Trump pardons Cheney's former chief of staff for lying about leaking name of CIA operative

Kellyanne Conway is downplaying controversy over timing of pardon.

April 13, 2018, 11:36 AM

President Donald Trump announced Friday his decision to pardon Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, whose storied conviction turned into a rallying cry for conservatives who have long raised suspicions over the unchecked powers of special prosecutors.

“I don’t know Mr. Libby,” President 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.”

President Trump's counselor Kellyanne Conway denied Friday that he is sending a message through the pardon, even as she noted critics say he was "the victim of a special counsel run amok."

ABC News first reported news of the coming pardon on Thursday evening, which sources close to Trump say he considered for months. Libby, who was sentenced to 30 months in prison in 2007 for lying to the FBI and obstructing justice in the investigation into the leak of the identity of Valerie Plame, a former covert CIA operative.

President Bush commuted that sentence but did not issue a pardon, something Vice President Cheney pushed hard for in the final weeks of the administration.

Cheney responded in a statement: “Scooter Libby is one of the most capable, principled, and honorable men I have ever known. He is innocent, and he and his family have suffered for years because of his wrongful conviction. I am grateful today that President Trump righted this wrong by issuing a full pardon to Scooter, and I am thrilled for Scooter and his family.”

And a spokesman for President Bush said, “President Bush is very pleased for Scooter and his family”

Plame responded to the news in an interview with MSNBC Friday, saying that she believed the president was sending a political message to allies caught in the Russia investigation.

"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," Plame said.

Conway was pressed by reporters at the White House on whether it’s the president’s intention to send a message “that it’s okay to lie under oath and to obstruct justice,” and insisted that is not the case.

She then suggested that the longtime attack line from conservative allies of Libby – that he's merely the victim of an out of control special prosecutor – has resonated with the president.

“You know, many people think that Scooter Libby was the victim of a special counsel gone amok,” Conway said.

Included in that crowd are close allies of the president, including his outside legal advisors Joe diGenova and his wife, Victoria Toensing.

The White House has repeatedly said that no pardons are currently on the table for political allies of the president who have faced legal jeopardy as a result of the Russia investigation.

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