Nearly 90 per cent of Trump’s pardons went to friends or political aides, professor says

‘Like his past pardons, most if not all of them appear to be based on insider recommendations’

Louise Hall
Wednesday 23 December 2020 16:02 GMT
Former attorney slams Trump for pardoning war criminals
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Nearly 90 per cent of Donald Trump’s pardons and commutations before this week have gone to people who have helped him or his political associates, a Harvard professor has said.

On Tuesday, Mr Trump granted a flurry of new presidential pardons to aides who lied in the Russia probe, Blackwater guards, and Republican politicians.

The president issued a total of 20 pardons and commutations on the day, less than 30 days before he leaves the White House, bringing the total in his presidency to 75.

In light of the news, a tabulation by the Harvard Law School professor Jack Goldsmith revealed of the 45 pardons or commutations carried out before Tuesday, 88 per cent went to people with personal ties to the president or those who helped him politically.

Mr Goldsmith told The New York Times on Tuesday that the orders “continue Trump’s unprecedented pattern of issuing self-serving pardons and commutations that advance his personal interests, reward friends, seek retribution against enemies, or gratify political constituencies.”

“Like his past pardons, most if not all of them appear to be based on insider recommendations rather than normal Justice Department vetting process,” he said.

The pattern apparently replicated itself in the president’s most recent orders, with a number of those granted being for past associates or Republican allies.

George Papadopoulos and Alex van der Zwaan, who both pleaded guilty to making false statements to federal officials during the Mueller investigation, were both granted pardons.

Mr Papadopoulos acted as foreign policy advisor to Mr Trump’s 2016 campaign and sparked the FBI investigation into Russia’s attempts to disrupt the 2016 election.

Mr Trump’s nullification of convictions in the inquiry reflects his larger attempts to undermine the probe, which brought criminal charges against a half-dozen associates.

Three former Republican members of Congress were also granted clemency: Duncan Hunter of California, Chris Collins of New York, and Steve Stockman of Texas.

The pardoned Blackwater contractors, who were convicted in a 2007 massacre in Baghdad that left more than a dozen Iraqi civilians dead, also have direct links to two of Mr Trump’s close allies, The Times reported.

However, a number of other people pardoned by Mr Trump on Tuesday did not have any direct political or personal connection to the president.

These included a man who pleaded guilty to helping a relative illegally distill moonshine in Oklahoma and a man sentenced to 55 years’ imprisonment for selling marijuana and carrying a handgun in the course of dealing, Reuters reported.

The pardons come as Mr Trump continues to fiercely wield his presidential powers during his final days in office, as he continues to refuse to concede the election to President-elect Joe Biden.

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