White House announces 15 pre-Christmas pardons, including two tied to Mueller investigation and three former congressmen

The Washington Examiner:

The White House announced a wave of pre-Christmas pardons and sentence commutations Tuesday evening, including two people charged in connection with special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and three former congressmen.

George Papadopoulos and Alex van der Zwaan were both pardoned for their “process-related crimes.” Mueller charged Papadopoulos and van der Zwaan with making false statements during his investigation into potential Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“At the time that Mr. Papadopoulos allegedly made the false statements, he was not represented by counsel, and, after he was arrested, Mr. Papadopoulos gave additional information on his prior statements to the Special Counsel,” the White House said in a statement. The White House said of van der Zwaan that “none of his underlying conduct was alleged to have been unlawful, nor did prosecutors note any prior criminal history.”

“Today’s pardon helps correct the wrong that Mueller’s team inflicted on so many people,” the statement read.

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The FBI didn’t interview Papadopoulos until January 2017, and it was then that Papadopoulos revealed his April 2016 conversations with Maltese professor Joseph Mifsud, who the Trump campaign adviser claimed told him the Russians had damaging information on the Democratic presidential candidate. Papadopoulos pleaded guilty in 2017 to making false statements about his communications with Mifsud.

The White House claimed that “Mueller stated in his report that he found no evidence of collusion in connection with Russia’s attempts to interfere in the election” but “still charged Mr. Papadopoulos with this process-related crime.”

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“A pardon as disgustingly unpatriotic as it is predictable, with one clear message: if you work for Donald Trump, it’s OK to lie to the FBI about Russia,” Strzok tweeted, pointing to a 2017 tweet from Trump, where the president had said that “few people knew the young, low level volunteer named George, who has already proven to be a liar.”

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Another pardon went to former Rep. Chris Collins. Collins represented New York in the House for three terms before pleading guilty in 2019 “to the charges of conspiring to commit securities fraud and making false statements to the FBI.” Collins confessed to helping his son and others avoid nearly $1 million in stock market losses, and Geoffrey Berman, the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in 2018 that “Collins’s greed and disregard for the law have now led to a criminal conviction for insider trading and lying to the FBI, his resignation from Congress, and over two years in federal prison.”

Former Rep. Duncan Hunter was also granted a pardon for his 2019 charge related to misusing campaign funds. Hunter, an officer in the Marine Corps, had represented California’s 50th Congressional District since 2013. Hunter’s wife, Margaret, also pleaded guilty to a charge of corruption in 2019, admitting that she and her ex-congressman husband used over $200,000 dollars in campaign funds for personal expenditures, including trips, dinners, and clothing.

Steven Stockman, a former Texas congressman, had the rest of his sentence commuted after contracting COVID-19 while in prison. The 64-year-old was convicted in 2018 of misusing charitable funds. Stockman was ordered to pay more than $1 million in restitution after defrauding charitable donors out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, and U.S. Attorney Ryan Patrick of the Southern District of Texas said in 2018 that “this type of corruption by public officials gives our entire democratic system a black eye.”

Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, two former Border Patrol agents, were also pardoned by Trump. The two men had been convicted of firing upon and wounding a drug smuggler on the U.S-Mexico border, and the White House said that “one hundred members of Congress … supported Mr. Ramos’ and Mr. Compean’s release from prison” and President George W. Bush also “ultimately commuted these sentences with strong bipartisan support.”

Nicholas Slatten, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty, and Dustin Heard — former Blackwater guards convicted for their involvement in the shooting and killing unarmed civilians outside the Green Zone in Nisur Square in Baghdad in 2007 — were also pardoned by Trump. The men had contended that the shooting began when a car that matched the description of a possible car bomb would not slow down. The White House argued that “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 statement also included a pardon for 89-year-old Alfred Lee Crum, who pleaded guilty “to helping his wife’s uncle illegally distill moonshine in Oklahoma” in 1952, as well as three commutations for nonviolent drug offenses, and other pardons.

Read more at The Washington Examiner

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