US President Donald Trump on Wednesday apologized for new allies for allies, including the father of his son-in-law Jared Kushner and two confidants implicated in investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections that brought him to power.
The pardons added to a long list granted in his dwindling days in office and sparked new outrage.
Among those pardoned were Charles Kushner, who pleaded guilty of tax evasion and witness manipulation in 2004, as well as former campaign manager Paul Manafort and longtime advisor Roger Stone.
The trio was among 26 pardons and three whose sentences were commuted in whole or in part by Trump on Wednesday.
They come just a day after Trump pardoned another 15 people and commuted sentences for five, including corrupt Republican Congressmen and security forces convicted of the murder of 14 civilians in a 2007 Baghdad massacre.
Trump’s pardon of Manafort, who was at the center of Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation into allegations of Russian interference in the elections four years ago, sparked anger that Trump attempted to clear the probe he had always referred to as a “witch hunt”. ”
Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said in a tweet: “During the Mueller investigation, Trump’s attorney Manafort issued an apology. Manafort withdrew his cooperation with prosecutors, lied, was convicted and then Trump praised him for not “rattling”. Trump’s pardon now completes the corrupt scheme. “
Manafort himself went to Twitter and said, “You really made America great again.” God bless you and your family. I wish you a Merry Christmas and many good wishes for the years to come. “
David Axelrod, a political commentator and former advisor to President Barack Obama, said of the move: “Everyone saw this raw sewage dump of pardons and commutations for @ realDonaldTrump apparatchiks and loyalists … but the spectacle is still appalling.”
Republican Senator Ben Sasse, who has spoken out against Trump publicly, simply said, “This is rotten to the core.”
Earlier in the day, Iraqis expressed outrage and grief after Trump apologized to the four Blackwater security companies convicted of murder and manslaughter in the Nisur Square massacre six years ago.
The four former US soldiers unprovoked opened fire in the crowded square in 2007, killing at least 14 civilians – although Iraqi authorities put the toll at 17 – while wounding dozens more and deeply straining US-Iraq relations.
“I knew we would never get justice,” Fares Saadi, the Iraqi policeman who led the investigation, told AFP.
Retired US General Mark Hertling, who served in Iraq, described the Blackwater pardon as “outrageous and gross.”
“This was a harsh war crime in which 17 Iraqi civilians died. Shame on you, Mr. President, “tweeted Hertling, taking advantage of the higher death toll.
Trump had pardoned two other minor people as part of the 2016 meddling investigation in Russia and granted pardon to three former Republican lawmakers who were named “three of the most corrupt members of Congress in recent history” by the Washington Citizens’ Responsibility and Ethics Monitoring Group. ”
All five were vocal supporters of Trump.
Trump also stunned Florida prosecutors Tuesday when he commuted the jail term of Philip Esformes, a health tycoon who was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2019 for serving the federal Medicare program worth $ 44 million, the largest Medicare -Fraud case of all time.
While Esformes had no obvious ties to Trump, he was endorsed by several influential former Republican attorneys-general and prosecutors who supported the president.
Trump is believed to weigh other pardons, including members of his family, his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, and possibly himself, to protect himself from potential litigation after stepping down Jan. 20.
That could cause even more turmoil, but it would likely be difficult to reverse.
Trump is also being pressured by libertarian and civil rights groups to apologize to three people involved in sharing national security intelligence – WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, and another former NSA reality winner .
Others known to have apologized include ex-US soldier Robert Bale, convicted of the murder of 16 Afghan civilians in 2012, and Joseph Maldonado-Passage, better known as Joe Exotic, the star of the successful Netflix documentary “Tiger King” convicted of attempting to hire a man to murder a rival.