” added Plame. “That would be [former Trump campaign manager] Paul Manafort, [former Trump NSA Director] Michael Flynn and [current Trump advisor and son-in-law] Jared Kushner, and perhaps others.”
One person who agrees with Plame that this is really a dig at Comey is Matthew Cooper, who worked for TIME Magazine when he was one of the journalists that Libby illegally and improperly provided classified information to, and who later testified at Libby’s trial.
Recall Comey appointed CIA leak special counsel Pat Fitzgerald. This is a slap at Comey.
— Matthew Cooper (@mattizcoop) April 13, 2018
Plame points out President Bush refused to pardon Libby despite pressure from Cheney because “he felt the jury reached a fair verdict.”
— Talking Points Memo (@TPM) April 13, 2018
The fact Trump tweeted today that Comey is “a liar and a leaker,” adds Plame, “is rich” considering he is pardoning Libby, “who was also convicted of being a liar and a leaker.”
“The message being sent,” continues Plame, “is you can commit perjury and I will pardon you if it protects me and I deem you are loyal to me. I think the message is damaging to our democracy and the rule of law.”
Trump is also “denigrating” the intelligence community that he has attacked during his campaign and since, and she adds, “demonstrating deep disrespect for those who actually have served their country.”
Plame was asked what she would say to Trump if he were watching her on TV.
“I would simply say that this is a very bad idea,” said Plame. “It sends a message,” she added, “that those who commit crimes against national security can be pardoned and I don’t think anyone in the executive position wants to do that.”
Plame has a long record of distinguished service to her country and has a catbird’s seat to observe the U.S. government and a series of presidents, so what she has to say must be taken seriously.
She is pointing out the danger that Trump will pardon anyone that the Special Counsel indicts and convicts just because that person has been loyal to the president personally, ignoring the laws of the United States and the danger that the person’s actions may have created.
Once again, an untrustworthy and duplicitous president is acting like he is being magnanimous when in fact he is, as usual, acting in his own self-interest and to protect himself from paying a price for his own misdeeds and ineptitude.