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Democrats are kind of freaking out about Trump’s Scooter Libby pardon and what it means

Nancy Pelosi: “Trump has no issue with rewarding those who lie under oath.”

Donald Trump shakes hands with Nancy Pelosi.
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Dylan Scott covers health care for Vox. He has reported on health policy for more than 10 years, writing for Governing magazine, Talking Points Memo and STAT before joining Vox in 2017.

Though they are powerless to stop him, House Democrats are doing what they can to paint President Trump’s pardon of Scooter Libby as “contempt for the rule of law” — amid fears that the president might soon use the power of the pardon to protect people close to him who are facing scrutiny via Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi thought the message was clear in Trump’s pardon for Libby, the aide to former Vice President Dick Cheney who was convicted of perjury, obstruction of justice, and making false statements in connection with the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame’s identity.

The Libby pardon arrives at the same time federal investigators are closing in on Michael Cohen, one of Trump’s closest confidants, and follows reports that Trump’s attorneys had tried to offer pardons to his former campaign chair Paul Manafort, who has been indicted in Mueller’s probe. Pelosi seems to be connecting those dots.

If you can’t quite remember who Scooter Libby is and why he needed a pardon at all, Vox’s Jennifer Williams has you covered:

So when the ambassador, Joe Wilson, started to hear that erroneous claim being used to justify going to war with Saddam, he decided to speak out in an op-ed in the New York Times.

In the op-ed, which was pointedly titled “What I Didn’t Find in Africa,” Wilson wrote, “I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq’s nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.”

Not long after, Joe Wilson’s wife, an undercover CIA operative named Valerie Plame, had her name leaked to the press — completely blowing her cover (and thus basically her entire career) and potentially putting her and her sources in danger. Wilson believed her name was leaked by the Bush administration as part of a smear campaign against him.

The US attorney general at the time appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the whole affair. As CNN reports, Libby was ultimately not accused of revealing Plame’s identity to reporters himself (it was never conclusively proven whether he did or not), but rather of obstructing the leak investigation by lying about his contacts with journalists about Plame.