Trump pardons Manafort, Stone, father of Jared Kushner
President Donald Trump issued a provocative new pardon on Wednesday granting mercy to former campaign manager Paul Manafort, longtime advisor Roger Stone, and Charles Kushner, father of Trump's son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner.
Manafort and Stone's pardons undo the most important beliefs that Special Advisor Robert Mueller and his team have won. This is part of Trump's relentless drive to remove all traces of Mueller's work, including harsh criticism of Trump's willingness and encouragement for Russian aid in his 2016 campaign - even if it was no longer a conspiracy.
Stone was convicted in November 2019 for lied to the House Intelligence Committee about his efforts to contact WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and for threatening a witness linked to the investigation. Trump overturned Stone's verdict earlier this year, just before he was due to go to jail.
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Manafort was convicted of a number of financial crimes arising from lobbying overseas and was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison. After serving around two years behind bars, he was transferred from prison to house arrest in May for the coronavirus pandemic. Despite the Trump pardon, Manafort may not be entirely clear.
Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. has brought fraud charges against Manafort in a state court. However, the case was dismissed by a judicial and appeals court due to a strict double risk law in New York. A Vance spokesman said Wednesday that Trump's pardon for Manafort heightened the need for him to be tried in New York.
"This action underscores the urgent need to hold Mr. Manafort accountable for his alleged crimes against the New York people in our indictment, and we will continue to appeal," Vance spokesman Danny Frost said in a statement.
In particular, the Manafort pardon is likely not to be welcomed by some lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. The Senate's Republican-led Intelligence Committee released a damning report on Manafort's activities during the 2016 presidential election, including his close ties and collaboration with an associate, Konstantin Kilimnik, whom the panel identified as a Russian agent.
Senator Senator Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) Said the spate of Trump pardons - including those of Stone and Manafort - were "rotten to the core."
Mueller had previously identified Trump's overtures to Manafort as potential evidence of obstruction of justice and stated in his report that dangling pardons could constitute a crime. "During the Manafort prosecution and when the jury deliberated on his criminal case, the President publicly praised Manafort, said that Manafort was being treated unfairly and declined to rule out a pardon," noted Mueller's report. "After Manafort was convicted, the President called Manafort" a brave man "for refusing to" break "and said that" flipping "should almost be banned."
A former top prosecutor for Müller, Andrew Weissmann, complained bitterly on Wednesday evening about Trump's latest series of pardons. However, he said they could be used to obstruct justice in a possible future Trump prosecution.
"That's what you get when you give a mob boss a pardon," Weissman said on MSNBC. “We all know as we sit here and talk that the next shoe to be dropped is going to be an excuse for his family and for himself. ... The president is being prosecuted for obstructing the Mueller investigation, and we see the past few days have been essentially a confession. "
"Everything he does now can only be additional evidence of this obstacle," added Weissmann. "He could be hoisted on his own petards."
For his part, Manafort quickly took to Twitter Wednesday night to praise Trump for his decision.
"Mr. President, my family and I humbly thank you for the President's apologies that you have granted me. Words cannot fully convey how grateful we are," wrote Manafort, his first tweet in four years.
Stone welcomed the pardon and complained that he had been subjected to "a Soviet show trial on politically motivated allegations".
The longtime political provocateur also urged the president to extend grace to a key figure in the publication of hacked emails during the 2016 campaign, Julian Assange, and to the National Security Agency's leaker, Edward Snowden.
“Other good Americans have fallen victim to a corrupt system designed to serve power seekers and reward fraud and manipulation rather than sanity and justice. President Trump can deliver justice over the heinous machinations of evil pretenders in the guise of public service, ”Stone wrote.
Charles Kushner, a well-known New York real estate developer, was convicted by a federal jury in 2005 of illegal campaign contributions, tax evasion and witness manipulation - indictment of the then US. New Jersey Attorney Chris Christie. Kushner served a two-year prison sentence before returning to the real estate business.
Christie later became a supporter and adviser to Trump and directed the transition, but was expelled from an administrative post due to ongoing tension with Jared Kushner, which appeared to be due to persistent ill will over his father's entry into the harsh indictment a decade earlier Federal Prosecutor.
Trump's second wave of pre-Christmas pardons missed other people connected to the Russia investigation, such as Manafort's longtime deputy Rick Gates, who became a key witness to the collaboration with Müller's team but has since wanted to ingratiate himself with Trump's allies. Also not on the list is former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, who fell out of favor for a book after an interview about the Trump family.
Also absent from the last round: Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen, who spoke out against Trump and pleaded guilty of tax evasion and obstruction of Congress, has collaborated with prosecutors on several investigations.
Cohen complained bitterly on Twitter that he was left out.
"What happened tonight shows how broken the entire criminal justice system is," Cohen wrote. "Although I and my family are threatened by @POTUS @realDonaldTrump, I've still worked with a dozen federal / state agencies, Mueller, Congress ... and all of these criminals are receiving pardons. That's wrong! "
Trump's second set of politically charged pardons in two days also includes other figures with strong political ties. After pardoning three former GOP congressmen on Tuesday, the president again apologized to ex-rep. Mark Siljander (R-Mich) convicted of obstruction of justice and lack of registration as a foreign agent.
Trump also pardoned Rand Paul's longtime ally, Jesse Benton, who was indicted in 2015 while running a Paul Super PAC. Benton was accused of bribing an Iowa state senator in 2011 to support Paul's father, Ron Paul, who was then up for the presidential nomination. The younger Paul attacked the Justice Department's date of indictment, which came just before the GOP presidential debates, at a time when Paul was considered a candidate for the nomination.
While the list of pardons issued Tuesday included former MP Duncan Hunter, the new list includes Hunter's wife Margaret, who pleaded guilty in the same case to diverting campaign funds for personal use. Margaret Hunter filed for divorce last month.
A former senior administration official said no one should be surprised by the pardons, many of whom are in the president's orbit.
"Trump has always been a loyal guy," said the ex-adjutant, who asked not to be named. "I don't think he has taken care of or taken care of the criticism for the past four years."
Trump issued 94 pardons and commutations by Wednesday. Most of them went to people with political ties to the president or to lawyers in Trump's political circles.
More than 14,000 pardon and conversion requests are pending with the Justice Department, but most of the cases Trump approved have not made any standard process requests.
Anita Kumar and Evan Semones contributed to this report.
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