- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 23, 2020

President Trump granted full pardons to 26 more people on Wednesday night, including former 2016 campaign chairman Paul Manafort, longtime confidante Roger Stone and Charles Kushner, father of the president’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner.

The second wave of clemency this week followed 20 pardons and commutations issued on Tuesday, as Mr. Trump nears the end of his term.

Both Mr. Stone and Mr. Manafort were convicted in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. The president said Stone, 68, whose sentence he had commuted in July, is afflicted with “numerous medical conditions.”

“Due to prosecutorial misconduct by Special Counsel Mueller’s team, Mr. Stone was treated very unfairly,” the White House said. “He was subjected to a pre-dawn raid of his home, which the media conveniently captured on camera. Mr. Stone also faced potential political bias at his jury trial. Pardoning him will help to right the injustices he faced at the hands of the Mueller investigation.”

He had been convicted of obstructing Congress and threatening a witness.

The White House said Mr. Manafort, who spent nearly two years in prison for bank and tax fraud, illegal foreign lobbying and witness tampering, was a victim of “blatant prosecutorial overreach.”

“Mr. Manafort has already spent two years in prison, including a stretch of time in solitary confinement – treatment worse than what many of the most violent criminals receive,” the statement said.

Since May, Mr. Manafort has been released to home confinement as a result of COVID-19 concerns.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., who is pursuing mortgage fraud charges against Mr. Manafort in New York state, slammed the pardon.

Mr. Trump’s pardon only shields Mr. Manafort from federal charges, not the state level crimes Mr. Vance has accused him of.

New York’s highest court dismissed the charges last month, saying they are too similar to the federal counts Mr. Manafort was convicted of in 2018. Mr. Vance is appealing that decision.

“This action underscores the urgent need to hold Mr. Manafort accountable for his crimes against the People of New York as alleged in our indictment and we will continue to pursue our appellate remedies,” a spokesman for Mr. Vance said of the pardon.

Mr. Stone, a GOP political strategist and longtime confidante of Mr. Trump, twice benefited from the president’s pardon powers. The president first commuted his prison sentence and now granted him a full pardon.

He was convicted last year of lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstructing the U.S. House probe into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 election.

A judge sentenced Mr. Stone to 40 months in prison, but Mr. Trump commuted that sentence before it started. Mr. Stone still pursued pardon, saying he was praying for one.

Mr. Kushner, 66, a real estate developer, is the father of one of Mr. Trump’s closest advisers. Jared Kushner is married to Ivanka Trump, the president’s elder daughter.

Mr. Kushner was prosecuted by then-U.S. Attorney Chris Christie in 2004 and pleaded guilty to 18 counts of illegal campaign contributions, tax evasion, and witness tampering, involving campaign donations to Democratic candidates. He served 14 months at a federal prison camp in Alabama.

The White House said former U.S. Attorney for the District of Utah Brett Tolman and American Conservative Union officials Matt Schlapp and David Safavian support a pardon of Mr. Kushner.

“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,” the White House said. “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 FEC.”

Jared Kushner has been a point man for the president’s efforts at criminal justice reform.

Margaret Hunter, the wife and former campaign manager of ex-Rep. Duncan Hunter, received a full pardon one day after her husband. She filed for divorce last month.

The absence of her name on a list of people pardoned by Mr. Trump on Tuesday was widely criticized by supporters and friends of the former congressman, who resigned earlier this year after pleading guilty to violating campaign-finance rules.

Both Hunters were indicted in 2018 after they diverted roughly $250,000 in political donations for personal use.

They each initially pleaded not guilty, but Margaret later admitted to a single felon charge in June 2019. She also agreed to cooperate with prosecutors and testify against her husband. A federal judge sentenced her to eight months of home confinement and three years probation. 

The president also pardoned former Rep. Mark Siljander of Michigan, a Republican who served served a year in prison after pleading guilty in 2010 to obstruction of justice and failing to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

“Since his incarceration, Mr. Siljander has devoted himself to traveling in the Middle East and Africa to promote peace and mutual understanding,” the White House said. His pardon was supported by former Attorney General Edwin Meese, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, Alabama Rep. Robert Aderholt and Pastor Andrew Brunson.

The statement said that Mr. Siljander was one of Congress’ “most stalwart defenders of pro-life principles and the namesake of the ‘Siljander Amendment,’ which prohibits U.S. funds from being used to lobby for or against abortion.”

On Tuesday, Mr. Trump granted clemency to three other former Republican House members.

Also receiving a full pardon was Stephanie Mohr, a former police officer in Prince George’s County, Maryland.

The county’s first female police dog trainer, she was sentenced to 10 years in prison for civil rights violations after her dog bit a fleeing burglary suspect. The suspect, an illegal immigrant, needed 10 stitches.

She insists she was scapegoated by politically motivated, anti-police prosecutors.

Earlier this year, Mohr appeared on Newsmax TV to plead with Mr. Trump for a full pardon.

“I believe that justice has yet to make its final finish on my case, and President Trump is able to do that,” she said at the time.

Former Border Patrol agent Gary Brugman also was granted a full pardon on his conviction of deprivation of constitutional rights.

“While protecting our borders at Eagle Pass, Texas, Mr. Brugman intercepted nearly a dozen illegal immigrants, pursued them on foot, and apprehended them,” the White House said. “Mr. Brugman was accused of knocking one of the illegal immigrants to the ground and was prosecuted on that basis for deprivation of rights.”

He served 27 months in prison, “where other inmates sought to harm him because of his law enforcement background.”

His clemency is supported by Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Texas Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, other elected officials and media figures Laura Ingraham, Sara Carter, Glenn Beck and Lou Dobbs.

Rebekah Charleston, a sex trafficking victim who was arrested for money laundering tax evasion in 2006, also received a full pardon.

She was arrested as part of prostitution ring operating of an upscale neighborhood in Denton. She and the other women were seen as victims, lured into the illicit lifestyle and brainwashed and beaten if they did not follow orders.

After her arrest, Charleston became a champion for sex trafficking survivors and volunteers her time to assist victims.

Democrats assailed the president’s actions, accusing him of trading pardons in exchange for the silence of Mr. Manafort and Mr. Stone during the Mueller probe.

“Pardons for Paul Manafort and Roger Stone serve neither justice nor mercy,” House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York tweeted. “President Trump is handing out rewards to his co-conspirators and shielding his own conduct from scrutiny.”

House Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff, of California, cited reports that Trump’s lawyer had dangled a pardon before Mr. Manafort, one of the few Mueller targets who didn’t cooperate.

“Manafort withdrew his cooperation with prosecutors, lied, was convicted, and then Trump praised him for not ‘ratting.’ Trump’s pardon now completes the corrupt scheme. Lawless until the bitter end,” he wrote on Twitter.

Andrew Weissmann, who was one of Mr. Mueller’s top managers and was head of the Justice Department’s criminal fraud section under President Barack Obama, blasted the pardons.

“The pardons from this President are what you would expect to get if you gave the pardon power to a mob boss,” Mr. Weissmann tweeted.

Sen. Ben Sasse, Nebraska Republican, said of the new round of clemency, “This is rotten to the core.”

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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