Trump Pardons Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney's Former Chief of Staff

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President Donald Trump issued out a pardon for former George W. Bush administration official Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

President George W. Bush had commuted the sentence but would not grant a pardon. "Scooter" Lewis Libby is likely to reverberate through Washington, coming as Mr. Trump complains about an overzealous investigation against him. Libby was charged with lying to officials investigating an incident in which a Central Intelligence Agency officer's covert status was leaked to the media. In a twist, the special counsel in Libby's case, Patrick Fitzgerald, was appointed by James Comey, deputy attorney general at the time.

Given the nature of Libby's crimes, Trump came under fire from critics Friday after he took to Twitter to accuse former Federal Bureau of Investigation director James B. Comey of leaking classified information and lying to Congress.

"A pardon of Mr. Libby would paradoxically put Mr. Trump in the position of absolving one of the chief architects of the Iraq war, which Mr. Trump has denounced as a catastrophic miscalculation".

"I don't know Mr Libby", Mr Trump said in a statement issued by White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

"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 fact that Bush never offered Libby a full pardon created friction between the former president and his vice president. He had been disbarred but was reinstated by the District of Columbia Court of Appeals in 2016. Trump has not ruled out pardons in the Russian Federation investigation.

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To be sure, today's media see all sorts of ulterior motives in Mr. Trump's action, calling it a shot across the bow and a warning to the special counsel, Robert Mueller, pursuing him. Some argued that, as Hamilton put it, “the supposition of the connivance of the Chief Magistrate ought not to be entirely excluded.” In the end, though, they made a decision to give, even for treason, the pardon power to the president alone.

Even with President Bush's commutation, for years, Libby was without many of his civil rights.

Asked about it at a briefing with reporters, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders disputed the notion that the president pardoned Libby to send a message in the Russian Federation probe. "It's very clear that this is a message he is sending that you can commit crimes against national security and you will be pardoned".

The thing is, Mr. Trump is unlikely to be able to use his pardon power to get out of his legal jam. "Libby's problem was with the Justice Department". One side wanted to use Scooter Libby as a step ladder to reach up and pull down someone higher.

So as Trump frets and fumes over the current special counsel probe of his presidential campaign's alleged collusion with Russia, Libby represents exactly what he wishes all of his associates would do.

NPR political reporter Jessica Taylor contributed.

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