United States’ incumbent President Donald Trump on Tuesday pardoned 15 people, including two men who pleaded guilty in the inquiry into Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential elections, AP reported.
George Papadopoulos, 33, was an advisor to Trump’s campaign in 2016 and had pleaded guilty in 2017 for lying to Federal Bureau of Investigation agents about the timing and significance of his contacts with people who claimed to have ties to top Russian officials, according to Reuters. Trump also pardoned Alex van der Zwaan, 36, a Dutch lawyer, who was sentenced to 30 days in prison and fined $20,000 for lying to US Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators about contacts with an official in Trump’s 2016 campaign.
The list also included former Republican representatives Duncan Hunter of California and Chris Collins of New York.
Collins, the first sitting member of Congress to endorse Trump’s candidacy in 2016, was a strong defender of the president. He was sentenced to two years and two months in federal prison after admitting that he helped his son and others dodge $800,000 in stock market losses, according to AP. On the other hand, Hunter had pleaded guilty a year ago for conspiring to convert campaign funds to personal use.
Further, the list included four former security guards from private military firm Blackwater convicted in a 2007 massacre in Baghdad that killed 14 Iraqi civilians, and caused an international uproar over the use of mercenaries in a war zone, reported The Guardian.
The four guards – Paul Slough, Evan Liberty, Dustin Heard and Nicholas Slatten – fired indiscriminately using machine-guns, grenade launchers and a sniper on a crowd of unarmed people, and were serving jail sentences.
The pardons drew criticism from Democrat Representative Adam Schiff, who is also the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. “Trump is doling out pardons, not on the basis of repentance, restitution or the interests of justice, but to reward his friends and political allies, to protect those who lie to cover up [for] him, to shelter those guilty of killing civilians, and to undermine an investigation that uncovered massive wrongdoing,” he said, according to AP.
Last month, Trump had pardoned his former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn who pled guilty to lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation during the investigation of Russian meddling in 2016 elections.