Trump pardons allies, crooks and Kushner’s father, sparking fresh outrage

Source: AFP Published: 2020/12/24 17:43:39

US President Donald Trump issued new pardons Wednesday for allies including the father of his son-in-law Jared Kushner and two confidants caught up in the probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election that brought him to power. 

File photo taken on September 3 shows US President Donald Trump participating in a campaign rally in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, the US.Photo: Xinhua

The pardons added to a long list he has granted in his waning days in office and sparked fresh outrage.

Among those pardoned were Charles Kushner, who pleaded guilty to charges including tax evasion and witness tampering in 2004, as well as former campaign manager Paul Manafort and longtime adviser Roger Stone.

The trio were among 26 people pardoned and three who had all or part of their sentences commuted by Trump on Wednesday.

They come only a day after Trump pardoned another 15 people and commuted sentences for five, including corrupt Republican congressmen and security guards convicted of killing 14 civilians in a 2007 Baghdad massacre. 

Trump's pardon of Manafort, who was at the heart of the investigation by special prosecutor Robert Mueller into allegations of Russian interference in the election four years ago, triggered fury that Trump was trying to erase the probe he has always described as a "witch hunt."

Democratic congressman Adam Schiff, who heads the House intelligence committee, said in a tweet that "during the Mueller investigation, Trump's lawyer floated a pardon to Manafort. Manafort withdrew his cooperation with prosecutors, lied, was convicted and then Trump praised him for not 'ratting.' Trump's pardon now completes the corrupt scheme."

Manafort himself took to Twitter, saying, "You truly did 'Make America Great Again.' God Bless you & your family. I wish you a Merry Christmas & many good wishes for the coming years."

David Axelrod, a political commentator and former aide to president Barack Obama, said of the move, "Everyone saw this raw sewage dump of pardons and commutations for @realDonaldTrump apparatchiks and loyalists coming ... Yet the spectacle is still appalling."

Republican Senator Ben Sasse, who has publicly spoken out against Trump, said simply, "This is rotten to the core."

Earlier in the day, Iraqis had expressed outrage and sadness after Trump delivered pardons for the four Blackwater security contractors who were convicted of murder and manslaughter six years ago for the Nisur Square massacre.

The four, all former US servicemen, opened fire unprovoked on the crowded square in 2007, leaving at least 14 civilians dead - though Iraqi authorities put the toll as high as 17 - while wounding dozens more and deeply souring US-Iraqi relations. 

"I knew we'd never get justice," Fares Saadi, the Iraqi police officer who led the investigations, told AFP.

Retired US general Mark Hertling, who served in Iraq, called the Blackwater pardon "egregious and disgusting."

"This was a craven war crime that resulted in the death of 17 Iraqi civilians. Shame on you Mr President," Hertling tweeted, using the higher death toll.
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