President Trump issued a pardon Friday to former Vice President Dick Cheney’s top aide, saying his 2007 conviction for obstructing the probe into the leaking of a CIA operative’s identity, saying the conviction now appears to be tainted.
The decision to grant clemency to I. “Scooter” Lewis Libby is likely to reverberate through Washington, coming as Mr. Trump complains about an overzealous investigation against him. It’s also Mr. Trump’s second pardon of a major GOP political figure.
“I don’t know Mr. Libby,” Mr. Trump said in a statement provided by the White House, “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.”
Mr. Libby said he and his family “are immensely grateful to President Trump for his gracious decision to grant a pardon.”
“For over a dozen years we have suffered under the weight of a terrible injustice,” Mr. Libby said in a statement. “To his great credit, President Trump recognized this wrong and would not let it persist. For this honorable act, we shall forever be grateful.”
Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat who spearheaded the House’s Russia collusion probe, said Mr. Trump was warming up to rescue his allies who get caught up in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
“On the day the President wrongly attacks [former FBI Director James Comey] for being a ‘leaker and liar’ he considers pardoning a convicted leaker and liar, Scooter Libby. 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,” Mr. Schiff tweeted.
Mr. Libby had been convicted of lying to investigators and obstructing justice into then-special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald’s probe over the leaking of the identity of Valerie Plame.
He was sentenced to more than two years in prison and given a fine of $250,000.
Former President George W. Bush commuted the sentence, freeing Mr. Libby from filling out his prison time, but had declined entreaties to issue a full pardon.
Mr. Trump, though, has gone further.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Mr. Trump was operating off of new facts, including a witness against Mr. Libby who now says there were problems with the prosecution, and a court ruling that reinstated Mr. Libby’s law license, saying he had “credible evidence” to support his claims of innocence.
“Before his conviction, Mr. Libby had rendered more than a decade of honorable service to the nation as a public servant at the Department of State, the Department of Defense, and the White House,” Mrs. Sanders said. “His record since his conviction is similarly unblemished, and he continues to be held in high regard by his colleagues and peers.”
Ms. Plame objected to Mr. Trump justifying the pardon with the claim that Mr. Libby was “treated unfairly.”
“That is simply false. Libby was convicted of obstruction of justice and perjury in a fair trial,” she said in a statement. “President George W. Bush closely reviewed the facts in the case at the behest of Vice President Dick Cheney, who urged a pardon. Both the President and the Vice President willingly testified themselves.”
She noted that Mr. Bush declined a pardon and said he respected the jury’s verdict and that “if a person does not tell the truth, particularly if he serves in government and holds the public trust, he must be held accountable.”
Ms. Plame added, “President’s Trump’s pardon is not based on the truth.”
Mr. Libby was convicted after a long investigation by a special counsel.
Mr. Trump is facing a similar investigation, and has repeatedly complained that he’s being unfairly targeted.
Asked about comparisons, While House counselor Kellyanne Conway told reporters Friday, “Many people think Scooter Libby was the victim of a special counsel run amok.”
That’s the way Bush White House strategist Karl Rove viewed it.
“Fitzgerald persisted for years in trying to get somebody’s pelt nailed to his wall — mine and Scooter’s. And he got Scooter,” Mr. Rove said on Fox News Channel.
Mr. Trump last year used his first pardon on former Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a political supporter who had been found guilty of criminal contempt of court.
And earlier this year Mr. Trump pardoned Kristian Mark Saucier, a Navy sailor who’d been convicted of violating government secrecy laws.
• S.A. Miller and Seth McLaughlin contributed to this story.