President Trump announced a mix of pardons and commutations for 20 people including full pardons for two figures prosecuted as part of the Mueller investigation, George Papadopoulos and Alex Van der Zwaan.
The pardons give forgiveness to two early defendants who pleaded guilty and served prison time in the Mueller investigation: 2016 campaign foreign policy adviser Papadopoulos and Van der Zwaan, who was part of a major investigation by Mueller into illegal foreign lobbying efforts and the Ukrainian and Russian connections of Trump campaign adviser Paul Manafort.
Both Papadopoulos and Van der Zwaan pleaded guilty to lying to investigators during the Russia investigation. And neither provided Mueller with any meaningful cooperation, prosecutors said.
The White House press release states, “Mr. Papadopoulos was charged with a process-related crime.” After noting that Mueller’s report found no evidence of collusion, this portion of the release concludes, “Today’s pardon helps correct the wrong that Mueller’s team inflicted on so many people.”
Trump also issued clemency to three former congressmen: Duncan Hunter, Chris Collins and Steve Stockman. Hunter’s remaining sentence was commuted and Collins and Stockman received full pardons.
The announcement Tuesday also included commuting the remaining prison term of former Rep. Steve Stockman, a Texas Republican who was convicted by a jury in Texas of almost two dozen felonies, including fraud and money laundering…
Hunter, who was sentenced earlier this year to 11 months in prison and three years of supervised release related to his misuse of more than $200,000 in campaign funds for personal expenses, was recommended for a pardon by “many members of Congress,” according to the White House release…
While attending the White House’s annual congressional picnic in June 2017, Collins had shared non-public information with his son Cameron about the failed trial results for a multiple sclerosis drug the Australian biotech company Innate Immunotherapeutics Limited, of which he was a board member, was developing. He later lied to FBI agents to cover it up. The stock trades allowed Cameron Collins, a co-defendant in the case, to avoid over $750,000 in losses, according to federal prosecutors. Collins himself did not trade on the information.
Others granted a pardon included two former Border Patrol agents, Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, who were convicted in 2006 of shooting a drug trafficker at the border. Former President George W. Bush had already commuted their sentences. Trump issued both men a full pardon.
Probably the most controversial of the pardons announced today are those given to four former U.S. service members who were working as Blackwater contractors in Iraq and were charged with killing 17 civilians. Nicholas Slatten, who was the first to fire into the crowd, was convicted of first-degree murder in the case back in 2014 but an Appeals Court later tossed out the conviction and ordered a new trial for him (and new sentences for the other three men who had been convicted of manslaughter). However, a retrial resulted in Slatten being convicted of first-degree murder and once again sentence to life in prison. The White House statement about this pardon reads in part:
These veterans were working in Iraq in 2007 as security contractors responsible for securing the safety of United States personnel. When the convoy attempted to establish a blockade outside the “Green Zone,” the situation turned violent, which resulted in the unfortunate deaths and injuries of Iraqi civilians. Initial charges against the men were dismissed, but they were eventually tried and convicted on charges ranging from first degree murder to voluntary manslaughter. On appeal, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that additional evidence should have been presented at Mr. Slatten’s trial. Further, prosecutors recently disclosed—more than 10 years after the incident—that the lead Iraqi investigator, who prosecutors relied heavily on to verify that there were no insurgent victims and to collect evidence, may have had ties to insurgent groups himself.
The other people who received clemency today were mostly convicted of drug offenses. For example, Otis Gordon was granted a full pardon:
Today, President Trump granted a full pardon to Otis Gordon. Mr. Gordon’s pardon is supported by Senator Tim Scott.
Mr. Gordon has become a Pastor at Life Changer’s International Ministries since his conviction for possession with intent to distribute. In 2015, in the wake of the shooting at a Bible study in Charleston, South Carolina, Mr. Gordon led a prayer session at the United States Capitol. Mr. Gordon mentors at-risk youths in his community. Senator Tim Scott describes Mr. Gordon as “a model citizen” since his release and “focused on helping young men avoid the same traps he once fell in.”
Even with these additional pardons, President Trump has still pardoned fewer people than most of his predecessors. But more pardons are expected over the next month.