While the news cycle continues at a breakneck pace, a prominent Washington attorney President Trump’s recent pardon of former George W. Bush administration official Lewis “Scooter” Libby ends a shameful chapter in American jurisprudence and is a clear example of why the special counsel belongs on the ash heap of U.S. history.
On April 13, Trump pardoned Libby, who was feeling the effects of painkillers when the president called. The president also called Libby’s attorneys, Victoria Toensing and joe diGenova.
“He said, ‘I just signed it. The ink’s not dry,'” recalled Toensing. “He said, ‘I don’t know the guy, but I know he was screwed.’ When they put the press release out, they cleaned that up a little bit.”
Toensing says Trump was troubled by what he perceived as a major injustice.
“This is part of Donald Trump’s personality. He did not like that somebody got the raw end of a deal. He just didn’t like it, and he decided to do what he could do,” said Toensing, who submitted the pardon request last year.
Libby was convicted of perjury, obstruction of justice, and making false statements, in 2007, four years after the name of CIA operative Valerie Plame was allegedly leaked illegally to political columnist Robert Novak.
Then-Attorney General John Ashcroft named federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald as the special counsel in the Plame case. Fitzgerald came highly recommended by Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey.
State Department official Richard Armitage actually passed the name to Novak. Armitage was never charged for giving the name and neither was anyone else.
President Bush commuted Libby’s sentence but refused to issue a full pardon.
“Shame on George Bush for not having done it. Scooter Libby had nothing to do with leaking anything as we now know,” said Toensing. “George Bush would not give him a pardon to Dick Cheney’s eternal chagrin.”
“It was just so unfair and unjust in our system that his prosecution even occurred,” said Toensing, who says the facts of the case were clear long before Fitzgerald was ever appointed.
“They knew from the get-go, from day one, that Dick Armitage had leaked the information. If that had been a crime, why didn’t they just prosecute Dick Armitage?
“This was a whole case about going after Dick Cheney and the Iraq War. This was a whole political prosecution about the Iraq War,” said Toensing.
Toensing says the only reason Libby was prosecuted is because Libby would not turn on Cheney, whom Libby served as chief of staff.
“Before indictment, Scooter’s lawyer was told that if (Libby) just provided criminal information about Dick Cheney, this whole thing would go away,” said Toensing.
And what was Libby convicted of?
“Scooter was indicted on just a ‘he said-he said.’ It’s as if you said something happened on Tuesday and I said Wednesday and then and they decided to indict Scooter just because he differed. He differed with three witnesses,” said Toensing.
Libby’s conviction was ripe for pardon after the testimony of journalist Matt Cooper did not match his own notes and reporter Judith Miller recanted her testimony after she discovered her testimony was incorrect as a result of Fitzgerald refusing to share evidence with her. The third witness, Tim Russert, died in 2008.
Toensing says it’s clear between the Fitzgerald and Mueller probes that the special counsel should be abolished.
“I don’t think any is good. I didn’t think Ken Starr was good. It’s just out of hand and there’s no control,” said Toensing.
She says the Justice Department is doing the public no favors either. She says the mandate Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein gave to Robert Mueller is stunningly broad and allows him to investigate “any link between the Russian government and anyone involved with the Trump campaign.”
“That means a farmer in Iowa who sells rice to Russia and was co-chairman of the Trump campaign could be investigated because he had a link with the Russian government and the Trump campaign. That’s it. It’s despicable,” said Toensing.