U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday evening announced 26 new pardons, including for longtime ally Roger Stone, former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner's father, Charles.
The pardons extend Trump's streak of wielding his clemency powers for criminals who are loyalists, well-connected or adjacent to his family, CNN reported.
"The pardons of Manafort and Stone reward two of the most high-profile and widely condemned former advisers of the President, both of whom were indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller, went to trial and were convicted by juries of multiple crimes," the report reads.
Read alsoReuters: Trump ex-campaign aide Manafort leaves prison for home amid coronavirusManafort, who is serving home confinement, admitted his crimes and initially agreed to cooperate with Mueller then lied to prosecutors, while Stone never cooperated after lying to Congress to protect the President. Manafort spent close to two years in prison for bank and tax fraud, illegal foreign lobbying and witness tampering conspiracies before being released because of the Covid-19 pandemic, while Stone's sentence for obstruction of Congress and threatening a witness was commuted by Trump earlier this year days before he was set to surrender.
Charles Kushner, meanwhile, had been prosecuted by then-U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Chris Christie in the early 2000s for tax evasion, witness tampering and illegal campaign contributions.
The Manafort and Stone pardons also play into Trump's crusade to undermine the findings of the Mueller investigation. Both men had been prime targets whom investigators believed could have shared the truth about still unresolved questions around the President's campaign and Russian election interference if they had been willing.
Manafort was convicted by a jury of tax and banking crimes in August 2018, then pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the U.S. and conspiracy to obstruct justice. As part of a plea deal cut in September 2018, Manafort admitted to money laundering, tax fraud and illegal foreign lobbying connected to his years of lucrative work as a political consultant for Ukrainian politicians, including a former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych who sought refuge in Russia, as well as defrauding banks to supplement his income with cash through mortgages.
He also agreed to cooperate with the prosecutors from Mueller's office -- before lying during those interview sessions. A federal judge ruled his intentional lies voided his earlier plea deal.
Manafort was first sent to prison in June 2018 when prosecutors discovered he was conspiring with a Russian-intelligence-connected colleague in Moscow, Konstantin Kilimnik, in an attempt to coax witnesses who might testify against him. Kilimnik was also charged by Mueller. He has not received a pardon.
Manafort was eventually sentenced to 7.5 years in federal prison, but he moved to home confinement in May when the Justice Department released several nonviolent inmates because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The indictment against Manafort said he and his ex-business partner Rick Gates had received tens of millions of dollars, working for Viktor Yanukovych's entourage. In particular, in 2006-2015 they acted as unregistered agents of the pro-Russian Ukrainian government, the Party of Regions. and the Opposition Bloc.
After Manafort was sentenced in the U.S., the then-Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko launched criminal cases against the American's former employers in Ukraine. The problem, he said, is that they paid Manafort while being on civil service. This, he suggested, could be in breach of Ukrainian legislation that prohibits conducting private business by civil servants. Among those whom the investigation may target, Lutsenko named oligarch Rinat Akhmetov, who was a member of parliament when he was paying Manafort.
In 2017, the Ukrainian government halted the investigation amid talks with the Donald Trump administration regarding lethal aid to the Ukrainian Army repelling Russian attacks.