President Donald Trump has pardoned 15 people, including a pair of congressional Republicans who were strong and early supporters, a 2016 campaign official ensnared in the now-debunked Mueller probe, and former government contractors convicted in a 2007 shooting in Baghdad.
Trump’s actions in his final weeks in office show a president who is wielding his executive power to reward those he believes have been wronged by a legal system he sees as biased against him and his allies. On Tuesday, Trump issued the pardons — not an unusual act for an outgoing president — and continued his complaints against the current 2020 election results.[Sponsored] This Food Grows Cancerous Tumors – Do Not Eat It
Trump is likely to issue more pardons before he leaves office. He and his allies have discussed a range of other possibilities, including reports by the mainstream media he’ll issue pardons to members of Trump’s family and his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.
Those pardoned on Tuesday included former Republican Reps. Duncan Hunter of California and Chris Collins of New York, two of the earliest GOP lawmakers to back Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. Trump also commuted the sentences of five other people, including former Rep. Steve Stockman of Texas.
Collins, the first member of Congress to endorse Trump to be president, was sentenced to two years and two months in federal prison after admitting he helped his son and others dodge $800,000 in stock market losses when he learned that a drug trial by a small pharmaceutical company had failed.
Hunter was sentenced to 11 months in prison after pleading guilty to stealing campaign funds and spending the money on everything from outings with friends to his daughter’s birthday party.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the pardons for Hunter and Collins were granted after “the request of many members of Congress.” She noted that Hunter served the nation in the U.S. Marines and saw combat in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
In the group announced Tuesday night were four former government contractors convicted in a 2007 shooting in Baghdad that left more than a dozen Iraqi civilians dead and caused an international uproar over the use of private security guards in a war zone.
Supporters of Nicholas Slatten, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty, and Dustin Heard, the former contractors at Blackwater Worldwide, had lobbied for pardons, arguing that the men had been excessively punished in an investigation and prosecution they said was tainted by problems and withheld exculpatory evidence.
All four were serving lengthy prison sentences after what was a complex case.
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Trump also announced pardons for two people entangled in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. One was for 2016 campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about a conversation in which he learned that Russia had dirt on Trump’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. The president also pardoned Alex van der Zwaan, a Dutch lawyer who was sentenced to 30 days in prison for lying to investigators.
Van der Zwaan and Papadopoulos are the third and fourth Mueller probe defendants granted clemency. By pardoning them, Trump made a statement in clearing names wrapped up in Mueller’s investigation that not only produced obstruction of justice and tax fraud convictions.
The pardons drew criticism from top Democrats. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said the president was abusing his power.
“Trump is doling out pardons, not on the basis of repentance, restitution or the interests of justice, but to reward his friends and political allies, to protect those who lie to cover up him, to shelter those guilty of killing civilians, and to undermine an investigation that uncovered massive wrongdoing,” Schiff said.
Schiff failed to mention that Trump’s pardon rate is much lower compared to presidents of the past.
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Trump has granted about 2% of requested pardons in his single term in office — just 27 before Tuesday’s announcement. By comparison, Barack Obama granted 212 or 6%, and George W. Bush granted about 7%, or 189. George H.W. Bush, another one-term president, granted 10% of requests.
Also among those pardoned by Trump was Phil Lyman, a Utah state representative who led an ATV protest through restricted federal lands.
Lyman was serving as a Utah county commissioner in 2014 when he led about 50 ATV riders in a canyon home to Native American cliff dwellings that officials closed to motorized traffic. The ride occurred amid a movement in the West pushing back against federal control of large swaths of land and came in the wake of an armed confrontation Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy had with Bureau of Land Management over grazing fees.
Lyman spent 10 days in prison and was ordered to pay nearly $96,000 in restitution. The Trump administration in 2017 lifted a ban on motorized vehicles in parts of the canyon but left restrictions in place through other areas where Lyman led his ride.
Two former U.S. Border Patrol agents were also pardoned, Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, convicted of shooting and wounding a Mexican drug smuggler near El Paso, Texas, in 2005.
Others on the list included a Pittsburgh dentist who pleaded guilty to health care fraud, two women convicted of drug crimes, and Alfred Lee Crum, now 89, who pleaded guilty in 1952 — when he was 19 — over helping his wife’s uncle illegally distill moonshine.
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Crum served three years of probation and paid a $250 fine. The White House said Crum has maintained a clean record and a strong marriage for nearly 70 years, attended the same church for 60 years, raised four children, and regularly participated in charity fundraising events.
The Associated Press contributed to this article