- George Papadopoulos had pleaded guilty to lying to FBI officials about his contacts with senior Russian officials.
- The pardons also include former Republican Reps Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and Chris Collins (R-NY).
- Former presidents, such as Democrats Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, also used the right to issue pardons up to their last days in office.
As the end of his term in office nears, outgoing US President, Donald Trump pardoned another fifteen people. Among the pardoned are former campaign advisor George Papadopoulos and Dutch lawyer Alex van der Zwaan, convicted of crimes in the course of the Russia investigation, and two former Republican members of Congress.
Mr. Papadopoulos had pleaded guilty to lying to FBI officials about his contacts with senior Russian officials. President Trump granted his former campaign advisor a full pardon.
The Russia investigation, led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, had investigated whether there had been agreements between the Trump camp and Russia in the 2016 election campaign. As a result of Mr. Mueller’s investigation, Mr. Papadopoulos was sentenced to two weeks in prison.
“Today’s pardon helps correct the wrong that Mueller’s team inflicted on so many people,” the White House said in a statement.
Mr. van der Zwaan, who was also convicted in the course of the Russia investigation, was also pardoned by President Trump. At the end of November, President Trump had already pardoned his former National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn. Trump regularly castigated the Russia investigation as a “witch hunt.”
Criticism of Pardons for Former Members of Congress
Trump pardoned a total of fifteen people Tuesday and commuted some of the sentences of five other people. Some of the pardons were for those guilty of securities fraud, false testimony, misuse of campaign funds and charities, or trafficking in marijuana.
The pardons also include former Republican Reps Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and Chris Collins (R-NY). Mr. Collins was the first member of the US Congress to support Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy. He had confessed to helping his son and others with inside knowledge avoid $800,000 in losses on the stock market. For this, he was sentenced to two years and two months in prison.
Mr. Hunter, also an early supporter of President Trump, was sentenced to 11 months’ imprisonment after pleading guilty to stealing campaign funds. He spent the money on private trips and his daughter’s birthday party. President Trump’s press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, said the pardons for Collins and Hunter came at “requests from many members of Congress.”
The Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), criticized the move and spoke of abuse of power. President Trump used the instrument of pardon to reward his friends and political allies and to protect those “who lie to cover him,” Rep. Schiff said.
Rep. Schiff is on record for having led the impeachment indictment against President Trump earlier this year.
Further Pardons Expected
President Trump is thus using his power in the final weeks of his tenure to reward loyal supporters and others whom he believes have been wronged by a legal system that he believes is biased against him and his allies.
Observers expect President Trump to issue further pardons before election winner Joe Biden takes office on January 20, including possibly for members of his own family.
Former presidents, such as Democrats Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, also used the right to issue pardons up to their last days in office. Even then, there were always controversial cases.