President Donald Trump on Tuesday apologized for 15 people, including two men convicted in the investigation by Special Envoy Robert Mueller and four former Blackwater USA guards convicted of the 2007 murders of 14 unarmed Iraqi civilians in Baghdad.
Others who received pardons were two former Republican congressmen who admitted to having committed financial crimes.
Trump also commuted all or some of the criminal convictions of five other people as the president is nearing his final month in office.
One such person, Philip Esformes, owner of a health facility in South Florida, was sentenced to 20 years in prison in September 2019 for “the largest healthcare fraud ever indicted by the Justice Department”. Esformes, 52, is now being released from prison for Trump’s action.
Trump, who has sharply criticized Muller’s investigation into his 2016 campaign and contacts with Russians, apologized to his former campaign foreign policy advisor, George Papadopoulos, who was convicted of making false statements during the investigation.
“Today’s pardon will help correct the injustice that Mueller’s team has done to so many people,” Trump’s press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement to Papadopoulous.
The President also pardoned Alex van der Zwaan, an attorney and Dutch national who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI during the Mueller investigation. Van der Zwaan was the first person convicted in the investigation and was sentenced to 30 days in prison in 2018.
Four former Blackwater security companies, Nicholas Slatten, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard, who received pardons, opened fire on and around Nisur Square in Baghdad on September 16, 2007. According to the Justice Department, 14 civilians were killed, including two women and two boys, ages 11 and 9. At least 17 other victims were injured.
Slatten, who was convicted of murder, released “without provocation,” according to the Justice Department. He has served a life sentence.
The other three men were convicted of manslaughter and other charges and were sentenced to 15 years in prison last year, half of their original sentences.
In a statement, McEnany said that “the pardon of these four veterans has received widespread public support, including Pete Hegseth,” a contributor from Fox News and a number of GOP Congressmen.
“In addition, prosecutors recently announced, more than 10 years after the incident, that the leading Iraqi investigator was heavily relied on by prosecutors to verify that there were no insurgent victims and to gather evidence , possibly had ties to insurgent groups herself, “McEnany said in her statement.
Other pardons include former California Congressman Duncan Hunter and New Yorker Chris Collins.
Collins, who pleaded guilty last year to crimes resulting from informing his son of a pharmaceutical company’s failed drug trial for nonpublic information, was the first member of Congress to campaign for Trump’s presidential election that year Endorsed in 2015. He served a 26-month sentence in October.
Hunter pleaded guilty to misusing campaign funds in 2019 along with his wife, who together converted and stole more than $ 250,000 over several years. He was due to serve an 11 month sentence next month.
Another fallen GOP member of Congress, Steve Stockman of Texas, had the remainder of his 10-year prison sentence for misusing donations that were converted by the President. Stockman, 64, had served more than two years in that tenure and signed Covid-19 that year.
Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Condemned many of the pardons in a damning statement.
“I doubt government contractors who slaughtered civilians or slaughtered corrupt friends of Congress had the founders in mind when drafting the pardon,” said Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“Most despicable is that President Trump is twisting that presidential power to reward allies who have broken the law about his conduct,” he said. “Donald Trump is leaving the presidency as he accepted it: without a hint of respect for the constitution and as a complete shame for his office.”
Trump also apologized to two former US border guards, Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, for their convictions of shooting and wounding an unarmed illegal alien who traded in 700 pounds of marijuana in 2005. President George W. Bush had their sentences converted from 11 and 11 years to 12 years in 2009.
The pardons come after Trump refused to admit he lost the presidential election to Joe Biden, whose victory was confirmed by the electoral college last week. Trump’s loss sparked immediate speculation that he would reward allies and others with executive grace actions in his final weeks at the White House.
Trump has been particularly stingy when it comes to granting grace to the executive branch, which includes pardons and commutations, compared to previous presidents.
As of Tuesday, Trump had only issued 28 pardons and converted the criminal convictions of 16 other people, a significantly lower rate than other one-year presidents, according to the Justice Department.
Trump’s pardons included those on financial fraudster Michael Milken; Press Baron Conrad Black; former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arapaio, convicted of contempt of court; Lewis “Scooter” Libby, former advisor to ex-Vice President Dick Cheney on obstruction of justice; Conservative Gadfly Dinesh D’Souza for Scamming Campaign Posts; and Ex-New York Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik for Tax and Other Crimes.
In November, Trump apologized to his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, for making false statements to FBI agents.
In July, Trump commuted the 40-month sentence of Republican adviser Roger Stone, who was convicted of lying to Congress.
Among the beneficiaries of his conversion to prison was former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, who tried to sell an appointment to the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama when that president became president.
Trump previously apologized for several deaths, including early 20th century black box champion Jack Johnson for the crime of crossing state lines with his white girlfriend, and Susan B. Anthony, the 19th suffragette, who was charged with illegal elections was convicted.
Trump also pardoned the late scientist Zay Jeffries, who was convicted of violating the Sherman Antitrust Act in 1948 for anticompetitive behavior. The year President Harry Truman awarded him the President’s Medal of Merit for his work during World War II, which included contributions to the Manhattan Project.
Trump pardoned Alice Marie Johnson, a woman convicted of conspiracy to distribute cocaine, in August. The president had commuted Johnson’s life sentence two years earlier after lobbying reality TV star Kim Kardashian West on her behalf.
The only other president with a term in office in the past 30 years, Trump’s Republican compatriot George HW Bush, pardoned 74 people by comparison and issued commutations for three more.
Obama, who served two terms before Trump, pardoned 212 people, or more than six times the number Trump pardoned in half that time. Obama commuted the sentences of more than 1,700 people.
The last Republican to serve two terms, George W. Bush, pardoned 189 people and commuted 11 sentences.