Stan Crock is a former Business Week editor and correspondent.
President Trump’s move to pardon Lewis “Scooter” Libby was the correct decision — even if, as I suspect, Trump acted for the wrong reason.
I worked briefly as a journalistic consultant for Libby’s defense team in 2008; I’ve known him socially for years; and I spent hours studying the grand jury transcript and other documents in the case. My conclusion? The left and right had warring narratives about the case, both of which were flawed.
The left depicted Libby as the center of a White House cabal that outed CIA employee Valerie Plame because her husband, Joseph C. Wilson, wrote a New York Times op-ed criticizing President George W. Bush’s Iraq policy. In fact, Richard Armitage, the deputy secretary of state who often was at odds with the White House, leaked Plame’s CIA affiliation to columnist Robert Novak. There was no White House cabal. Nor, despite oceans of ink to the contrary, was Libby convicted of leaking. He was convicted of saying that NBC journalist Tim Russert brought Plame’s name up in a conversation when Russert and the prosecution said Plame’s name did not come up.
The right viewed Libby as a hero for admirably taking the fall for the administration and protecting Vice President Richard B. Cheney, Libby’s original source about Plame’s CIA ties. The problem with this assessment is that Libby in fact was candid about Cheney’s role. Grand jury transcripts and FBI notes about Libby’s interrogation show that he told both the grand jury and the FBI that he first learned about Plame from Cheney. So much for that coverup.
So what did happen? Consider the finding of the D.C. Bar’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel when Libby sought reinstatement of his license to practice law. Normally, such a request requires acknowledgment of the seriousness of the offense and a statement of remorse. Libby acknowledged the seriousness of perjury and obstruction of justice, but he continued to insist on his innocence. That assertion required the Disciplinary Counsel to use a much higher standard to review the application. But the counsel found credible evidence supporting Libby’s innocence. One reason: the recantation of critical testimony by former New York Times reporter Judith Miller. She realized that prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald had withheld key information from her, and she gave incorrect and damning testimony as a