Democrats criticise Trump's pardons for 'perjurers, thieves and shakedown artists'

US president on Tuesday gave clemency to 20 convicted felons

(FILES) In this file photo taken on October 15, 2005, US Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad, wearing a flack jacket and surrounded by bodyguards from the US security firm Blackwater, leaves the Civil and Military Operation Center (CMOC) in Fallujah. Iraqis on December 23, 2020 were outraged, heartbroken but not surprised to hear of a US presidential pardon for four American security guards convicted of killing Iraqi civilians in Baghdad in 2007. The Blackwater team, contracted to provide security for US diplomats in Iraq following the American-led invasion in 2003, claimed they were responding to insurgent fire. The bloody episode left at least 14 Iraqi civilians dead and 17 wounded.
 / AFP / Patrick BAZ

US President Donald Trump’s spree of pardons and commutations this week is being described as disgraceful and grotesque by Democrats in Congress, but no sitting Republican legislator has so far criticised the moves.

Mr Trump's clemency of 20 convicted felons, including three former corrupt members of Congress and four Blackwater military contractors convicted in the massacre of 17 Iraqi civilians in 2007, was met with heavy criticism from civil rights organisations.

FILE - This combination made from file photo shows Blackwater guards, from left, Dustin Heard, Evan Liberty, Nicholas Slatten and Paul Slough. On Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020, President Donald Trump pardoned 15 people, including Heard, Liberty, Slatten and Slough, the four former government contractors convicted in a 2007 massacre in Baghdad that left more a dozen Iraqi civilians dead and caused an international uproar over the use of private security guards in a war zone. (AP Photo/File)

The American Civil Liberties Union called the Blackwater pardon a “new low” and degrading to the office of the presidency.

“These military contractors were convicted for their role in killing 17 Iraqi civilians. Their actions caused devastation in Iraq, shame and horror in the United States, and scandal worldwide.”

“With this disgraceful action, Trump insults the memory of the Iraqi victims and further degrades the office of the president,” it said.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics decried the move as a slap to the US justice system that convicted in due process these individuals for serious crimes.

"The message Trump sent tonight is clear: no matter how awful your crime was, justice does not apply to you if you are loyal to him," the group's executive director Noah Bookbinder said.

Marta Hurtado, a spokesperson for the UN’s human rights team, said she was “deeply concerned” by the pardons, saying they denied justice to victims’ families and would embolden others to commit similar crimes in the future.

She urged the US to “renew its commitment to fighting impunity for gross human rights violations and serious violations of international humanitarian law, as well as to uphold its obligations to ensure accountability for such crimes”.

The New York Times reported on Wednesday that 88 per cent of Mr Trump's pardons are people with a connection to him or his political efforts.

“A tabulation by the Harvard Law School professor Jack Goldsmith found that of the 45 pardons or commutations Mr Trump had granted up until Tuesday, 88 per cent aided someone with a personal tie to the President or furthered his political aims,” it said.

The White House insisted that the pardons were supported by the American public and legislators. But Democrats pounced on the president's actions and one legislator, Adam Schiff, said: "They're grotesque. They're morally repugnant. And they're exactly what we expect of Donald Trump." Mr Schiff is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told MSNBC. He was equally outspoken on Twitter describing the president as corrupt.

Democratic Congressman Jamie Raskin said Mr Trump’s pardons are for “con men” and “betrayers of the nations”.

“Trump has pardoned corrupt GOP perjurers, thieves, shakedown artists, war criminals, con men, Medicare rip-off kings and betrayers of the nation. How about some pardons outside his inner circle?” Mr Raskin tweeted.

But on conservative media outlets such as Fox News, Mr Trump was hailed by some for his courage while Republican politicians did not criticise the pardons publicly.

"God bless the president for having the courage ... to pardon those men,” Fox News commentator Pete Hegseth said on Wednesday.