President Trump has begun granting pardons in his final days in office, including pardons for former congressmen Duncan Hunter and Chris Collins, as well as former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos and Alex van der Zwaan, convicted as a part of the Russia investigation.
They were four of the 15 pardons the White House announced Tuesday night, as the president weighs pardons for allies and strangers alike in the final days of his term as commander in chief.
Collins was the first member of the House to endorse Mr. Trump, and had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit securities fraud and lying to law enforcement officials over an illegal stock tip he gave his son. Hunter pleaded guilty to misusing campaign funds, including to pay for vacations, and claimed the whole thing was a "witch hunt."
Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI about contacts he had with Russian agents while he was on the Trump campaign's payroll. Van der Zwaan pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to investigators regarding questions of Russian interference.
Mr. Trump also commuted the sentence of Steve Stockman, a former congressman who pleaded guilty to counts of wire fraud, mail fraud and money laundering.
The president pardoned others on Tuesday, too, including Alfonso Costa, a dentist who pleaded guilty to health care fraud, and Alfred Lee Crum, who pleaded guilty in 1952 to helping a relative illegally distill moonshine.
Four former government contractors for Blackwater Worldwide were also pardoned for a 2007 shooting in Baghdad that killed more than a dozen Iraqi civilians. The four Blackwater contractors — Nicholas Slatten, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard — were serving lengthy prison sentences.
Congressman Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, blasted Mr. Trump's use of the pardon.
"In innumerable ways, Donald Trump has abused the power of his office, and now he does so again with the pardon power," Schiff wrote in a statement. "Trump is doling out pardons, not on the basis of repentance, restitution or the interests of justice, but to reward his friends and political allies, to protect those who lie to cover up him, to shelter those guilty of killing civilians, and to undermine an investigation that uncovered massive wrongdoing."
"Trump has valued loyalty above all else —above the rule of law, above our democracy, and certainly above justice.
"If you lie to cover up for the President, you get a pardon. If you are a corrupt politician who endorsed Trump, you get a pardon. If you murder civilians while at war, you get a pardon.
"It goes to show, if you elect a corrupt man as President of the United States, you get corruption — and lots of it."
Mr. Trump's pardons on Tuesday bring the total he's granted so far to 44. That number is only expected to grow as the president's time in office draws to a close. Recently, Mr. Trump also pardoned Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser who lied to the FBI about his Russian contacts.
First published on December 22, 2020 / 7:40 PM
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