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Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Donald Trump pardons two Russia inquiry figures and Blackwater guards

Among those pardoned was George Papadopoulos, who was a foreign policy adviser to Trump’s 2016 campaign and pleaded guilty in 2017 to making false statements to federal officials as part of the investigation by the special counsel, Robert Mueller.

By: New York Times | Updated: December 23, 2020 10:21:06 am
George Papadopoulos, the former Trump campaign adviser who triggered the Russia investigation, arrives for his first appearance before congressional investigators, on Capitol Hill in Washington. On Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020, (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

Written by Maggie Haberman and Michael S. Schmidt

In an audacious pre-Christmas round of pardons, President Donald Trump granted clemency on Tuesday to two people convicted in the special counsel’s Russia inquiry, four Blackwater guards convicted in connection with the killing of Iraqi civilians and three corrupt former Republican members of Congress.

Among those pardoned was George Papadopoulos, who was a foreign policy adviser to Trump’s 2016 campaign and pleaded guilty in 2017 to making false statements to federal officials as part of the investigation by the special counsel, Robert Mueller.

Also pardoned was Alex van der Zwaan, a lawyer who pleaded guilty to the same charge in 2018 in connection of the special counsel’s inquiry. Both men served short prison sentences.

The Mueller-related pardons are a signal of more to come of people caught up in the investigation, according to people close to the president.

Trump recently pardoned his former national security adviser, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty twice to charges including lying to the FBI in connection with the inquiry into Russian involvement in the election. Trump in July commuted the sentence of Roger Stone, his longtime adviser who was convicted on a series of charges related to the investigation. Both men have maintained their innocence.

Trump’s pardon list also included four former U.S. service members who were convicted of killing Iraqi civilians while working as contractors in 2007.

One of them, Nicholas Slatten, had been sentenced to life in prison after the Justice Department had gone to great lengths to prosecute him. Slatten, had been a contractor for the controversial company Blackwater and was sentenced for his role in the killing of 17 Iraqi civilians in Nisour Square in Baghdad.

The three former members of Congress pardoned by Trump were Duncan Hunter of California, Chris Collins of New York and Steve Stockman of Texas.

The pardons are not likely to be the last before Trump leaves office on Jan. 20, and they will feed the notion that Trump has used his pardon power aggressively for personal and political purposes.

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