© Reuters. Supporters of US President Donald Trump and members of the far-right Proud Boys are demonstrating in Washington
By Steve Holland
PALM BEACH, Fla. (Reuters) – US President Donald Trump on Wednesday pardoned former campaign president Paul Manafort and former adviser Roger Stone and swept key beliefs during Russia’s long-running election probe.
Trump also issued a pardon to Charles Kushner, a real estate developer and father of Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
Trump, who is exercising a right given only to the constitution to the president, has issued two groups of pardons in as many days, and more are expected as Trump faces the end of his presidency on January 20th.
The announcement came just after Trump arrived in Palm Beach, Florida, during the holiday season with Jared Kushner on the Air Force One flight with him.
In all, Trump on Wednesday issued a pardon to 26 people and commuted part or all of the sentence to a further three people. A commutation removes the penalty but leaves the conviction in place.
Of particular interest to Trump has attacked the findings of U.S. Special Adviser Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, a case Trump repeatedly dismissed as a political witch hunt.
In response to Wednesday’s pardons, Republican Sen. Ben Sasse said in a six-word statement: “This is rotten to the core.”
In addition to Manafort and Stone, Trump has pardoned two other major figures from the Russian probe, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and former Adviser George Papadopoulos.
Manhattan’s district attorney’s office, which has sought to prosecute Manafort in New York for mortgage fraud and other alleged crimes, said it would continue to pursue an appeal for its case, which was dismissed because of double jeopardy.
“This action underscores the urgent need to hold Mr. Manafort accountable for his crimes against the people of New York as alleged in our indictment, and we will continue to pursue our right of appeal,” said Danny Frost, a spokesman for the office.
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The Manafort pardon spared the longtime Republican operator from serving the bulk of his 7-1 / 2-year prison sentence.
Manafort, 70, was among the first in Trump’s inner circle to face charges brought by Mueller as part of his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Manafort worked on Trump’s White House campaign for five months in 2016. In 2018, Trump called him a “brave man” for not cooperating with federal authorities.
Evidence from the Russian investigation showed that Trump intended to encourage Manafort to “not cooperate with the government,” according to Mueller’s report.
In a statement from his lawyer, Manafort expressed his gratitude to Trump.
“Mr. President, my family and I humbly thank you for the forgiveness from the President you bestowed on me. Words cannot fully convey how grateful we are,” he said.
Andrew Weissmann, a top Mueller deputy overseeing Manafort’s prosecution of the special adviser, noted that Manafort has served approximately two years of his sentence and that assets seized in civil forfeiture proceedings fall outside pardon.
“So there are still consequences for Paul Manafort, they just are not consistent with the extensive crime for which he was convicted and pleaded guilty,” Weissmann told CNN.
Stone was convicted in November 2019 by a jury in Washington of swearing in to lawmakers who also investigated Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Trump reversed his verdict in July, a day before Stone was due to begin serving a three-year, four-month term. In a statement, Stone thanked Trump for “completely erasing the criminal convictions I was subjected to in a Soviet-style show trial on politically motivated charges.”
Charles Kushner was sentenced to two years in prison after pleading guilty in 2004 to 18 charges of tax evasion, witness manipulation and making illegal campaign donations.
In an unusual twist, the man who prosecuted Charles Kushner, Chris Christie, was now the former governor of New Jersey, who has also served as an adviser to Trump.
Christie was quoted by CNN as saying that Charles Kushner’s case was “one of the most heinous, heinous crimes” he prosecuted.
During the trial, Charles Kushner admitted to having smeared his brother-in-law, who had collaborated with prosecutors, by hiring a prostitute to have sex with him in a motel room and then sending a secretly recorded video of the meeting to the man’s wife, Charles Kushner’s own sister.
A pardon provides in practice full legal forgiveness for a federal crime as a result of removing the remaining prison sentence, probation or unpaid fines. It also relieves the person of the potential consequences of a violation of a crime, such as To be prevented from voting, running for public office and owning a gun.