Trump hands out pardons to aides caught in Mueller probe, Blackwater guards and Republican politicians

President has one month left in White House

Andrew Buncombe
Wednesday 23 December 2020 02:29 GMT
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Donald Trump has issued a fresh flurry of presidential pardons to aides who lied in the Russia probe, Blackwater guards and Republican politicians.

In what will seen by his critics as misuse use of his powers less than 30 days before he leaves the White House, it was announced the president had issued a total of 20 pardons and commutations. 

“Today, President Donald J Trump granted full pardons to 15 individuals and commuted part or all of the sentences of an additional five individuals,” the White House said in a statement issued on Tuesday evening.

Among those to receive a pardon were George Papadopoulos, who was a foreign policy advisor to Mr Trump’s 2016 campaign and who pleaded guilty to making false statements to federal officials during the investigation into alleged Russian interference in that year’s election by Robert Mueller.

Another to receive a full pardon was Alex van der Zwaan, a lawyer who pleaded guilty to the same charge in 2018.

The White House also announced Mr Trump had issued pardons to three former Republican members of Congress - Duncan Hunter of California, Chris Collins of New York, and Steve Stockman of Texas.

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The New York Times said Mr Hunter was about to to begin serving an 11-month sentence next month having pleaded guilty in 2019 to one charge of misusing campaign funds.

Mr Collins, who was among the first members of Congress to back Mr Trump’s candidacy, is serving a 26-month sentence after pleading guilty to charges of making false statements to the FBI and to conspiring to commit securities fraud.

Mr Stockman was convicted in 2018 on charges of fraud and money laundering and was serving a 10-year sentence, the newspaper said.

By pardoning Mr Papadopoulos, Mr Trump once again took aim at special counsel Mr Mueller's Russia probe, part of a broader effort by the president to undo the results of the investigation that yielded criminal charges against a half-dozen associates.

Last month, Mr Trump pardoned former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who had twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, and months earlier commuted the sentence of another associate, Roger Stone, days before he was to report to prison.

With 29 days until Joe Biden is sworn in as the nation’s 46th president, Mr Trump has been accused of showing little if any interest in governing, even as the death toll from the pandemic has raced past 320,000.

Reports suggest he does remain fixated, however, in trying to overturn Mr Biden’s victory, slow up the transition process and make use of his presidential powers.

Also to receive pardons were four former government contractors convicted in a 2007 massacre in Baghdad that left more than a dozen Iraqi civilians dead and caused an international uproar over the use of private security guards in a war zone.

Supporters of Nicholas Slatten, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard, the former contractors at Blackwater Worldwide, had lobbied for pardons, arguing that the men had been excessively punished in an investigation and prosecution they said was tainted by problems and withheld exculpatory evidence. All four were serving lengthy prison sentences.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press 

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