Donald Trump issues wave of pardons in final weeks of presidency

The list includes guards involved in the Blackwater shooting on civilians and two who pleaded guilty for lying in the US-Russia inquiry

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump poses on the Truman Balcony of the White House after returning from being hospitalized at Walter Reed Medical Center for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) treatment, in Washington, U.S. October 5, 2020. REUTERS/Erin Scott/File Photo
Powered by automated translation

President Donald Trump issued a slew of pardons on Tuesday night as part of a pre-Christmas holiday action.

In total, Mr Trump pardoned 15 people, and commuted the sentences of five others.

The pardons included two people convicted as part of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation and three former Republican congressmen convicted of a range of financial crimes.

From the Mueller investigation, Mr Trump pardoned former campaign aide George Papadopoulos, who was convicted of lying to the FBI, and Alex van der Zwaan, a lawyer who was also convicted of making false statements during the Russia inquiry. The two pleaded guilty in their cases.

Mr Trump also pardoned four men who worked as security guards for Blackwater and had been convicted in crimes relating to the 2007 killing of Iraqi civilians.

The actions are likely to prompt renewed criticism that Mr Trump has used his pardon power to protect political allies, and could spark concern that the president is undermining efforts at the Justice Department and the Pentagon to ensure co-operation with criminal investigations.

The former congressmen pardoned include Duncan Hunter, the California legislator who pleaded guilty to misusing campaign funds, and Chris Collins, a representative from New York who admitted to charges of conspiring to commit securities fraud. The president also commuted the remaining prison sentence of Steve Stockman, a former congressman from Texas who was convicted of misusing charitable funds.

The pardons of prominent Republican figures were sprinkled through a list of more mundane pardons announced by the White House shortly before the Christmas holiday.

The president also offered full pardons to a Pittsburgh dentist convicted of false billing, an Oklahoma moonshiner, and a Florida marijuana smuggler. A number of the pardons were suggested by Alice Johnson, a criminal justice reform advocate who herself was freed by Mr Trump in 2018 after serving 21 years in prison for a non-violent drug offence.

The New York Times reported this wave of pardons was unlikely to be the last by Mr Trump. President-elect Joe Biden is scheduled to take office on January 20.

Mr Trump still hasn't conceded in the 2020 election to Mr Biden.