President Trump on Friday pardoned Scooter Libby, who was convicted in 2007 of committing four felonies during the FBI's investigation into the leak of the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson.
“I don’t know Mr. Libby,” said Trump, “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, then chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, was convicted not for leaking Plame's identity but for perjury and obstruction of justice. During the investigation, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage acknowledged that he had confirmed Plame's connection to the CIA to the Washington Post before Libby spoke with reporters on the subject. Armitage was not charged.
"We commend President Trump for addressing a gross injustice and granting the pardon," Victoria Toensing, who represented Libby at the time, said in a statement.
The White House's statement notes that in 2015, a key witness against Libby recanted her testimony and believed the special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, had withheld relevant information, and cites a court decision stating that Libby had "credible evidence" of his innocence.
President George W. Bush commuted Libby's sentence shortly after it was handed down, allowing Libby to avoid prison. Libby paid a $250,000 fine, performed 400 hours of community service, and served two years of probation, according to the White House.
The special prosecutor in the case was appointed by former FBI Director James Comey, who was serving as deputy attorney general at the time. Conservatives have long maintained that Libby was caught in the crosshairs of an overzealous and biased prosecution.
Toensing called the whole affair a “politically-motivated prosecution arising from a phony scandal that had no underlying crime as a basis for an investigation.”
Karl Rove, former senior adviser to President Bush, told Fox News Friday that Fitzgerald had persisted for years in "trying to get somebody's pelt nailed to his wall."
“Mine and Scooter's," Rove said. "And he got Scooter.”
Appearing on MSNBC on Friday when news of a potential pardon leaked, Plame said that any such action would have more to do with special counsel Robert Mueller's current investigation into Russian election interference than Libby's case.
"I think he is setting this up so that this is a strong signal to those that may be considering cooperating with the special counsel, with Mueller's investigation," she said.
Toensing said that Plame's comments were not to be trusted: "Valerie Plame lies. She went on MSNBC said that Scooter Libby leaked her name when she knows full well it was Richard Armitage. She also knows that she was not a covert agent under the law. If she had been, Armitage would have been charged."
Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi took issue with the pardon on Twitter.
"Trump is clearly trying to send a message with his pardon of Scooter Libby — he has no issue with rewarding those who lie under oath. But it does not change the facts: neither @POTUS or his allies are above the law."