Trump Goes On Pardon Spree For Republican Allies, Blackwater Guards

Just days before Christmas, President Donald Trump announced he had granted a wave of pardons to three corrupt former congressmen, two subjects of the Special Envoy's Russia investigation, and four Blackwater guards convicted in connection with the murder of Iraqi civilians.
The White House said Tuesday that the president will grant full pardons to 15 people and commute some or all of the sentences of five more. Among the pardons are former Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos and attorney Alex van der Zwaan, both of whom pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI as a result of Special Envoy Robert Mueller's longstanding investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election.
Papadopoulos, a 33-year-old energy lawyer, was the first to plead guilty over the Russia investigation in October 2017. The underqualified foreign policy adviser helped detonate the probe when he drunk and told an Australian diplomat that Russia had compromised information on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Although Papadopoulos initially worked with Müller after his arrest in the summer of 2017, he declined the consent obtained with the Office of the Special Representative in a book published last year, claiming he had been forced to defeat Trump.
Papadopoulos then told Reuters that he had instructed his lawyers to request a pardon from Trump. He served his 14-day sentence in a minimum security facility, which was eventually reduced to 12 days.
President Donald Trump once dismissed George Papadopoulos as a mere "coffee boy". On Tuesday he granted him mercy. (Photo: Olivier Douliery / Pool / Getty Images)
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Van der Zwaan was sentenced to 30 days in prison in April 2018 for lying about his communications with Rick Gates, an aide to former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. Manafort worked as a lobbyist for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine. Manafort was also convicted of a number of charges, including tax and banking fraud, in the Mueller investigation and was released for prisoners this year on concerns over coronavirus.
Democratic MPs Adam Schiff, California, and Jerry Nadler, NY, who led the indictment in Trump's impeachment trial last year, released statements Tuesday following the news of the pardons.
"President Trump's recent abuse of pardon protects a number of corrupt officials and a campaign employee from the consequences of their criminal behavior," said Nadler, according to a tweet from the House Judiciary Committee, of which he is chairman.
Trump also pardoned former Republican Reps Duncan Hunter (California) and Chris Collins (New York) and commuted the remaining sentence for Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas). Hunter pleaded guilty to a campaign funding violation last year and Collins was convicted of securities fraud. Stockman was convicted of several crimes, including fraud and money laundering.
Hunter was sentenced to 11 months in prison in March after pleading guilty of stealing campaign funds and spending the money on personal expenses such as his children's private schooling, his wife shopping, weekend trips with his lover, and drinking parties in Washington. After he was caught, Hunter ran for re-election to convince voters in his district that, as a staunch Trump supporter, he was the victim of a political witch hunt by liberal prosecutors.
Stockman was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2018 and sentenced to a $ 1 million refund after a jury found him guilty on 23 counts for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity, including personal expenses and political campaigning had paid. The former congressman was known for being aggressive against President Barack Obama, leaving his State of the Union address in 2014 and selling Obama “barf bags” as a fundraiser for campaigns.
Collins was the first member of Congress to endorse Trump's 2016 presidential bid. He was sentenced to 26 months in prison earlier this year after using his position as the largest shareholder in Australian biotech company Innate Immunotherapeutics to illegally give other shareholders an inside tip that a test of the company's flagship product had failed.
"Trump valued loyalty above all else - about the rule of law, about our democracy and certainly about justice," said Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, in his statement.
“If you lie to cover up the president, you will receive an apology. If you are a corrupt politician who supports Trump, you will receive an apology. If you murder civilians in war, you will receive an apology. "
The President also apologized to Dustin Heard, Evan Liberty, Paul Slough and Nicholas Slatten for their roles in the 2007 deadly shooting of dozen of unarmed Iraqi civilians in Nisour Square in Baghdad. A jury found Slatten guilty of murder in 2014 and convicted them three other former Blackwater security companies for voluntary manslaughter and the use of a machine gun to carry out a violent crime.
Slatten was sentenced to life in prison, while Heard, Liberty and Slough were sentenced to 30 years in prison in 2019.
"On appeal, the DC Circuit appeals court ruled that additional evidence should have been presented at Mr. Slatten's trial," the White House said in a statement. "In addition, prosecutors recently announced - more than 10 years after the incident - that the leading Iraqi investigator, whom prosecutors relied heavily on to verify that there were no insurgent victims and to gather evidence, may be even had connections to insurgent groups. "
Trump also apologized to two former border guards convicted of shooting someone crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean were sentenced to 11 and 12 years' imprisonment respectively in 2006 for shooting a person smuggling marijuana while trying to get into Texas.
"The US Supreme Court ruled that it is against a person's right to shoot them in the back while trying to escape if you don't know who they are and / or if you don't know they have a gun" said the US assistant attorney Debra Kanof told the court at the time. However, on his last day in office in 2009, President George W. Bush commuted Ramos and Compean's sentences to every two years in prison.
"Trump forgives, not on the basis of repentance, reparation or the interests of justice, but to reward his friends and political allies, to protect those who lie, to cover up him, to protect those who are guilty, Killing civilians and undermining an investigation that uncovered massive misconduct, "Schiff said.
"It turns out that when you elect a corrupt man to be President of the United States, you get corruption - and lots of it."
Mollie Reilly contributed to this report.
Related reporting
Trump was not completely exonerated by Müller - no matter what he and his allies claim
The mixed Müller report offers something for everyone in Congress
Trump suggests that Obama was involved in the Robert Mueller investigation
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.

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