In a move that surprised a few people, President Donald Trump issued another wave of pardons on Wednesday night, including a full pardon for his son-in-law’s father, Charles Kushner, and Paul Manafort, his former campaign chairman who has been found guilty of tax. and bank fraud and later pleaded guilty to conspiring to obstruct justice after lying to investigators investigating Russian election interference.
Kushner, 66, was released from prison in 2006 after serving a two-year sentence on a conviction for tax evasion and witness tampering.
Manafort is the latest member of Trump’s inner circle to be pardoned by the outgoing president, who appeared determined to cause as much shock and confusion as possible before stepping down on January 20. He has yet to concede election defeat which he lost by more than 7 million votes and has repeatedly insisted he has a chance for a second term, despite the Electoral College officially confirming victory for President-elect Joe Biden.
Trump has already embarked on a pardon frenzy that has seen him grant clemency to several of his former aides and allies, including Michael Flynn, his senior national security adviser who has pleaded guilty – twice – to lying to the FBI shortly before Thanksgiving. On December 22, Trump pardoned scores of others, including former campaign aide George Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to lying to Special Advocate Robert Mueller’s team during the investigation. on Russia; former US Congressman Duncan Hunter, who was convicted of stealing over $ 200,000 in campaign donations; and four Blackwater mercenaries convicted of the massacre of more than a dozen Iraqi civilians in 2014.
Trump is said to be considering further pardons on his way out of the door and has discussed forgiving not only his family members to avoid possible future lawsuits, but himself as well. While virtually all US presidents on both sides have granted pardons and sentence commutations before resigning, Trump has been incredibly cheeky to use his powers of grace to help friends and reimburse associates he considers to have been. personally loyal.
Manafort, 71, was sentenced to seven and a half years, but in May he was allowed to serve the remainder of his sentence in house arrest over fears of COVID-19 in prison.
His myriads of financial crimes have provided him with an opulent lifestyle. In court, federal prosecutors described a wardrobe worth over $ 1 million, which included a $ 15,000 ostrich leather jacket.
Over the course of several years, which overlapped in part with his running of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, Manafort made millions advising Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, a pro-Russian politician ousted from office in 2014. Asked by Mueller’s investigators into his years of non-disclosure work in Ukraine, as well as his association with Kremlin-linked political agent Konstantin Kilimnik, Manafort at first failed, then “intentionally provided false information,” according to the reports. prosecutors.
On his 2019 obstruction conviction, which added 43 months to the four years for financial fraud, Manafort told Judge Amy Berman Jackson: “I’m sorry for what I did. Let me be very clear, I accept responsibility for the actions that brought me to be here today. “
Although Jackson said she didn’t doubt Manafort’s sincerity, she was largely unmoved.
“It’s hard to overstate the number of lies and the amount of fraud and the extraordinary amount of money involved,” she told him, adding, “Saying ‘I’m sorry I got caught’ n This is not an inspiring plea for leniency.
Manafort’s allies reportedly crossed their fingers for a pardon, which to many seemed inevitable in light of Trump’s frequent praise of his former campaign chairman. Trump had repeatedly praised the “brave” Manafort for “refusing to break up” and cooperate with investigators as his former fixer Michael Cohen did.
Andrew Weissmann, who was one of Mueller’s deputies in the Russia inquiry, criticized Trump for abusing the pardon system. Manafort was urged not to cooperate with the Mueller team because he felt Trump would forgive him later if he was punished, Weissmann told NPR.
As he neared leaving the White House, Trump has reportedly responded to countless requests from hopeful forgiveness seekers. Those looking to break free from past crimes are said to be Joe Exotic, the incarcerated ‘Tiger King’ star, and former Trump campaign adviser Rick Gates, who pleaded guilty to financial fraud and lying to investigators during the interview. investigation into Russia. Former Trump campaign strategist Steve Bannon, who was indicted by a New York grand jury for financial fraud, is also said to be among the contenders for a possible pardon. Trump has also reportedly considered granting preventive pardons to some of his own family undergoing legal review, as well as his lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
Although Manafort was one of Trump’s closest confidants, not everyone pardoned by Trump was a close confidant. Alfred Lee Crum, who pleaded guilty in 1952 to illegally moonlighting at the age of 19, was granted a pardon earlier this week. His sentence was significantly lighter than that imposed on Manafort: three years probation and a fine of $ 250.
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