President Trump on Friday officially pardoned Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, who was convicted in 2007 in connection with the leaking of CIA operative Valerie Plame’s identity after her husband publicly contradicted one of the Bush administration’s key arguments for invading Iraq.
Libby wasn’t charged with leaking Plame’s identity himself—no one formally was—but rather with lying to a grand jury, including about his contact with reporters, most infamously New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who went to jail rather than reveal his identity. President George W. Bush commuted Libby’s sentence three months after the conviction, eliminating his 30-month prison term, although he still had to pay a $250,000 fine and remain on probation. Bush stopped short of pardoning Libby, a move that permanently soured his relationship with Cheney.
The New York Times wrote today that Libby’s case has “long been a cause for conservatives who maintained that he was a victim of a special prosecutor run amok, an argument that may have resonated with the president.” This would be keeping with the spirit of Trump’s other pardons, such as Joe Arpaio’s pardon for his criminal contempt conviction in 2017. It is also another sign that the motivation behind much of Trump’s presidency is What Pisses Off The Libs.
Shorter Trump: I heard from some guy whose face I recognize but whose name continually escapes me that this guy Scooter was good, so I pardoned him. Sorry, nonviolent drug offenders, you’ll have to wait for the next Democrat.
Libby’s pardon also carries potential implications down the road for the fruits of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. The pardon was widely read as a signal from Trump that, should criminal charges to members of his inner circle be leveled, he would look out for those who, like Libby—a man doggishly loyal to Cheney to the end—refused to roll over on their boss when times got tough.