In total, 29 people received clemency or commutation of their sentences. This Wednesday was a second round of pardons granted by Trump, after he announced the pardon of 15 other people on Tuesday. In the US, it is common for outgoing presidents to use their right to grant pardons, which erases previously issued or served sentences.
A pardon confers privileges such as restoring the convict’s right to vote or serve on a jury.
Commutation of sentences, meanwhile, means a reduction in prison time, but does not erase the sentence or imply innocence.
Who received the forgiveness?
Paul Manafort was convicted in 2018 as part of an investigation into an alleged Russian intervention in the 2016 US presidential election. Thanks to Trump’s pardon, Manafort will avoid serving most of the seven and a half years in prison to which he had been sentenced. Roger Stone was convicted in 2019 of lying under oath to lawmakers who were also investigating Russian interference in the 2016 elections. In July 2020, Trump commuted that sentence, a day before Stone began serving a three-year, four-month prison sentence.
Another pardon went to Charles Kushner, father of Jared Kushner, a White House counselor and husband of the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump. Charles Kushner is a real estate mogul who in 2004 was sentenced to two years in prison on charges of tax evasion, campaign finance offenses and witness tampering. The witness tampering charges stemmed from retaliation by Charles Kushner against his brother-in-law, who was cooperating with authorities against him.
Kushner hired a prostitute to seduce his brother-in-law, recorded the encounter, and sent it to his own sister. The first round of pardons On Tuesday, November 22, Trump had pardoned 15 people, including George Papadopoulos and Alex van der Zwaan, two convicted of lying to the FBI during the investigation of alleged Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections. Trump also pardoned three former congressmen and four security guards involved in a 2007 massacre in Iraq.
In late November, Trump had pardoned his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who had also pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI on the Russian plot. In addition, the president commuted part or the entire sentence to five other people. One of them was Philip Esformes, a millionaire executive linked to the Miami health sector. In 2019, Esformes was sentenced for playing a key role in one of the largest frauds of the Medicare program, which is part of the US public health system. Philip Esformes was convicted on charges that included paying bribes and money laundering. Although Esformes will be released, he will still have to pay US $ 44 million that were part of his sentence.
Lies to the FBI
George Papadopoulos and Alex van der Zwaan served 12 and 30 days in jail, respectively. Papadopoulos pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI about the timing of meetings with alleged Russian intermediaries in the run-up to the 2016 election. He was the first former Trump adviser to be arrested as part of the investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Russia’s alleged interference in those elections. Papadopoulos falsely claimed that he had met with two people with Russian connections before working with the Donald Trump campaign, but had actually met with them after joining the president’s election team. On Twitter, he thanked Trump and said that forgiveness meant “the world to me and my family.”
Thank you, Mr. President!!! This means the world to me and my family!
— George Papadopoulos (@GeorgePapa19) December 23, 2020
“Today’s pardon helps correct the evil that Mueller’s team inflicted on so many people,” the White House said in a statement about the pardons issued Tuesday.
Van der Zwaan also admitted to making false statements during the Mueller investigation.
Trump has repeatedly described the Mueller investigation as “a hoax.”
Former Republican legislators Chris Collins and Duncan Hunter were also pardoned Tuesday.
Collins, a former New York congressman, a fervent Trump supporter, pleaded guilty in 2019 to abusing financial insider information and had been serving a 26-month prison sentence.
In early 2020, Hunter, a former California congressman, was sentenced to 11 months in jail for embezzlement of campaign funds.
The four pardoned security guards had been convicted of opening fire in a shooting in Baghdad that left at least 14 Iraqi civilians dead and 17 injured.
The shootings caused international outrage and a debate about the role of American contractors in the Iraq war.
Guards Nicholas Slatten, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty, Dustin Heard said they had acted in self-defense in response to an insurgent attack.
The White House statement said the four men, former members of the military, “have a long history of service to the nation.”
The United Nations condemned this pardon on Wednesday.
So far, Trump has been less enthusiastic about his right to grant pardons than any of his recent predecessors, according to the Pew Research Center.
Barack Obama granted 212 pardons and 1,715 commutations, the most since President Harry Truman in the 1940s and 1950s.
By contrast, Trump has now barely passed 60 pardons.
However, Trump’s pardons have caused controversy because of their nature, according to the Pew.
Many of the recipients have had a “personal or political connection to the president,” according to a July analysis on the Lawfare blog.