President Trump pardoned Paul Manafort and Roger Stone on Wednesday, part of his long-running campaign to undo the investigation into his 2016 presidential campaign and Russia, which he regarded as a “witch hunt.”
Manafort, the president’s former campaign chairman, was convicted in 2019 of a variety of financial crimes uncovered by Robert Mueller’s investigation into the 2016 election. The former Republican power player was revealed to have hidden from the IRS millions of dollars in income from work for Ukraine’s former ruling party, which was aligned with the Kremlin. (Manafort’s shady dealings with a suspected Russian spy during the 2016 were also investigated though not charged.) Stone, Trump’s long-time political advisor, was convicted of lying to Congress about communications with the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks in 2016 regarding Democratic emails hacked by Russia. The president previously commuted his prison sentence.
The two pardons come on top of others for people ensnared by Mueller: Michael Flynn, the disgraced former national security adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations with Russia’s ambassador regarding sanctions for election interference; George Papadopoulos, the low-level campaign adviser who also lied to investigators about hearing Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in 2016; Alex van der Zwaan, the attorney who pleaded guilty to lying about contacts between the Trump campaign and a man allegedly tied to Russian intelligence. Papadopoulos and van der Zwaan were pardoned Tuesday.
Separately on Wednesday, Trump pardoned Charles Kushner, the real-estate bigwig and father of Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. The senior Kushner pleaded guilty last decade to tax evasion, making illegal campaign contributions, and witness tampering. Kushner copped to secretly setting up his hated brother-in-law with a prostitute and taping their encounter. Chris Christie, who oversaw the case as U.S. attorney in New Jersey, called the scheme “one of the most loathsome, disgusting crimes that I prosecuted” during an interview last year.
Manafort, Stone, and Kushner are among 26 people who received pardons or commutations from Trump on Wednesday. The New York Times notes that of the 65 acts of clemency he doled out up until then, 60 had ties to Trump. Many if not most have caused howls of outrage.
Earlier this week, Trump also pardoned four former Blackwater contractors who were convicted for their role in a massacre in which 14 civilians in Iraq were killed in 2007 — one of the men was serving a life sentence for first-degree murder. In a similar vein, two Border Patrol agents who covered up their shooting of a Mexican national were also pardoned, though their sentences were previously commuted by George W. Bush. On top of all that, Trump also pardoned two crooked Republican former representatives in Congress, Chris Collins and Duncan Hunter, and commuted the sentence of their ex-colleague Steve Stockman.