Trump has pardoned convicted perjurer Scooter Libby, sending a sign to his henchmen currently facing federal prosecution that if they refuse to give up evidence against him, he can protect them too.
On Friday, Trump sent a signal to witnesses in the ongoing investigation of his administration with the pardon of Scooter Libby, who worked for George W. Bush’s administration.
“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,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA).
In a White House statement, Trump admitted that he was largely unfamiliar with Libby and the case.
“I don’t know Mr. Libby,” he said, “but for years I have heard that he has been treated unfairly.”
Libby served as assistant to the vice president under Dick Cheney, and as assistant to the president for Bush.
In 2007, Libby was convicted on charges of perjury, obstruction of justice, and making false statements to federal investigators.
He committed his crimes in the service of the Bush administration’s attempts to unmask the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame, who was married to Ambassador Joe Wilson, an outspoken critic of the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq.
There is no active petition seeking a pardon for Libby, meaning that Trump’s decision to grant it was not prompted by what BuzzFeed legal editor Chris Geidner described as “going through the normal process.”
The pardon comes as several top Trump officials have pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and signaled willingness to work with special counsel Robert Mueller in his investigation of the Trump administration.
Michael Flynn, former top campaign adviser and surrogate who later briefly served as Trump’s national security adviser, pleaded guilty of lying to the FBI and is cooperating with Mueller.
Campaign adviser Rick Gates also pleaded guilty, as did Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos. Both men are cooperating with Mueller.
Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, has been indicted on multiple charges.
Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, had his property raided by the FBI in relation to ongoing investigations of Trump.
All of the men involved have been sent a signal by Trump’s pardon of Libby. The pardon shows them that should they face criminal consequences for failing to give up information, he is open to pardons and chalk it up to a biased prosecutor.
Trump has repeatedly attacked and demeaned Mueller for his investigation, echoing similar complaints from Republicans about prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who convicted Libby.
This is just Trump’s third pardon so far. His first pardon was of Joe Arpaio, a racist ex-sheriff who shares his anti-immigrant zeal, and now he has pardoned a convicted perjurer. He also pardoned a former Navy sailor who pleaded guilty to illegally keeping classified photographs.
“This pardon sends a troubling signal to the President’s allies that obstructing justice will be rewarded,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in a statement. “The suggestion that those who lie under oath may be rewarded with pardons poses a threat to the integrity of the Special Counsel investigation, and to our democracy.”
If his henchmen currently in federal court are listening, Trump has sent them an unmistakable message: shut up.