On December 22 and December 23 US President Donald Trump has issued 15 and 26 pardons respectively. This stands for over a half of all reprieves granted by the president since taking office in 2017.
The list of crimes committed by the pardoned includes tax evasion, mail and wire fraud, drug trafficking and manslaughter.
Following the issue of clemency US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez criticised Trump saying he has released “a flow of pardons for the wealthy and corrupt”.
The most controversial among the reprieves was the decision to pardon four ex-Blackwater contractors: Nicholas Slatten, Evan Liberty, Dustin Heard and Paul Slough.
On December 22 Trump signed executive grants for clemency for the former mercenaries. The men were originally sentenced to 30 years in prison each, except for Slatten who was sent for life imprisonment for committing first degree murder.
The men were charged with voluntary manslaughter after killing 14 unarmed civilians in Baghdad, Iraq in 2007. They used grenade launchers and machine guns to fire at a crowd of people in Nisour Square. International objections to using private security guards in war started after the massacre.
The American President also granted clemency to many former personal associates like Paul Manafort or Charles Kushner.
Manafort is the ex-chairman of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, who was charged with conspiracy against the United States and bank fraud and imprisoned for seven and a half years.
Kushner is the father of Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law. He was serving the penalty of two years in prison for making false statements, fraud and retaliation against victims.
Among others pardoned by Trump on December 22 and December 23 are George Papadopoulos and Alex van der Zwaan, both charged with making false statements during Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian intervention during the 2016 presidential election.
Papadopoulos was an aide for Trump’s campaign in 2016. He lied to federal agents about his conversations with a Kremlin-tied professor who told Papadopoulos the Russians had allegedly found information to sabotage Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate.
Van der Zwaan is the son-in-law of German Khan, a Russian billionaire. He had previous connections to both Trump’s campaign consultant Rick Gates and Paul Manafort, who was also convicted for the Mueller investigation revelations.
US Senator for Oregon Ron Wyden commented the pardons on Twitter: “This is just the tip of the iceberg of the damage Donald Trump will do to our democracy in his remaining days as president.”
Featured Image Credit: PAP/EPA/JIM LO SCALZO
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