Why Trump pardoned Libby
The New York Times
Why did President Trump suddenly pardon I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby last week? asked Marcy Wheeler. That’s obvious: He was sending “a message to Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen, and any of his other close aides” who face prosecution in the Russia investigation. Libby was convicted in 2007 of disclosing the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame in an act of political retribution that may have been ordered by Vice President Dick Cheney. Libby had already regained his law license and his right to vote, so Trump’s pardon “will change nothing.” It’s entirely symbolic, reminding those who might incriminate Trump in either the Cohen or Russia investigations that he can rectify their legal problems if they—like Libby—remain silent. As legal strategy, this has two flaws: One is that Manafort, Cohen, and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, could be charged with state crimes for financial and tax matters—which the president cannot pardon. The second is that special counsel Robert Mueller is reportedly just weeks away from issuing a report on Trump’s numerous attempts to obstruct the Russia investigation—which will likely detail previous attempts to dangle pardons before Manafort and others. Any actual pardons would serve only to prove Trump’s intent to obstruct justice.