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Trump plans to pardon Cheney aide convicted of obstructing justice, lying to FBI

April 12, 2018
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President Donald Trump plans to pardon I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, a former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney who was convicted in 2007 of lying to the FBI and obstructing a CIA leak investigation, an administration official confirmed to NBC News.

ABC News reported earlier Thursday evening that Trump is poised to pardon Libby, who was sentenced to 30 months in prison but who had his sentence commuted by President George W. Bush. The conviction remained on his record.

Former Chief of Staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, walks from federal court after the verdict in his case was read in federal court on March 6, 2007 in Washington.Paul J. Richards / AFP/Getty Images file

Libby was convicted of one count of obstruction, two counts of perjury and one count of lying to the FBI about how he learned Plame’s identity and whom he told. Prosecutors said he learned about Plame from Cheney and others, discussed her name with reporters in 2003 and, fearing prosecution, made up a story to make those discussions seem innocuous.

The trial revealed that top members of the Bush administration were eager to discredit Plame’s husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who accused the administration of doctoring prewar intelligence on Iraq.

Libby said at the time that he told investigators his honest recollections and blamed any misstatements on a faulty memory. He was acquitted of one count of lying to the FBI about his conversation with Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper.

When Bush commuted Libby’s 2 ½-year prison sentence, the then-president noted in a statement that “neither Mr. Libby nor anyone else has been charged with violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act or the Espionage Act, which were the original subjects of the investigation.”

Bush said at the time that the district court rejected advice from the probation office which recommended a lighter sentence, and said in a statement: “I respect the jury’s verdict. But I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive.”

Bush said then that the commutation “leaves in place a harsh punishment for Mr. Libby,” that “the reputation he gained through his years of public service and professional work in the legal community is forever damaged,” and that “the consequences of his felony conviction on his former life as a lawyer, public servant, and private citizen will be long-lasting.”

Trump in August pardoned former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of criminal contempt for ignoring a judge’s order not to detain suspected undocumented immigrants.

Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said at the time that while Trump had the power to pardon Arpaio “doing so at this time undermines his claim for the respect of rule of law as Mr. Arpaio has shown no remorse for his actions.”

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People called the pardon of Arpaio “an “explicit embrace of the racist policing practices that leave communities fearful.”

The White House said at the time that Arpaio was 85 years old and “after more than fifty years of admirable service to our Nation, he is worthy candidate for a Presidential pardon.”

In addition to pardoning Arpaio, Trump in December commuted the sentence of Sholom Rubashkin, an Iowa kosher meatpacking executive who had been sentenced to 27 years in prison for money laundering.

The White House said in a statement then that “Mr. Rubashkin has now served more than 8 years of that sentence, which many have called excessive in light of its disparity with sentences imposed for similar crimes,” noted that his conviction remains, and said that the commutation decision was based on “on expressions of support from Members of Congress and a broad cross-section of the legal community.”

In March, Trump pardoned Kristian Saucier, a Navy submariner sentenced in August 2016 to 12 months in prison after taking photos inside the engine room on the USS Alexandria, a nuclear attack submarine. The pictures taken of the vessel’s propulsion system were classified “confidential,” the lowest level of classification.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at the time that Saucier served out his year-long sentence, “has been recognized by his fellow service members for his dedication, skill and patriotic spirit” and that “the sentencing judge found that Mr. Saucier’s offense stands in contrast to his commendable military service.”