The begin the last week of this totally horrible year….we can only hope that the New year and new president will help make things better.
Let’s start the week with all this pardon stuff.
The big story over the week of Christmas was the presidential pardons issued by this now defunct president……
The first batch included a couple baby killers…..some corrupt criminal representatives….
President Trump on Tuesday pardoned 15 people, including Republican allies, a 2016 campaign official ensnared in the Russia probe, and former government contractors convicted in a massacre in Iraq. The pardons included former Republican Reps. Duncan Hunter and Chris Collins, the AP reports. Collins, the first member of Congress to endorse Trump to be president, was sentenced to two years and two months in federal prison after admitting he helped his son and others dodge $800,000 in stock market losses when he learned that a drug trial by a small pharmaceutical company had failed. Hunter was sentenced to 11 months in prison after pleading guilty to stealing campaign funds and spending the money on everything from outings with friends to his daughter’s birthday party. He was due to start serving the sentence next month.
Trump also pardoned former Rep. Steve Stockman, who started serving a 10-year sentence for crimes including fraud and money laundering in 2018, reports the New York Times. Trump also announced pardons for George Papadopoulos, his 2016 campaign adviser whose conversation unwittingly helped trigger the Russia investigation, and attorney Alex van der Zwaan, the first person convicted in the Mueller probe. In the group announced Tuesday night were four former government contractors convicted in a 2007 massacre in Baghdad that left more a dozen Iraqi civilians dead and caused an international uproar over the use of private security guards in a war zone. Supporters of the former Blackwater contractors had lobbied for pardons, arguing that the men had been excessively punished.
But Trump did not stop there….the second round includes more Trump loyalists….
President Trump’s pardon-palooza continued for a second night Wednesday, when he issued another 26 pardons—including ones for Roger Stone and Paul Manafort, who were convicted of multiple crimes after being indicted during Robert Mueller’s investigation. Trump commuted longtime friend Stone’s sentence in July, days before he was due to report to prison to serve a 40-month sentence for crimes including lying to Congress and witness tampering. Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, was serving a 7.5-year sentence for crimes including tax fraud and was moved to home confinement in May. Trump also pardoned Charles Kushner, father of son-in-law Jared Kushner, CNN reports.
The elder Kushner was released from prison in 2006 after serving 14 months for crimes including tax evasion and retaliating against a federal witness. The case was prosecuted by then-US Attorney for New Jersey Chris Christie. The New York Times calls the Kushner pardon “one of the most anticipated of the Trump presidency.” Others pardoned Wednesday include Margaret Hunter, whose husband former GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter, was pardoned Tuesday for campaign finance fraud. Trump also commuted three sentences Wednesday, bringing the total number of people given clemency over the last two days to 49, per the AP. Tuesday’s pardons included two other people convicted as a result of the Mueller probe.
Let’s not forget the slug Kushner and his criminal father….
On the one hand, President Trump’s latest batch of pardons was excellent news for the Kushner family. On the other hand, it has brought renewed attention to why Charles Kushner—the father of Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner—needed a pardon in the first place. It’s not a pretty tale. In fact, “it’s one of the most loathsome, disgusting crimes that I prosecuted when I was US attorney,” none other than Chris Christie said in a 2019 PBS interview, per Fox News. Details and related pardon coverage:
- The crimes: The elder Kushner, 66, is a New Jersey developer who served 14 months in prison more than a decade ago after being convicted of tax fraud and of making illegal campaign contributions, reports NJ.com. But the “loathsome” part Christie was talking about refers to a bizarre sting operation Kushner carried out on his own brother-in-law
- The trap: Kushner admitted that he paid $25,000 to have a prostitute visit and seduce the husband of his sister in a motel room, and Kushner then sent the videotape to his sister. Why? Christie’s office maintained Kushner was trying to intimidate his sister and keep her from testifying before a grand jury against him in the federal investigation. At the time, Charles Kushner also was having a nasty dispute with another sibling, brother Murray, a former business partner. Their sister had taken Murray’s side, per NJ.com.
- Justification: “Since completing his sentence in 2006, Mr. Kushner has been devoted to important philanthropic organizations and causes, such as Saint Barnabas Medical Center and United Cerebral Palsy,” says the president’s statement on the pardon. “This record of reform and charity overshadows Mr. Kushner’s conviction and 2 year sentence for preparing false tax returns, witness retaliation, and making false statements to the Federal Election Commission.”
Then the Blackwater murderers…..
- Blackwater reaction: Trump also pardoned four figures who worked as guards for the private military contractor Blackwater. All were convicted after 14 Iraqi civilians were killed and 17 wounded in a 2007 Baghdad ambush, per NPR. In Baghdad, news of the pardons brought sentiment like this: “I have always known that his murderers would get away with it somehow even after they were prosecuted,” a former schoolmate of a slain medical student tells the Washington Post. “The pardon was inevitable.”
- Blackwater II: The same Post story also incorporates the view of supporters of the men, who say they were unjustly vilified and imprisoned by their own government. The story details the different accounts of what happened when gunfire broke out that day in Nisour Square.
Is the “Pardon Palozza” over or does he, Trump, want to free more criminals on society?
Should we really fret over these Trumpian pardons?
… the news set in that President Trump had pardoned almost everyone involved in the Russia scandal, I saw an editor at one of the big political publications say that with this step President Trump had taken one more step in erasing the Mueller probe. This is wrong. And explaining why it’s wrong gives me another opportunity to reaffirm my belief that knowledge, a public accounting of what happened is far more important than punishment for individual wrongdoers.
What Trump completed was the the cover-up, the pay offs he’d promised, either explicitly or implicitly, in exchange for the silence of his coconspirators. As it happens, only Paul Manafort was even still in prison or serving time. For the rest it was just symbolism. But again, what is important is a public accounting of the facts.
From that perspective, these pardons mean fairly little. I’ve heard some claim that the upside of these pardons is that now the key players can’t plead the fifth. Even narrowly speaking I believe that is not true since most or all could face state jeopardy. But more broadly it’s a fallacy of legal literalism. Sure they can’t plead the fifth. But they can lie. They can claim they don’t remember. And they will. Don’t think this means anyone can be compelled to cooperate.
My further thoughts on Trump’s pardons….or any pardon for that matter…..a future post.
I Read, I Write, You Know
“lego ergo scribo”