President Pardons Convicted Supporters
By Stefan J. Bos, Special Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) – U.S. President Donald J. Trump on Tuesday pardoned 15 people, but he did not extend amnesty to death row people.
Among those pardoned were several Congressional Republicans who were strong and early supporters, a 2016 campaign official ensnared in the Russia probe, and former government contractors convicted in a 2007 massacre in Baghdad.
Trump issued the pardons even as he refused to publicly acknowledge the declared election loss to Democrat Joe Biden, who most mainstream media expect to be sworn on January 20.
The president was due to issue more pardons before then. He and his allies have reportedly discussed a range of other possibilities, including members of Trump’s family and his attorney Rudy Giuliani.
However, not all inmates campaigning for pardons are successful. Earlier this month, a convicted murderer died by lethal injection as the Trump administration carries out a series of federal executions.
Brandon Bernard, a 40-year-old African-American inmate, was put to death at a prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, for his role in a 1999 double murder in Texas committed when he was 18 years old.
More than 500,000 people had signed petitions urging Trump to commute Bernard’s sentence to life in prison, citing his age at the time of the crime and his good behavior as an inmate.
Among those lending their support to Bernard was a reality television star, Kim Kardashian.
Bernard and four other Black teenagers were convicted of abducting youth ministers Todd and Stacie Bagley, a white couple from Iowa. They forced them to withdraw cash before eventually shooting and burning them in their car.
Those pardoned on Tuesday included former Republican Republicans Duncan Hunter of California and Chris Collins of New York, two of the earliest Republican lawmakers to back Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. Trump also commuted the sentences of five other people, including former Republican Steve Stockman of Texas.
Collins, the first member of Congress to endorse Trump to be president, was sentenced to two years and two months in federal prison after admitting he helped his son and others dodge $800,000 in stock market losses when he learned that a drug trial by a small pharmaceutical company had failed.
Hunter was sentenced to 11 months in prison after pleading guilty to stealing campaign funds and spending the money on everything from outings with friends to his daughter’s birthday party.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the pardons for Hunter and Collins were granted after “the request of many Congress members.” She noted that Hunter served the nation in the U.S. Marines and saw combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In the group announced Tuesday night were four former government contractors convicted in a 2007 massacre in Baghdad that left more than a dozen Iraqi civilians dead and caused an international uproar over the use of private security guards in a war zone.
Supporters of Nicholas Slatten, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty, and Dustin Heard, the former contractors at Blackwater Worldwide, had lobbied for pardons, arguing that the men had been excessively punished in an investigation and prosecution they said was tainted by problems and withheld exculpatory evidence. All four were serving lengthy prison sentences.
Trump also announced pardons for two people entangled in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
One was for 2016 campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about a conversation in which he learned that Russia had dirt on Trump’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. The president also pardoned Alex van der Zwaan, a Dutch lawyer who was sentenced to 30 days in prison for lying to investigators during the Mueller probe.
Democrats claimed was abusing his power.
Last month, Trump pardoned former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who had twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, and months earlier commuted the sentence of another associate, Roger Stone, days before he was to report to prison.
Trump has granted about two percent of requested pardons in his single term in office — just 27 before Tuesday’s announcement, according to a tally by The Associated Press news agency.
By comparison, Barack Obama granted 212 or 6 percent, and George W. Bush granted about 7 percent or 189. George H.W. Bush, another one-term president, reportedly granted 10 percent of requests.
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