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Trump plans to pardon ‘Scooter’ Libby, former Cheney aide

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President Donald Trump plans to pardon I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, a former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney who was convicted in 2007 of lying to the FBI and obstructing a CIA leak investigation, an administration official confirmed to NBC News.

ABC News reported earlier Thursday evening that Trump is poised to pardon Libby, who was sentenced to 30 months in prison but who had his sentence commuted by President George W. Bush. The conviction remained on his record.

 Former Chief of Staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, walks from federal court after the verdict in his case was read in federal court on March 6, 2007 in Washington. Paul J. Richards / AFP/Getty Images file

Libby was convicted of one count of obstruction, two counts of perjury and one count of lying to the FBI about how he learned Plame’s identity and whom he told. Prosecutors said he learned about Plame from Cheney and others, discussed her name with reporters in 2003 and, fearing prosecution, made up a story to make those discussions seem innocuous.

The trial revealed that top members of the Bush administration were eager to discredit Plame’s husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who accused the administration of doctoring prewar intelligence on Iraq, the Associated Press reported at the time.

When Bush commuted Libby’s 2 ½-year prison sentence, the then-president noted in a statement that “neither Mr. Libby nor anyone else has been charged with violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act or the Espionage Act, which were the original subjects of the investigation.”

Bush said at the time that the district court rejected advice from the probation office which recommended a lighter sentence, and said in a statement: “I respect the jury’s verdict. But I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive.”

Bush said then that the commutation “leaves in place a harsh punishment for Mr. Libby,” that “the reputation he gained through his years of public service and professional work in the legal community is forever damaged,” and that “the consequences of his felony conviction on his former life as a lawyer, public servant, and private citizen will be long-lasting.”

Trump in August pardoned former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of criminal contempt for ignoring a judge’s order not to detain suspected undocumented immigrants.

Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said at the time that while Trump had the power to pardon Arpaio “doing so at this time undermines his claim for the respect of rule of law as Mr. Arpaio has shown no remorse for his actions.”

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People called the pardon of Arpaio “an “explicit embrace of the racist policing practices that leave communities fearful.”

The White House said at the time that Arpaio was 85 years old and “after more than fifty years of admirable service to our Nation, he is worthy candidate for a Presidential pardon.”

In addition to pardoning Arpaio, Trump in December commuted the sentence of Sholom Rubashkin, an Iowa kosher meatpacking executive who had been sentenced to 27 years in prison for money laundering.

The White House said in a statement then that “Mr. Rubashkin has now served more than 8 years of that sentence, which many have called excessive in light of its disparity with sentences imposed for similar crimes,” noted that his conviction remains, and said that the commutation decision was based on “on expressions of support from Members of Congress and a broad cross-section of the legal community.”

In March, Trump pardoned Kristian Saucier, a Navy submariner sentenced in August 2016 to 12 months in prison after taking photos inside the engine room on the USS Alexandria, a nuclear attack submarine. The pictures taken of the vessel’s propulsion system were classified “confidential,” the lowest level of classification.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at the time that Saucier served out his year-long sentence, “has been recognized by his fellow service members for his dedication, skill and patriotic spirit” and that “the sentencing judge found that Mr. Saucier’s offense stands in contrast to his commendable military service.”

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Scots 'alarmed' at SNP plans for 'wild card referendum', says former Scotland Secretary

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NICOLA STURGEON’s plans to hold a second independence referendum will “alarm” Scots if she does not have the legal framework.

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'EU should learn from UK': German election favourite Scholz wanted to emulate UK strategy

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THE EU should learn from the UK’s migration strategy, German election frontrunner Olaf Scholz warned five years ago, suggesting that the fractured approaches of the trading bloc’s member states were not working.

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The GOP’s election review in Arizona is over. Its influence is just beginning, experts say.

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Arizona Republicans on Friday championed the results of their extraordinary partisan election review — which again affirmed President Joe Biden’s victory in Maricopa County — and called for similar examinations around the country.

“We need to do bigger audits on every election, just to make sure that everybody’s following the rules,” said Senate President Karen Fann, a Republican, boasting about how many lawmakers from other states had visited the site of the ballot review.

Fann and state Sen. Warren Petersen, also a Republican, listened to hours of testimony from third-party contractors including Doug Logan, CEO of the lead contractor, Cyber Ninjas, as they cast doubt and suggested their work had turned up evidence of improprieties including illegal votes and deleted election files.

But experts and critics say the supposed findings confirm what they already knew: that the hired contractors were inexperienced and failed to use industry best practices, while misunderstanding and misconstruing the basics of election administration and Arizona election code. And with the proliferation of Arizona-inspired efforts spreading around the country, experts say there’s real damage being done to trust in elections.

“They’re doubling down on some of the things that have already been refuted. And just continuing to give oxygen to things that are untrue,” said Tammy Patrick, a former Maricopa County elections official who is now a senior adviser at Democracy Fund, a nonpartisan foundation that aims to improve American elections.

“They’re simply taking routine election administration processes and attempting to cast what they don’t understand as suspicious,” said Liz Howard, senior counsel of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law.

Contractors with Cyber Ninjas examine and recount ballots cast in the 2020 general election in Maricopa County, in Phoenix, on May 6, 2021.Matt York / Pool via AP file

Howard was appointed by Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, to monitor the review and spent weeks in Phoenix observing the Cyber Ninjas do their work.

“It’s unreasonable to assume that this isn’t unintentional,” she added.

Both Howard and Patrick said the auditors’ findings — which were circulated in a draft on Thursday night, before being presented in a livestreamed event on Friday — made it clear they didn’t understand basic election administration.

For example, contractors reported that there were possibly thousands of out-of-state and out-of-county voters, as well as hundreds of dead voters who cast ballots in November, numbers they calculated by comparing voter rolls with commercial data lists.

Patrick said that such data was poorly vetted, and that political groups who had used commercial mailing lists had at times ended up sending mailers out to people’s pets, because someone, for example, had once signed their cat up for a subscription to Cat Fancy magazine.

Howard agreed that commercial data was unreliable for this purpose and added that there are also valid reasons a voter would be associated with another address but still be an eligible voter in Maricopa County, like students.

Contractors also alleged that election files had been deleted, something Maricopa County tweeted they “strongly” deny, noting they have additional records but that the state Senate had never requested them.

Experts and critics say the impacts of the review, however, are just beginning.

Arizona Republican state Sen. Paul Boyer, who initially backed the review but pulled his support in February over concerns for how it was progressing, said he believes it will make legislating on elections harder.

“I think now you’re going to see a hundred or two hundred election bills next year and no one is going to listen to the experts,” he told NBC News on Friday.

He added that he has spoken to voters who have either left the Republican Party or stopped voting altogether because they don’t have faith in the election.

Around the country, too, experts see the propagation of Arizona-style ballot reviews. Texas launched a “forensic audit” of four counties on Thursday night, just hours after former President Donald Trump called for it. Similar reviews are underway in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

Speaking of those legislators from other states who visited the review, Patrick said: “They’re using it as justification and reasoning to promote this sort of activity in states across this country.”

Asked how he’d advise lawmakers beginning a ballot review in their states now, Boyer said he’d urge them to have bipartisan, expert-informed reviews.

“Trust the professionals. They’ve been doing it for decades. They know what they’re doing. Make sure that anybody you hire doesn’t already have their mind made up. We can’t actually call this an audit. This is a partisan investigation,” he said of the Arizona review. “Ironically, it’s going to sow even more distrust when the claim, if you can believe it, is they’re trying to create more confidence.”



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