WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump issued 26 pardons on Wednesday night, including one to his son-in-law’s father, Jared Kushner, as well as to campaign manager Paul Manafort and Republican politician Roger Stone.
Trump’s recent pardon requests came a day after the president issued an initial wave of 15 pardons, a week after the electoral college confirmed he had lost the presidential election to Joe Biden.
“This is rotten to the core,” said Senator Ben Sasse, R-Nebraska, of the pardons announced Wednesday after Trump left the White House for his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida would have.
In his six-word statement, Sasse’s office said Trump had “exercised his constitutional power to grant pardons to another tranche of offenders such as Manafort and Stone who have openly and repeatedly violated the law and harmed Americans.”
The 70-year-old Manafort was among the first in Trump’s inner circle to bring charges brought by Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and Trump campaign.
Manafort, convicted of counseling crimes in Ukraine, thanked Trump on Twitter for the pardon that came months after his early release from more than seven years’ imprisonment over concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.
“Words cannot fully convey how grateful we are,” wrote the longtime Republican.
Senator Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, a close ally of Trump, said in March 2019 that “the Manafort pardon would be seen as a political disaster for the president.”
“It may come a day later after the policy changes that you might want to consider a motion from him like everyone else, but now it would be a disaster,” Graham said at the time.
Manhattan prosecutors are still trying to prosecute Manafort for New York State crimes of mortgage fraud, conspiracy, and forgery of business records.
A judge last December prevented DA Cyrus Vance Jr. from bringing this case to court because it would violate the double risk rules, which protect people from being prosecuted twice for the same conduct.
Vance is appealing this decision.
Speaking of Trump’s pardon on Wednesday night, his spokesman Danny Frost said: “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 pursue our appeals.”
Stone was convicted in November 2019 for lying under oath to Congress that he was pre-informed about the WikiLeaks disclosure of emails posted by Russians during the 2016 campaign by then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager and the Democratic National Committee had been hacked.
Earlier this year, Trump commuted his longtime friend Stone’s three-year and four-month sentences, less than a week before the Republican agent was due to begin his prison sentence.
In July, the White House named Stone “a victim of the Russian joke” and someone who “would be at medical risk” if he were detained.
Roger Stone, former campaign advisor to US President Donald Trump, arrives at federal court on February 20, 2020 in Washington, USA, where he is to be sentenced.
Leah Millis | Reuters
Real estate mogul Charles Kushner, whose son Jared Kushner is a senior White House adviser, was sentenced to two years in prison after pleading guilty in 2004 to 18 cases of tax evasion, witness manipulation and illegal campaign donations.
Among other things, Kushner had hired a prostitute to lure his own brother-in-law William Schulder into a sexual tryst that was secretly videotaped and then sent to the husband’s wife, Charles Kushner’s sister. The stunt was supposed to prevent Schulder from witnessing an investigation into Kushner for illegal campaign contributions.
Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a key ally of Trump’s persecution of Charles Kushner, said in an interview last year that Kushner committed “one of the most heinous, disgusting crimes I’ve prosecuted as a US attorney.”
Christie and Jared Kushner, who are married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump, had a cool relationship at best because of Christie’s law enforcement.
Christie was abruptly sacked as manager of Trump’s transition efforts after Trump won the 2016 election, a move widely viewed by Jared Kushner as lagging behind.
Charles Kushner and Jared Kushner attend an event at Lord & Taylor in New York City on March 28, 2012.
Patrick McMullan | Patrick McMullan | Getty Images
Announcing Kushner’s pardon, the White House said, “Since his conviction in 2006, Mr. Kushner has been serving important philanthropic organizations and causes such as Saint Barnabas Medical Center and United Cerebral Palsy.”
“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 giving false testimony to the FEC,” the White House said.
Trump also pardoned Margaret Hunter, the estranged wife of former MP Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., Who pleaded guilty to misusing campaign funds for personal expenses.
Duncan Hunter, convicted of the same crimes in the same case, had been pardoned by Trump the night before in a first wave of pardons from the president, who refuses to admit that he lost the presidential election to Biden.
Trump also commuted all or part of the criminal convictions of three people.
Two of them were Mark Shapiro and Irving Stitsky, who were each sentenced to 85 years in prison for their key roles in a real estate-related Ponzi program that defrauded more than 250 people of $ 23 million. The judge in Stitsky’s case called him a “die-hard cheater”.
A statement from White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany announcing the conversion of the remaining prison term for Shapiro and Stitsky stated that their sentences were more than ten times the imprisonment years offered to Shapiro in a plea he rejected , and nearly ten times the prison sentence, pleading for Stitsky.
McEnany’s testimony downplayed the gravity of their crimes, saying, “Messrs. Shapiro and Stitsky started a real estate investment company but hid their previous criminal convictions and installed a straw CEO. The company lost millions to its investors due to the 2008 financial crisis.”
Trump on Tuesday apologized to 15 people, including two men convicted as part of Special Envoy Robert Mueller’s investigation, 2016 campaign foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos, and Dutch lawyer Alex van der Zwaan, as well as four former Blackwater USA guards who The US convicted the killing of 14 unarmed Iraqi civilians in Baghdad in 2007.
Others who received pardons that evening included former GOP MP Chris Collins from Buffalo, New York, who illegally alerted his son to a failed drug trial in a pharmaceutical company and made the son and others share shares in the company prior to that information throwing became public.
Another pardon on Tuesday was Philip Esformes, owner of a health facility in South Florida, who was in the first few years of a 20-year prison sentence for prosecutors saying it was “the biggest healthcare fraud ever charged by the Justice Department.” “”
Prior to Tuesday, Trump had issued just 28 pardons – 13 less than his Tuesday and Wednesday total – making him the stingiest U.S. president of modern times in terms of executive mercy.
However, after losing the national referendum to Biden, Trump pardoned Michael Flynn, the retired Army Lieutenant General who served as his first national security adviser. Flynn pleaded guilty three years ago to lying to FBI agents about the nature of his talks with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, weeks before Trump was told in January 2017.
Flynn had been trying to reverse his admission of guilt since last year, and this year he received support for those efforts from the Justice Department, which in an extremely rare move called a federal judge to dismiss the case despite Flynn’s admission of his crime.
Trump’s other previous pardons included financial fraudster Michael Milken; Press Baron Conrad Black; former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arapaio, convicted of contempt of court; Lewis “Scooter” Libby, former advisor to ex-Vice President Dick Cheney on obstruction of justice; Conservative Gadfly Dinesh D’Souza for Campaign Submission Fraud; and Ex-New York Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik for Tax and Other Crimes.
Senator Chris Murphy, D-Conn., Wrote in a tweet Wednesday night: “Once a party allows pardon power to become a tool of criminal enterprise, its threat to democracy outweighs its usefulness as an instrument of justice.”
“It is time to remove the pardon power from the constitution,” added Murphy.
– Dan Mangan reported from New York.