Friday, April 13, 2018

What did Donald Trump do today?

He issued another political pardon.

Trump pardoned Scooter Libby today. Libby had been the chief of staff to former Vice-President Dick Cheney, and was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice for his role in outing the cover of Valerie Plame, a spy for the United States. In an effort to protect the Bush-Cheney administration, Libby lied to the FBI and to the grand jury convened by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald.

All three of Trump's pardons have carried heavy political overtones. His first was for Joe Arpaio, an ardent Trump supporter who was convicted for crimes related to an investigation into his corruption and racial discrimination as an Arizona sheriff. His second was for a Navy sailor who took images of classified military technology and then tried to destroy the evidence. That sailor (falsely) claimed that Hillary Clinton had done the same thing, which seemed to be enough for Trump.

Appearing on Morning Joe today, Plame herself identified the political overtones to the third pardon, 11 years after Libby's conviction:
This is definitely not about me. It’s absolutely not about Scooter Libby. This is about Donald Trump and his future. What he’s putting out there is the idea that you can pardon people for serious crimes against national security. I think he has an audience of three, perhaps more. That would be Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn and Jared Kushner, and perhaps others.

The message being sent is you can commit perjury and I will pardon you if it protects me and I deem that you are loyal to me.
Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn are facing federal felony charges that stem from the Mueller investigation, including obstruction of justice and perjury. Jared Kushner is implicated in several of the Trump administration's secret contacts with Russia.

Trump's own advisor Kellyanne Conway confirmed Plame's interpretation, pointedly calling Libby "a victim of a special counsel gone amok."

Why should anyone care?

  • Presidents are supposed to uphold the rule of law, not undermine it.
  • Even the faintest hint that a president is willing to sabotage the pursuit of justice is incredibly dangerous.