On April 13, 2018, President Donald Trump pardoned I. Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, a man convicted in 2007 in connection with the leak of confidential information as part of the lead up to the second Iraq War.
The Underlying Crimes:
In the first years of the 21st century, the administration of President George W. Bush publicized intelligence reports to the effect that Iraq was in possession of “weapons of mass destruction.” But there were other reports, including those from CIA operative Valerie Plame, and her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, that indicated that Iraq was all bark but no bite: it didn’t have the materials with which to make the reputed weapons.
The political officials of the Bush administration seem to have decided to hurt Plame as retaliation for that heretical view. Libby leaked Plame’s name and her status as a CIA operative to the press, blowing her cover and ending that career.
Libby was prosecuted and convicted in connection with that leak of classified information.
The Thing to Know:
Many observers believe that Trump has now pardoned Libby as a message to various associates of his who have been questioned by Special Counsel Robert Mueller about Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election of 2016.
Trump (on this view) is reminding these associates that he has the power to pardon, and is willing to use it. In other words, “guard my rear, and I’ll guard yours.”