On Friday, Trump granted a pardon to Lewis “Scooter” Libby. In case you have forgotten (or mentally blocked out) Scooter, he was the Chief of Staff to former Vice President, Dick Cheney. He was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in 2007 in connection with the leak of CIA operative, Valerie Plame during the Iraq war.
In 2005, a grand jury indicted Libby on five counts: two counts of perjury, two counts of making false statements to the FBI and one count of obstruction of justice. These indictments resulted from a special counsel investigation into which member of the Bush administration had leaked the identity of Plame. Some say the leak was in retaliation for her husband’s (former Ambassador, Joseph Wilson) public criticism of the war in Iraq.
In response to Libby’s pardon Wilson called Trump an “utterly unacceptable” leader, and accused him of allowing individuals who put U.S. national security at risk to run free. Wilson also stated,”Mr. Trump is willing to allow people to violate the essence of our defense structure, our national security, our intelligence apparatus and essentially get away with it.”
So, why is the timing of Libby’s pardon significant? Reports of Trump’s decision to pardon Libby came out after the first passages of Comey’s new book emerged in the press. Coincidence? Comey was serving as Deputy Attorney General in the Department of Justice, who oversaw the special counsel investigation into the leak that led to Libby’s conviction. Was this a thumb on the nose to Comey? In part, probably yes. However, the pardon signals something more troubling. Allies of Libby argued that Patrick Fitzgerald, special counsel (appointed by Comey) of the Plame investigation was far too aggressive and ventured too far afield in his pursuit of Libby. One can’t help but see the connection with the Muller investigation. Trump is sending a very clear message about how he feels about special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. The more not so subtle message is Trump’s willingness to pardon those that feel they have been unfairly persecuted by a special prosecutor which fits nicely into Trump’s suspicion of a deep-state operation looking to hurt those that don’t align with their ideologies.
For much of America’s history, presidents have used pardoning power to correct wrongs, forgive transgressors, and temper justice with mercy. This time it was used by a man-child to demonstrate his dislike for Comey and the intelligence community. Also, the pardon is a wink and a nod to those currently being questioned by Mueller.