‘Rotten to the core’: Anger as Trump pardons Roger Stone, Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner’s father
Paul Manafort was the first former Trump aide to appear on trial for the Mueller probe
The White House on Wednesday announced a full apology for another group of allies and friends of Donald Trump, including former campaign advisors Roger Stone and Paul Manafort, and Charles Kushner, father of Trump's son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner.
The first two men were charged with Mueller's investigation into Russia's interference in US politics and did not cooperate with the special adviser.
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In 2019, Mr. Stone, a longtime Republican operational and informal adviser during the presidential campaign, was convicted on seven counts of lied to Congress about communicating with WikiLeaks, manipulated witnesses, and the judiciary in an investigation by the House Intelligence Committee into the 2016 the President's campaign had hampered. Earlier this year, the President granted mercy to Mr. Stone and let him avoid prison time.
Meanwhile, Mr. Manafort, who briefly led the Trump campaign, pleaded guilty to tax and financial fraud over his work for former pro-Russian President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych.
The former president's campaign manager, 71, spent two years in prison, including some time in solitary confinement, before being released in May on coronavirus concerns. He thanked the president in an emotional announcement on Twitter.
"Mr. President, my family and I humbly thank you for the President's apology that you have granted me," wrote Mr. Manafort. "Words cannot fully convey our gratitude."
Despite the meticulously detailed evidence of unsavory contacts between Trump's inner circle and Russia contained in the 448-page Mueller report, the White House used the pardon to continue raging against the investigation as a “Russian collusion fraud”.
"As a result of the apparent prosecution violation, Mr. Manafort has experienced years of unfair treatment and is one of the most prominent victims of what is possibly the greatest witch hunt in American history," the White House press secretary's office wrote in a statement announcing the pardons. Regarding Mr. Stone, he added, "The pardon will help redress the injustices he was subjected to as a result of the Mueller investigation."
Michael Cohen, the former lawyer and fixer for the president who the Mueller team accused in 2018 of lying about a Trump Tower real estate project in Russia, complained that he was never pardoned despite having worked with various agencies.
“What happened tonight shows how broken the entire criminal justice system is. Even though I and my family are threatened by @POTUS @realDonaldTrump, I have still worked with a dozen federal / state agencies, Mueller, Congress ... and all of these criminals are receiving pardons. That's wrong! "He wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.
Both party lawmakers and ethics experts were dismayed at how the president used the pardon to aid his close associates.
"This is just the tip of the iceberg of the damage Donald Trump will do to our democracy in his remaining days as president," wrote Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, on Twitter. "Every Senate Republican who has facilitated his escalating abuse of power over the past 4 years is responsible for it."
Regarding the pardon for former Trump advisors, Ben Sasse, a Republican Senator from Nebraska, told the Wall Street Journal, "This is rotten to the core."
Ethics groups also criticized the move.
"Trump turned an instrument of mercy and justice into another way for him to be corrupt," wrote Citizens for Responsible Ethics in Washington, an ethics group that regularly challenges the president.
But it wasn't just about "Russiagate".
The president also pardoned Charles Kushner, a multi-million dollar east coast real estate developer and father of Jared, who pleaded guilty to 18 cases of tax evasion, witness manipulation and illegal campaign donations in 2004.
The charges stemmed from a tortuous, violent feud between Charles and his brother-in-law William Schulder, a former employee who witnessed federal attorneys investigating the elderly Mr. Kushner for illegal campaign contributions.
As the feud escalated, Charles hired a prostitute to seduce Schulder in a New Jersey motel room and then sent a tape of the rendezvous to Esther Kushner, Charles' sister and debtor's wife, who turned the tape over to authorities.
Former New Jersey governor and ally of President Chris Christie, who was prosecuting the case as a US attorney, described the scandal as "one of the most heinous, disgusting crimes" he had ever seen.
Mr Kushner was once a prominent Democratic political fundraiser but gave $ 100,000 to a pro-Trump super PAC in 2015.
The White House praised his community service when it announced its pardon.
"Since his conviction in 2006, Mr. Kushner has been dedicated to key philanthropic organizations and causes such as Saint Barnabas Medical Center and United Cerebral Palsy," the statement said. "These record of reform and charity overshadow Mr. Kushner's conviction and two-year prison sentence for filing false tax returns, retaliating with witnesses and making false statements to the FEC."
In total, the White House announced 26 apologies in this new round of action. Other notable recipients were the wife of former GOP Congressman Duncan Hunter, who pleaded guilty in 2019 to using campaign funds for personal use.
The announcements follow a series of pardons Tuesday that included four former Blackwater private security firms convicted of murder and other charges for their role in a 2007 massacre in Iraq that killed at least 14 civilians.
Most of the pardons have personal ties with the president, according to Professor Jack Goldsmith of Harvard Law School, who noted that of the 65 pardons or commutations issued before Wednesday, 60 have a personal line or prefer to be with the president connect to.
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