The pardons of former campaign aide George Papadopoulos, former US Congressmen Duncan Hunter and Chris Collins, and the four Blackwater guards involved in the Iraq massacre kick off what is expected to be a wave of pardons and commutations in the coming weeks. when Trump ends his term. .
Also included in the batch announced today are Alex van der Zwaan, the Dutch lawyer who was sentenced to 30 days in jail after pleading guilty to lying to Mueller investigators; two Border Patrol agents convicted in 2006 of shooting and wounding an unarmed undocumented immigrant and then covering up for him; and several people convicted of non-violent drug offenses serving long sentences.
The pardons came on the recommendation of Trump’s allies in Congress and, in some cases, the conservative media. Alice Johnson, the former federal inmate whose sentence Trump commuted at the behest of Kim Kardashian West, recommended clemency for many of the non-violent drug offenders.
Mueller investigation forgives
The pardons pardon two of the first defendants to plead guilty and serve prison terms in the Mueller investigation: 2016 campaign foreign policy adviser Papadopoulos and Van der Zwaan, who was part of a major investigation of Mueller on illegal overseas lobbying efforts and the Ukrainian and Russian governments connections to Trump’s campaign adviser, Paul Manafort.
Both Papadopoulos and Van der Zwaan pleaded guilty to lying to investigators during the Russia investigation. And none provided Mueller with any meaningful cooperation, prosecutors said.
Papadopoulos had lied to investigators about his contacts with people related to Russia, including discussing with them about “dirt” that could harm Hillary Clinton in 2016 and a possible trip by Trump during the campaign to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
At his sentencing, Papadopoulos’s then-attorney called him “pro-FBI” and said he had lied so he could still be considered for a job in the Trump administration.
Defense attorney Thomas Breen effectively blamed Trump for publicly urging people like Papadopoulos to ignore Russian investigators. “The president of the United States obstructed this investigation more than George Papadopoulos ever could,” argued Breen.
“I made a terrible mistake,” Papadopoulos told the judge during his sentencing hearing. “In retrospect, lying to federal agents on such a critical issue could have hurt our nation.”
He spent less than two weeks in prison in late 2018. Since then, he has criticized investigators and how they caught him.
Van der Zwaan, who is also the son-in-law of Ukrainian-Russian billionaire German Khan, spent nearly a month in prison before being deported to Europe in June 2018. He displayed “silenced” remorse in his sentencing, the judge noted. .
“This is not something that happened to him. This is something he did,” Federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson said at the Van der Zwaan sentencing. “He put his personal interest above the interest of justice.”
Most recently, Papadopoulos ran for Congress in California’s 25th district in 2019 following the resignation of Democratic Rep. Katie Hill. He lost the race for the free seat in the March primaries.
Former congressmen pardoned
Hunter, who was sentenced earlier this year to 11 months in prison and three years of supervised release in connection with the misuse of more than $ 200,000 in campaign funds for personal expenses, was recommended for clemency by “many members of the Congress, “according to the White House Launch.
The former California lawmaker pleaded guilty in December 2019 to one count of conspiracy to squander campaign funds and was scheduled to be on supervised release for three years after serving his prison sentence.
He was also required to participate in a drug and alcohol treatment program.
Hunter reportedly began his sentence in May, but was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, and reportedly reported to a federal prison in West Texas in January 2021.
Hunter and his wife were indicted in August 2018 for spending lavishly on “items as insignificant as fast food, movie tickets and sneakers; as trivial as video games, Lego and Playdoh sets; as mundane as edibles. , dog food and utilities; and as self-indulgent like luxury hotels, overseas vacations and plane tickets for themselves, their relatives and their rabbits, Eggburt and Cadbury, “according to prosecutors.
Federal prosecutors charged Hunter with fraudulently spending more than $ 200,000 on expenses that included a $ 14,000 Italian vacation and thousands of dollars on routine items such as groceries, bedding and other household items.
Hunter resigned from Congress in January after winning re-election in California’s 50th Congressional District, which encompasses much of eastern San Diego County.
Collins, a former congressman from New York, has been serving his 26-month prison sentence in a minimum-security federal prison in Florida since October.
Collins pleaded guilty in October 2019 to one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and one count of making a false statement.
While attending the White House Congressional annual picnic in June 2017, Collins had shared nonpublic information with his son Cameron about the failed results of the trial of a multiple sclerosis drug that Australian biotech company Innate Immunotherapeutics Limited of the one that was a member of the board, was developing.
He later lied to FBI agents to cover it up. The stock trading allowed Cameron Collins, a co-defendant in the case, to avoid losses of more than $ 750,000, according to federal prosecutors. Collins himself did not change the information.
Collins had initially fought the charges against him, calling them “without merit” when they were first presented in 2018. He even won re-election while on indictment. But in his guilty plea last year in federal court, Collins expressed his regret, saying that putting his son “in this danger at this young age … is something I will live with for the rest of my life.”
Collins resigned from Congress on September 30, 2019, the day before his guilty plea. He had represented New York’s 27th congressional district for nearly seven years.