Tuesday saw a display of presidential power as President Donald Trump unleashed a flurry of pardons and commutations. Most of the clemencies went to associates and figures with ties to his administration.
Chief among the recipients include former Trump campaign staffer George Papadopoulos and former GOP congressmen Duncan Hunter and Chris Collins. Also, this batch includes British lawyer Alex van der Zwaan. Along with Papadopoulos, courts found them lying during the Mueller investigation. Four Blackwater military contractors and two border patrol agents also made the cut. In total, 15 people received pardons while 5 individuals received commutations for their sentences.
Trump pardoned two prominent personalities that pleaded guilty to lying during the Mueller investigation. Special prosecutor Robert Mueller conducted an inquiry from 2017 to 2019 on whether the Russians interfered in the US elections in 2016. It ended the investigation without getting proof that the President or his allies colluded with the Russians.
The first beneficiary is the 2016 Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos. He is a key individual in the Mueller investigation on illegal foreign lobbying efforts made on behalf of Trump by his adviser Paul Manafort. The counsel found Papadopoulos guilty of lying about his contact with people connected to Russia. His lawyer said he lied in order to get consideration for an administration job in the White House. Instead, he got two weeks in prison in 2018.
The other individual is Alex Van der Zwaan, a son0in0law of Ukrainian billionaire German Khan. The courts also found Van der Zwaan guilty of lying. He spent a month in jail then underwent deportation back to Europe in 2018.
Two former Republican congressmen also received pardons this week, California’s Duncan Hunter and New York’s Chris Collins. Hunter, sentenced earlier this year to 11 months in prison and three years of supervision, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to misuse campaign funds of around $200,000. Without the pardon, his sentence would start in January 2021. Hunter secured his pardon via recommendation from many members of Congress.
Collins already started serving his 26-month sentence last October. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit securities fraud and one count of making a false statement. In 2017, Collins shared failed trial results for a drug from Innate Immunotherapeutics Limited, where the senior Collins was a board member. Cameron Collins, the son, managed to avoid over $750,000 in losses due to the information. When asked about it, the elder Collins denied talking to his son. He resigned from Congress last year, a month before he started his incarceration.
Four Blackwater contractors: Nicholas Slatten, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty, and Dustin Heard, received their pardons as well. In 2014, the men were found responsible for opening fire in an Iraqi traffic circle and killing 17 people. Prosecutors said the four illegally used sniper fire, machine guns, and grenade launchers to kill innocent men, women, and children. The courts found 14 of the 17 deaths unjustified based on rules of engagements for defense contractors.
Blackwater insisted that the men’s convoy were attacked during the incident, and that witness accounts consisted of fabricated accounts. However, other witnesses came forward to say that the attacks on the civilians were unprovoked. Endorsers for the pardons were some members of Congress and Pete Hegseth, a conservative Fox News host, and friend of the President. Blackwater is private security founded by Erik Prince, the brother of Betsy De Vos, Trump’s education secretary.
Border Patrol Agents
Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean also received pardons for their 11 and 12-year prison sentences. The courts convicted them of shooting an unarmed illegal immigrant at the El Paso border in 2006. The two claimed Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila, resisted arrest, and brandished a gun.
The court convicted Ramos and Compean of assault with a dangerous weapon, lying about the incident, and violating Aldrete-Davila’s Fourth Amendment rights. Ironically, Aldrete-Davila himself got arrested in 2007 on charges of bringing 750 pounds of marijuana into the US. The case polarized the community with border control supporters siding with the agents, while civil liberties groups with Aldrete-Davila.
Other notable individuals granted a full pardon include Alfonso Costa, a Pittsburgh dentist that pleaded guilty to one count of healthcare fraud related to false billing. Also, Alfred Lee Crum, who pleaded guilty in 1952 at age 19 in helping distill illegal moonshine in Oklahoma.
Meanwhile, Trump also commuted the sentence of former Texas Republican congressman Steve Stockman, who is in jail for misuse of charitable funds. Stockman served more than two years of his 10-year sentence and received a commutation of his sentence due to his old age. Stockman is 64.
Watch the CNBC where Kayla Tausche reported President Trump issued pardons for former campaign aide George Papadopoulos, ex-lawmakers Chris Collins and Duncan Hunter, and others:
Do you approve of presidential pardons? Do you think it helps individuals in need of a last resort? Or, do you think it only benefits those with connections? Let us know what you think about pardons and the people who receive them. Share with us your thoughts in the comment section below.