New round of Trump forgiveness benefits Manafort, other allies

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Donald Trump pardoned more than two dozen people, including former campaign president Paul Manafort and Charles Kushner, father of his son-in-law, in the latest wave of kindness for the benefit of longtime employees and supporters.

The actions, in Trump’s declining time in the White House, bring nearly 50 the number of people the president has forgiven in the past week. The list from the last two days includes not only several people convicted in the investigation of the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, but also allies from Congress and other criminals whose causes were advocated by friends.

Pardons are common in the last stretch of a president’s term, the recipients are largely dependent on the individual whims of the country’s CEO. Throughout his administration, Trump has pushed aside the Obama administration’s conventions, as pardons were largely reserved for drug offenders unknown to the public, and instead bestowed kindness on high-profile contacts and employees who were key figures in a study that directly related to Hi M.

Even members of the president’s own party raised eyebrows, with Republican Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska issuing a brief statement saying, “This is rotten to the core.”

The name Wednesday for Manafort and Roger Stone, who months earlier had his sentence overturned by Trump, was particularly notable and underscored the president’s desire to abolish the findings and legacy of Special Adviser Robert Mueller’s Russia inquiry. He has now pardoned four people convicted in the investigation, including former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and Campaign Adviser George Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

“The pardons from this president are what you would expect to receive if you gave the power of pardon to a mob boss,” tweeted Andrew Weissmann, a Mueller team member who helped prosecute Manafort.

Manafort, who led Trump’s campaign for a crucial period in 2016 before being thrown out of his ties to Ukraine, was among the first people charged as part of Mueller’s investigation into the ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. He was later sentenced to more than seven years in prison for financial crimes in connection with his political consulting work in Ukraine, but was released to home detention last spring due to coronavirus problems in the federal prison system.

Although the accusations against Manafort did not concern the central focal point of Mueller’s mandate – whether the Trump campaign and Russia collaborated to tip the election – he was nonetheless a key role in the investigation.

His close relationship with a man with whom U.S. officials have linked Russian intelligence, with whom he shared internal poll data for the campaign, attracted particular control during the investigation, though Mueller never accused Manafort or any other Trump associate of conspiring with Russia.

In a series of tweets, Manafort thanked Trump and paid tribute to the outgoing president, declaring that history would show that he had achieved more than any of his predecessors.

Trump did not pardon Manafort’s deputy Rick Gates, who last year was sentenced to 45 days in jail after extensive cooperation with prosecutors or former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, who pleaded guilty to campaign financing crimes related to his efforts to buy women’s silence, saying that they had sexual relations with Trump. Both were also convicted in the Mueller probe.

Meanwhile, prosecutors in New York have tried to get the state’s Supreme Court to revive state mortgage applications against Manafort after a lower court dismissed them on double jeopardy. A spokesman for District Attorney Cy Vance said the pardon “underscores the urgent need to hold Mr. Manafort accountable for his crimes against the people of New York.”

Manafort and Stone are hardly conventional recipients of forgiveness, in part because both were scolded by judges for effectively clearing their noses at the criminal justice system when their cases were brought. Manafort was accused of manipulating witnesses even after he was indicted and was accused by prosecutors of lying while trying to earn credit for co-operation.

Stone, who was convicted of lying to Congress about his efforts to gain insider knowledge about the release of WikiLeaks of Russian-hacked Democratic emails during the 2016 campaign, was also censored by a judge for his posts on social media.

In a statement on Wednesday, Stone thanked Trump, claiming he had been subjected to a “Soviet-style trial on politically motivated charges.”

Kushner is the father of Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and a wealthy property administrator who several years ago pleaded guilty to tax evasion and illegal campaign donations. Trump and the elderly Kushner knew each other from real estate circles, and their children were married in 2009.

Prosecutors claim that after Kushner discovered that his brother-in-law was cooperating with the authorities, he hatched a revenge and intimidation scheme. They say he hired a prostitute to lure his brother-in-law and then arranged a secret recording of the meeting in a motel room in New Jersey sent to his own sister, the man’s wife.

The former government of New Jersey, Chris Christie, has called it “one of the most heinous, heinous crimes” he has ever prosecuted as a U.S. lawyer.

Trump’s legally troubled allies were not the only recipients of mercy. The list of 29 recipients included people whose plea for forgiveness has been promoted by people who support the president throughout his tenure, including former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy and Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky.

One recipient was Topeka Sam, whose case was promoted by Alice Johnson, a criminal defense attorney who was pardoned by Trump and who appeared in a Super Bowl ad for him and at the Republican National Convention.

“Miss Sam’s life is a story of redemption,” the White House said in its release, praising her for helping other women in need.

Other forgiveness granted included a former Florida county commissioner convicted of taking gifts from people doing business with the county and a community leader in Kentucky convicted of federal drug crimes.


Associated Press authors Jill Colvin of Palm Beach, Florida and Michael Balsamo of Washington contributed to this report.