WASHINGTON ― Former U.S. ambassador Joseph Wilson, a man whose family was turned upside down by Scooter Libby and other President George W. Bush administration officials, sharply criticized President Donald Trump for pardoning Libby, saying it showed his disregard for America’s national security.
“It has nothing to do with Libby, and it has nothing to do with me,” Wilson told HuffPost Friday. “Libby’s problem was with the Justice Department. He was indicted, tried and convicted on obstruction of justice and perjury charges for basically violating the national security of the United States of America.”
“Now he’s being pardoned for it, which suggests of course that Mr. Trump is willing to allow people to violate the essence of our defense structure, our national security, our intelligence apparatus and essentially get away with it,” he added.
Wilson was a key figure in questioning whether the Bush administration manipulated intelligence to invade Iraq. His 2003 New York Times op-ed undermined Bush’s claim that Iraq’s former President Saddam Hussein had purchased materials needed for a nuclear weapon from Africa. He came to his conclusion after traveling to Niger in 2002, on behalf of the CIA, to investigate whether Saddam had purchased uranium yellowcake.
The Bush administration leaked the name of Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, a covert CIA agent, to the press in its attempts to undercut Wilson. That move effectively ended her career with the agency.
Plame similarly told MSNBC on Friday that Trump’s actions show “you can commit crimes against national security and you will be pardoned.”
In 2007, a federal jury found Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, guilty of lying about his role in the leak of Plame’s identity and of obstructing the probe into the leak.
“I don’t know Mr. Libby, but for years I have heard that he has been treated unfairly,” Trump said in a statement Friday. “Hopefully, this full pardon will help rectify a very sad portion of his life.”
In a statement later, Plame said Trump’s comments were not based on the truth, noting that a jury heard the evidence and convicted him, and even Bush refused to pardon him.
Bush did commute Libby’s sentence, sparing him from serving in prison.
Wilson also said he finds Trump to be a “vile and despicable individual” who is “utterly unacceptable as president.”
Wilson’s full comments to HuffPost below:
It has nothing to do with Libby, and it has nothing to do with me. Libby’s problem was with the Justice Department. He was indicted, tried and convicted on obstruction of justice and perjury charges for basically violating the national security of the United States of America.
Now he’s being pardoned for it, which suggests of course that Mr. Trump is willing to allow people to violate the essence of our defense structure, our national security, our intelligence apparatus and essentially get away with it.
Tactically, I think it was a very interesting political move because he’s suddenly rallied all the neoconservatives to come out of their rocks and once again be at the forefront of American military adventurism. To wit, the reappearance of John Bolton as national security adviser. As to Joe DiGenova and Victoria Toensing, I think they just demonstrate once again what comedians they are on the stage that is now Washington D.C.
Finally, as to Trump, he is a vile and despicable individual. He represents the repudiation of everything that my generation has worked to secure for our nation and its people. I find him utterly unacceptable as president.
President Donald Trump has granted a pardon to I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby on the basis that he was “treated unfairly.” That is simply false. Libby was convicted of obstruction of justice and perjury in a fair trial. President George W. Bush closely reviewed the facts in the case at the behest of Vice President Dick Cheney, who urged a pardon. Both the President and the Vice President willingly testified themselves. President Bush declined to issue a pardon, stating “I respect the jury’s verdict.” He added, “And if a person does not tell the truth, particularly if he serves in government and holds the public trust, he must be held accountable.” President’s Trump’s pardon is not based on the truth.
This story has been updated with Valerie Plame’s comments.