WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Friday pardoned I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who was convicted of perjury in a CIA leak case stemming from when he was the chief of staff to former Vice President Dick Cheney.

The pardon comes as Trump and associates are coming under greater investigative scrutiny from special counsel Robert Mueller called a “witch hunt” by the president.

“I don’t know Mr. Libby,” Trump said in a statement, “but for years I have heard that he has been treated unfairly.”

Libby’s case has been criticized by conservatives, who argue he was the victim of an overly zealous and politically motivated prosecution by a special counsel. Another twist is that the special counsel in Libby’s case is Patrick Fitzgerald — the former U.S. attorney in Chicago who was appointed by James Comey, deputy attorney general at the time. Comey later became head of the FBI but was fired by Trump and has since written a book highly critical of the president.

The pardon prompted a rare statement from Fitzgerald, who has been loath to comment on political matters since moving to private practice in 2012.

“While the President has the constitutional power to pardon, the decision to do so in this case purports to be premised on the notion that Libby was an innocent man convicted on the basis of inaccurate testimony caused by the prosecution. That is false,” Fitzgerald wrote.

“Mr. Libby, represented by able counsel, received a fair trial before an exacting trial judge and a jury who found the facts clearly established that Libby committed the crimes he was charged with. That was true yesterday. It remains true today,” Fitzgerald wrote.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement, “President Trump’s pardon of Scooter Libby makes clear his contempt for the rule of law.

“This pardon sends a troubling signal to the President’s allies that obstructing justice will be rewarded. The suggestion that those who lie under oath may be rewarded with pardons poses a threat to the integrity of the Special Counsel investigation, and to our democracy.

“Neither the President nor his allies are above the law.”

Valerie Plame, the CIA operative who was outed by the leak, said in a statement, that it is “simply false” to say Libby was treated unfairly.

“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,” Plame said.

Contributing: Mitch Armentrout and The Associated Press

Below, statements from the White House and Patrick Fitzgerald…

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 13, 2018

Statement from the Press Secretary Regarding the Pardon of I. “Scooter” Lewis Libby

Today, President Donald J. Trump issued an Executive Grant of Clemency (Full Pardon) to I. “Scooter” Lewis Libby, former Chief of Staff to Vice President Richard Cheney, for convictions stemming from a 2007 trial. President George W. Bush commuted Mr. Libby’s sentence shortly after his conviction. Mr. Libby, nevertheless, paid a $250,000 fine, performed 400 hours of community service, and served two years of probation.

In 2015, one of the key witnesses against Mr. Libby recanted her testimony, stating publicly that she believes the prosecutor withheld relevant information from her during interviews that would have altered significantly what she said. The next year, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals unanimously reinstated Mr. Libby to the bar, reauthorizing him to practice law. The Court agreed with the District of Columbia Disciplinary Counsel, who stated that Mr. Libby had presented “credible evidence” in support of his innocence, including evidence that a key prosecution witness had “changed her recollection of the events in question.”

Before his conviction, Mr. Libby had rendered more than a decade of honorable service to the Nation as a public servant at the Department of State, the Department of Defense, and the White House. His record since his conviction is similarly unblemished, and he continues to be held in high regard by his colleagues and peers.

In light of these facts, the President believes Mr. Libby is fully worthy of this pardon. “I don’t know Mr. Libby,” said President Trump, “but for years I have heard that he has been treated unfairly. Hopefully, this full pardon will help rectify a very sad portion of his life.”

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Statement of Patrick J. Fitzgerald

While the President has the constitutional power to pardon, the decision to do so in this case purports to be premised on the notion that Libby was an innocent man convicted on the basis of inaccurate testimony caused by the prosecution. That is false. There was no impropriety in the preparation of any witness, and we did not tell witnesses what to say or withhold any information that should have been disclosed. Mr. Libby’s conviction was based upon the testimony of multiple witnesses, including the grand jury testimony of Mr. Libby himself, as well as numerous documents.

I considered it an honor to work with the agents and prosecutors who conducted the investigation and trial with integrity and professionalism. Mr. Libby, represented by able counsel, received a fair trial before an exacting trial judge and a jury who found the facts clearly established that Libby committed the crimes he was charged with. That was true yesterday. It remains true today.

The issues at stake in this case were important. As was stated in a government sentencing memo more than a decade ago:

Mr. Libby, a high-ranking public official and experienced lawyer, lied repeatedly and blatantly about matters at the heart of a criminal investigation concerning the disclosure of a covert intelligence officer’s identity. He has shown no regret for his actions, which significantly impeded the investigation. Mr. Libby’s prosecution was based not upon politics but upon his own conduct, as well as upon a principle fundamental to preserving our judicial system’s independence from politics: that any witness, whatever his political affiliation, whatever his views on any policy or national issue, whether he works in the White House or drives a truck to earn a living, must tell the truth when he raises his hand and takes an oath in a judicial proceeding, or gives a statement to federal law enforcement officers. The judicial system has not corruptly mistreated Mr. Libby; Mr. Libby has been found by a jury of his peers to have corrupted the judicial system.

That statement rings true to this day. The President has the right to pardon Mr. Libby and Mr. Libby has been pardoned. But the facts have not changed.

I have made this statement in my personal capacity.