President Donald Trump has reportedly signed a full pardon for Scooter J. Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney. Given the conviction for allegations against Libby, it is hard not to draw an analogy to figures like Michael Flynn or even Michael Cohen.
Libby was convicted in 2007 of lying to the FBI and obstruction of justice in the investigation into the leak of the identity of Valerie Plame, a former covert CIA agent. Notably, President George Bush refused Cheney’s effort to secure a pardon. He felt it was inappropriate since Libby falsely told the FBI that he could not have been the source for the Plame leak due to the late date of his learning about her identity. Later, witnesses came forward to contradict Libby and reveal that he told them about her identity long before the date he gave the FBI for when he first learned the information.
Instead of a full pardon, Bush commuted Libby’s 30-month sentence so he never had to go to prison. Libby later had his law license restored.
There is a growing concern that Trump could attempt to derail the Special Counsel investigation with pardons for his former associates. This concern is particularly great with regard to Michael Cohen. However, we still do not know what evidence of criminal conduct was referred to the Southern District of New York involving Cohen. The closest analogy to Libby’s case would be Michael Flynn. Indeed, Flynn is in a better position since Comey’s investigators reportedly concluded that he did not intend to mislead the FBI in denying that he discussed sanctions with Russian diplomats during the transition period.
The Libby pardon does serve to remind people that other presidents used this power to protect their former aides. Could it be a prelude of pardons to come?