(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump pardoned I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby for lying to investigators probing the leak of a CIA officer identity, offering official forgiveness to a conservative figure whom supporters have argued was unfairly swept up in a politically charged special counsel’s investigation.
“I don’t know Mr. Libby,” Trump said in a statement, “but 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.”
Libby, who was an aide to then-Vice President Dick Cheney, was the “victim of a special counsel run amok,” White House aide Kellyanne Conway told reporters on Friday, echoing a portrayal that Trump has applied to himself in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Some Democrats said the pardon was a signal to people entangled in Mueller’s probe to protect the president.
“This is the President’s way of sending a message to those implicated in the Russia investigation: You have my back and I’ll have yours,” Representative Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, said in a statement.
President George W. Bush commuted Libby’s 30-month prison sentence while leaving the conviction intact. Democrats decried the move, while many conservatives--including John Bolton, Trump’s new national security adviser -- said Bush should have pardoned Libby.
Libby was convicted of four felonies in 2007 for perjury in testimony to a federal grand jury, lying to F.B.I. investigators and obstruction of justice. Trump’s pardon could help him re-emerge in conservative politics.
The CIA agent Valerie Plame and her husband, former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson, later sued Cheney, Libby and Bush’s political adviser, Karl Rove, and then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, claiming they conspired to reveal Plame’s identity as a CIA agent. The pair accused the four men of leaking Plame’s identity to the media in retaliation for a New York Times opinion piece by Wilson that questioned the Bush administration’s basis for going to war in Iraq.
The lawsuit was dismissed.
Plame said in a statement Friday that it was “false” that Libby had been treated unfairly, and that Trump’s pardon “is not based on the truth.”
Libby is the third person Trump has pardoned since taking office. He drew cheers in some conservative circles and wide condemnation from Democrats when he pardoned Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, last year. Arpaio had been convicted of criminal contempt of court after investigators found that his office had continued racial profiling and so-called immigration round-ups after a federal court barred him from doing so.
Trump also in March pardoned Kristian Saucier, a former Navy sailor prosecuted for taking photographs of classified engineering areas of a nuclear-powered submarine.
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