Donald Trump sent out a huge hint to those in his closest circle when he recently pardoned Scooter Libby. The chief of staff to the former vice president, Dick Cheney, rode a powerful wave in Washington, until the FBI caught him lying and obstructing an investigation. Why did Trump decide to pardon him after 11 years?
Libby impeded the FBI’s investigation into who outed clandestine CIA operative, Valerie Plame, which endangered untold numbers of other undercover people. What was her crime? It was nothing other than being married to a man who spoke out, telling the truth that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had no uranium to build weapons of mass destruction.
The VP’s chief of staff got 30 months in prison, a $250,000 fine, and lost his law license. President George W. Bush commuted Libby’s sentence. However, he did not pardon the man, so Trump decided to do it. What was his message?
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) can smell trouble coming from the White House. He wrote a letter to state lawmakers urging them to change existing law. He wanted prosecutors to be able to charge people, even those Trump or any other president might pardon.
As New York law stands, a person who is convicted of a federal crime or pleads guilty then is pardoned by the man in the Oval Office will go scot free. State law has a double-jeopardy rule, meaning no one can be tried for the same crime twice.
Schneiderman wrote Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) and top state legislators about his concern and tweeted that he is “disturbed” that “POTUS is considering pardons:”
‘We are disturbed by reports that
@POTUS is considering pardons of individuals who may have committed serious federal crimes—acts that may also violate NY law. We must ensure that if any president issues such pardons, we can use NY’s laws to bring such individuals to justice.’
The state AG continued:
‘Long ago, SCOTUS made clear that presidents cannot pardon for state crimes—now it’s time for New York law to do the same.
‘No one accused of breaking NY’s laws should escape accountability merely because of a strategically timed presidential pardon. pic.twitter.com/Dc3U06lLFX’.’
In his letter, Schneiderman wrote:
‘New York’s statutory protections could result in the unintended and unjust consequence of insulating someone pardoned for serious federal crimes from subsequent prosecution for state crimes — even if that person was never tried or convicted in federal court, and never served a single day in federal prison.’
‘Long ago, SCOTUS made clear that presidents cannot pardon for state crimes—now it’s time for New York law to do the same.’
In light of Trump’s pardon of Libby and any message it might send, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) introduced a bill. It would let Congress rule on certain Trump pardons, those related to the special counselor, Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia. Schiff noted that the president and members of his family are the subject of that investigation:
‘There are unsettling indications that President Trump could use the expansive pardon power granted by the Constitution as an instrument to undermine the Special Counsel’s investigation and other investigations into his business, family or his associates,” Schiff wrote in a statement introducing the bill.’
Twitter world lit up. Check out some of our favorite tweets below:
Featured Image via Getty Images/John W. Adkisson.