President Trump is set to pardon Scooter Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney who was convicted in 2007 for lying to the FBI and obstruction of justice as part of the Bush administration’s effort to discredit Valerie Plame, a CIA agent and wife of Iraq war critic Joseph Wilson.
ABC News reports that Trump “has already signed off on the pardon.”
The timing of the White House’s sudden concern about Libby is notable, given that special counsel Robert Mueller is currently investigating Trump and his campaign for obstruction of justice. Trump pardoning Libby may be a signal to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who faces the prospect of spending the rest of his life in prison because of charges brought against him by Mueller, but is still not cooperating with the investigation.
During a CNN interview on Friday, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) sounded the alarm about Libby being pardoned for obstruction of justice by a president currently under investigation for obstruction of justice.
“Look, we’re in a tough time right now, we’re grappling with this Mueller investigation,” Kaine said. “Even today, the president is announcing that he’s gonna pardon Scooter Libby.”
“Why pardon Scooter Libby today? People have forgotten about Scooter Libby,” Kaine added. “The pardoning of somebody who is convicted for obstruction of justice working in the White House, I think is more about sending a message to people today than it is about a case that’s 10 years old — so we’re in a very very challenging time right now.”
Sen @timkaine sounds alarm about Trump dangling pardon for Scooter Libby.
"What do that today? The pardoning of somebody who is convicted of obstruction of justice working in the White House, I think is more about sending a message to people today." pic.twitter.com/oogrf15ouO
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 13, 2018
On Thursday, NBC reported that prior to an FBI raid on Trump’s personal attorney on Monday, Mueller’s team had been aiming to finalize a report on its findings about whether Trump obstructed justice in the Russia investigation “in the coming months, as early as May or as late as July.”
NBC’s report adds that the timeline might be moved up now that Mueller’s team no longer expects to be able to interview the president. It adds that Mueller’s investigation of Trump for obstruction is going down four paths:
Three sources familiar with the investigation said the findings Mueller has collected on Trump’s attempts to obstruct justice include: His intent to fire former FBI Director James Comey; his role in the crafting of a misleading public statement on the nature of a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between his son and Russians; Trump’s dangling of pardons before grand jury witnesses who might testify against him; and pressuring Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself from the Russia investigation.
On Wednesday, Trump casually admitted to obstructing justice on Twitter, saying he only did so to “fight back.” But there is no “fighting back” exception to obstruction of justice charges, which were part of the articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.
UPDATE (4/13, 1:15 p.m.): In a White House statement officially announcing the pardon, President Trump sounds likes he’s barely familiar with the details of Libby’s case, but decided to pardon him anyway because of hearsay evidence.
“I don’t know Mr. Libby,” Trump is quoted as saying, “but for many years I have heard that he has been treated unfairly. Hopefully, this full pardon will help rectify a very sad potion of his life.”
It's official: Trump Pardons Libby. pic.twitter.com/5OFfssWMmR
— Chris Geidner (@chrisgeidner) April 13, 2018
Trump, of course, also believes he’s being treated unfairly by law enforcement. After his personal attorney was raided by FBI on Monday, Trump complained to reporters that he’s a victim of “a total witch hunt.”