Trump issues series of pardons, including for two in Russia probe

Trump issues series of pardons, including for two in Russia probe

Donald Trump has pardoned two Republican former members of Congress and two people convicted of crimes in connection with Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, among 20 people to whom he granted clemency three days before Christmas.

In the sweeping series of actions announced on Tuesday evening, Mr Trump pardoned Duncan Hunter, a former California lawmaker and military veteran who pleaded guilty to misusing campaign funds.

There was also a pardon for Chris Collins, a former New York congressman serving a 26-month prison sentence after pleading guilty to conspiring to commit securities fraud and lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

And in a move that could raise concerns about possible pardons for others convicted in connection with the Russia probe, Mr Trump pardoned George Papadopoulos, who was convicted of making false statements to investigators.

He also pardoned Alex van der Zwaan, a former junior lawyer at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, who lied to investigators about his contacts with Rick Gates, a former adviser to Mr Trump.

The pardons came as the US president separately rejected a $900bn bill that Congress passed on Monday to help Americans deal with the economic fallout of the pandemic. In a move that will cause chaos just before Christmas, Mr Trump said the package was a “disgrace” as he called on lawmakers to amend the nearly 5,600-page bill.

Legal experts had expected that Mr Trump would issue a number of pardons in his last weeks in office. US media has reported that he has also asked allies about whether he could issue a pre-emptive pardon for himself and members of his own family to insulate them from any federal investigations after he leaves office on January 20.

Mr Trump on Tuesday evening also pardoned four former private security contractors who were convicted of crimes ranging from murder to voluntary manslaughter in connection with the deaths of Iraqi civilians when they worked for Blackwater, a controversial private security group founded by Erik Prince, in Baghdad.

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