Washington – US President Donald Trump pardoned his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, his former adviser Roger Stone and Charles Kushner, the father of his son-in-law.
These were the most prominent names in a batch of 26 pardons and three commutations revealed by the White House after Trump left for his private club in Palm Beach, Florida, for the holidays.
Also on the list released Wednesday was Margaret Hunter, the estranged wife of former Rep. Duncan Hunter, a Republican from California. Both had pleaded guilty to charges of embezzlement of campaign funds for personal expenses.
Hunter was pardoned by Trump on Tuesday, as part of a first wave of pre-Christmas clemency grants to 20 convicts, more than half of whom failed to meet Justice Department guidelines for consideration of pardons or commutations. Among them was a former Blackwater guard sentenced to life in prison for his role in the murder of 17 Iraqi civilians in 2007.
Of the 65 pardons and commutations Trump had granted prior to Wednesday, 60 have been for petitioners who had a personal connection to Trump or who helped his political goals, according to a tabulation by Harvard Law School professor Jack Goldsmith.
Although there are no similar figures for previous presidents, legal experts say those presidents awarded a much smaller percentage to those who could help them personally and politically.
The pardons for Manafort and Stone reflect Trump’s complaints about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, which he referred to as the “Russian collusion hoax.”
Manafort, 71, had been sentenced to seven and a half years in prison for his role in a multi-million dollar financial fraud scheme that lasted a decade for his work in the former Soviet Union.
Stone, 68, whose 40-month prison sentence had previously been commuted by Trump, has maintained his innocence and insisted there was misconduct by the prosecution. He was convicted of seven counts of lying to Congress, tampering with witnesses and obstructing the House investigation into possible Trump campaign coordination with Russia.
Kushner’s pardon has been one of the most anticipated of the Trump presidency. For the father-in-law of the President’s eldest daughter, Ivanka Trump, Kushner’s prison sentence was a terrible event in the life of his family.
Kushner, 66, pleaded guilty in 2004 to 16 counts of tax evasion, a single count of retaliating against a federal witness and one count of lying to the Federal Elections Commission. He served two years in prison before being released in 2006.
The witness against whom he was charged with retaliation was his brother-in-law, whose wife, Kushner’s sister, was cooperating with federal officials in a campaign finance investigation against Kushner. The man was accused of videotaping his brother-in-law with a prostitute and then sending it to his sister.
The case was prosecuted by then-federal prosecutor Chris Christie, an old friend of Trump who became Governor of New Jersey. Christie has recently criticized Trump’s efforts to claim widespread fraud in the 2020 election results without offering proof.
Jared Kushner worked on criminal justice reform efforts at the White House in part because he was scarred, allies said, by his father’s time behind bars. And he had a strained relationship with Christie for years, helping to banish him from his role in leading the transition almost immediately after Trump’s surprise election victory in 2016.
By pardoning Manafort and Stone, Trump continued to undermine the work of the Mueller investigation, which the President and his outgoing attorney general, William P. Barr, have attacked for the past two years. Trump had already pardoned or commuted the sentences of three others who had been indicted by Mueller’s office, including two on Tuesday.
This is the second round of presidential pardons granted by the president, days after leaving office, after pardoning 20 people yesterday, including two defendants in the Russia investigation, three Republican legislators convicted of corruption and contractors accused of a massacre of civilians in Iraq.
Additionally, Trump recently pardoned his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in the Russia investigation.