- Mar 3, 2020
President Donald Trump issued a second round of pardons Wednesday, just weeks before his time in the White House comes to a close.
President Donald Trump on Wednesday issued a second batch of pardons in as many days, this time forgiving the crimes of two former associates, Paul Manafort and Roger Stone, as well as Charles Kushner, the father of Trump's son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner.
The latest list grants 26 full pardons and commutes all or part of the sentence of three additional individuals, after Trump on Tuesday issued 15 pardons and five commutations.
Wednesday's list also includes several people recommended by former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who was part of Trump's impeachment defense team, and Ike Perlmutter, the former CEO of Marvel Entertainment and a member of the president's private Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, according to a statement from the White House.
Less than 24 hours before Wednesday's announcement, Trump granted pardons to a group that included two former Republican members of Congress, two targets of special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, and four military contractors convicted in the 2007 killing of more than a dozen unarmed Iraqi civilians -- a move that could upend U.S. policy in the region.
In past administrations, late-term pardons have hardly been uncommon. President Barack Obama, for example, in his final months in office granted hundreds of pardons, mostly to those who committed nonviolent drug-related offenses.
But the nature of Trump's controversial executive actions -- which have overwhelmingly benefitted his friends and loyalists -- have attracted the ire of his administration's political foes.
Ahead of this week's announcements, Trump had already granted pardons to several close friends and political backers over the course of his presidency. Earlier this year, the president pardoned Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser, and commuted the sentence of Roger Stone, a longtime friend and confidant -- both of whom were indicted by Mueller in the Russia probe.
Past presidents have also taken advantage of sweeping powers to pardon friends and associates in their final weeks in office. President George H.W. Bush, for example, issued pardons to several Reagan-era officials caught up in the Iran-Contra scandal prior to his departure from office. On his last day in office, President Bill Clinton granted clemency to Marc Rich, a fugitive businessman whose ex-wife was a longtime Clinton donor.
But critics say Trump has gone further than his predecessors. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a frequent critic of the Trump administration, accused the president on Tuesday night of "doling out pardons, not on the basis of repentance, restitution or the interests of justice, but to reward his friends and political allies."
Here are some of the notable pardons on Wednesday's list:
Former Trump 2016 campaign chairman Paul Manafort received the toughest sentence of any Trump associate entangled in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Manafort, who has a long roster of foreign clients and has worked for many Republican presidential candidates -- including George H. W. Bush and Ronald Reagan -- was charged and found guilty of multiple counts of false income tax returns, failure to file reports of foreign bank accounts, and bank fraud related to activity from before he joined the Trump campaign. He was sentenced by a federal judge to seven years but was released to home confinement in early 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Manafort joined the Trump campaign in March 2016 as the campaign's convention manager. He served as Trump's campaign chairman from May 2016 until he resigned in August 2016.
"Mr. President, my family and I humbly thank you for the Presidential Pardon that you bestowed on me today. Words cannot adequately convey how grateful we are," Manafort said in a statement following the pardon. "History will record that your Presidency accomplished more in 4 years than any of your modern-day predecessors. You truly did 'Make America Great Again.'"
Veteran GOP political operative Roger Stone -- a decades-long friend and former campaign adviser to Donald Trump -- had his 40-month prison sentence commuted in July by the president, days before he was scheduled to report to a federal penitentiary. The self-described political "dirty trickster" was charged and convicted on a seven-count indictment of obstructing justice, witness tampering and multiple counts of lying to Congress in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Trump's full pardon nullifies Stone's conviction entirely.
"On behalf of my family and myself, I wish to praise God and give my deepest thanks to President Donald J. Trump for his extraordinary act of justice in issuing me a presidential pardon, " Stone said in a statement following the announcement.
Charles Kushner, the father of President Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, pleaded guilty in 2005 to tax evasion, witness tampering and making illegal campaign contributions. He was sentenced to two years in prison but served only 14 months of that term. A nasty argument between Charles Kushner and his brother Murray led to charges of violations of campaign-finance rules as part of the same case. That led prosecutors to open an investigation into Charles' conduct. Charles then tried to keep his sister from cooperating with prosecutors by setting up her husband with a prostitute, recording the encounter, and then threatening her with it. But that backfired when the sister handed over the tape. The elder Kushner had been one of the New York-New Jersey area's leading Democratic donors and a key backroom political player in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Former California Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter's ex-wife Margaret cooperated with the U.S. Attorney's office in the prosecution of her husband on charges that he misused $250,000 in campaign donations for personal expenses such as family vacations and oral surgeries. Hunter, who was sentenced to 11 months in prison in March, was pardoned by Trump on Tuesday.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Phil Halpern, who helped prosecute Hunter, blasted Trump following Tuesday's announcement, saying, "As a person who cares about equality, I'm disgusted by Trump's apparent failure to pardon Hunter's former wife, Margaret -- who admitted her guilt and cooperated with the United States to bring Hunter to justice."
Jesse Benton is a Kentucky political operative who married into the family of Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and was convicted in 2016 on charges tied to campaign finance violations. Benton and an associate, John Tate, were involved in an effort to pay bribes to an Iowa state senator in exchange for the lawmaker's endorsement for Ron Paul's 2012 presidential bid. Both men were handed a six-month home confinement and two years of probation. Tate was also pardoned on Wednesday.