Trump Issues Additional 26 Pardons And 3 Commutations

Dec 23, 2020
Originally published on December 23, 2020 4:31 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

President Trump has issued another long list of pardons this evening, this time including some of his closest allies - his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Republican operative Roger Stone and Charles Kushner, a real estate magnate who is the father of Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner. NPR justice correspondent Ryan Lucas is with us for more on the story.

Hi, Ryan.

RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Let's start with Paul Manafort. Trump's former campaign manager was released from prison in May because of fears he would contract the coronavirus in prison. Remind us what he was convicted of.

LUCAS: So Manafort was prosecuted by special counsel Robert Mueller's team as part of the Russia investigation, and he was convicted by a jury of bank and tax fraud. Those charges were related to his work in Ukraine. They didn't involve Russia. He pleaded guilty to two charges of conspiracy in a separate but related case that was here in Washington, D.C. And as part of his plea deal, he agreed to cooperate with investigators. But they later said that he never really did cooperate with them, that he was lying to them repeatedly and was, in essence, playing a double game of sorts.

Manafort was serving a more than seven-year sentence in federal prison. As you noted, he was moved to home confinement this spring because of the pandemic. I will note, though, that the Senate Intelligence Committee, in its bipartisan report, referred to Manafort as a grave counterintelligence threat.

SHAPIRO: With that long list of wrongdoings, how did the White House justify this pardon?

LUCAS: Well, the White House said that the president had granted Manafort a full and complete pardon. And then, as we have seen with others that Trump has pardoned who were implicated as part of the Russia investigation, the White House called that probe a hoax. It claimed that Manafort was a victim of prosecutorial overreach.

Now, this pardon clears Manafort, so to speak, of his federal crimes, but he's not totally out of legal peril yet. The Manhattan district attorney has brought charges against him in New York state court. Of course, federal pardons do not cover state crimes. That case is currently tied up in litigation. Manafort is trying to get the case tossed, but the district attorney's office said tonight that the presidential pardon makes clear the need for the district attorney and the state of New York to hold Manafort accountable.

SHAPIRO: All right. Moving on down the list - Roger Stone, longtime Republican operative. And this pardon comes before he served day in prison. Remind us his story.

LUCAS: Right. Stone is a longtime friend and adviser to Trump. They've known each other for decades. He was convicted by a jury again here in Washington, D.C., of lying to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering. All of those charges tied back into Stone's attempts to hide his efforts to contact WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign to find out what the group intended to do with hacked Democratic emails. Trump had already commuted Stone's sentence that he did earlier this year. Now he's granted him a full, sweeping pardon.

SHAPIRO: You know, we're seeing yesterday and today and prior to that this string of pardons and commutations of people connected to the Mueller investigation. Tell us about the broader message the president's trying to send.

LUCAS: Well, the president has made clear for a long time his disdain for that investigation. He's obviously referred to it as a witch hunt, as a hoax. And as you noted, he has already pardoned Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser, who was convicted as part of this probe. Yesterday, he pardoned George Papadopoulos and Alex van der Zwaan, two individuals who had lied to the FBI during the investigation. And now he's pardoned Manafort and Stone. So he is clearly trying to erase all the work that Mueller and his team did during their investigation - very important investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election.

SHAPIRO: And just briefly - Charles Kushner, father of Jared Kushner, also pardoned today.

LUCAS: That is one name that definitely stands out in big, bold letters. Yes, he is Kushner's father, as you said. Of course, Kushner is an adviser to President Trump but, of course, is also married to his daughter. Charles Kushner was real estate guy. He served time in prison for tax evasion and witness tampering. And in his case, he was actually trying to intimidate his brother-in-law.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Ryan Lucas, thank you.

LUCAS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.