Clemency

Trump's Latest Round of Pardons Includes George Papadopoulos, GOP Congressmen, Blackwater Guards

Full pardons were given to the four contractors convicted of murdering Iraqis in a firefight in Baghdad.

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Two men convicted as a result of the investigation of President Donald Trump's staff ties to Russia, a Republican congressman convicted of misusing campaign funds, and four Blackwater security guards convicted of murder for the deaths of 17 Iraqis in Baghdad are among the 20 people granted some form of clemency by Trump this evening.

In addition, some lesser-known people convicted of drug crimes or smaller incidences of fraud were granted mercy by the president. Weldon Angelos, who became a cause celebre demonstrating the harshness of federal mandatory minimums, was granted a full pardon this evening. Angelos was sentenced to 55 years in prison for three marijuana deals. He was freed in 2016 due to the mercy of a prosecutor who had second thoughts about all the charges piled on the man.

Pardoning Angelos, along with some other lesser-known folks, is genuinely good for criminal justice. Unfortunately, Trump's dollops of mercy here will be overshadowed by some of the other very politicized pardons.

Trump pardoned two more people who gotten caught up in the Russia probe of Trump's campaign in Robert Mueller's special investigation, George Papadopoulos and Alex van der Zwaan. The two men, much like Michael Flynn, had been convicted of lying to FBI agents during the course of the investigation. And much like Flynn, they were not charged with any additional crimes. Both have already served their time (14 days for Papadopoulos, and 30 days for van der Zwaan, who was also subsequently deported).

Trump pardoned former California Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter. Hunter was convicted in March and sentenced to 11 months in prison for misusing hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign funds for personal purposes, including trips, parties, and entertainment.

Two other Republican politicians also received mercy from Trump. Former U.S. Rep. Chris Collins of New York, who pleaded guilty to insider trading in 2019 and was sentenced to 26 months in prison, was given a full pardon. Former Texas Rep. Steve Stockman, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2018 for misusing charitable and political donations for personal use, wasn't pardoned, but Trump commuted the remainder of his sentence.

Beyond that crop of purely political clemency gestures, Trump also fully pardoned four men—Nicholas Slatten, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty, and Dustin Heard—who were all convicted of various murder and manslaughter charges for the shooting deaths of 17 Iraqi civilians in Nisour Square in Baghdad while serving as private contracted guards with Blackwater. In the pardon announcement, the White House justified the pardons because:

On appeal, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that additional evidence should have been presented at Mr. Slatten's trial. Further, prosecutors recently disclosed—more than 10 years after the incident—that the lead Iraqi investigator, who prosecutors relied heavily on to verify that there were no insurgent victims and to collect evidence, may have had ties to insurgent groups himself.

Meanwhile, this very same administration is setting modern records by executing prisoners convicted of murder, even as their defense attorneys make complaints that courts and juries weren't given the full picture of their crimes. Just two weeks ago, the Department of Justice under Trump executed Brandon Bernard, even though five jurors who sentenced him to death and a prosecutor who worked on the case had come forward to say they had changed their minds.

The White House letter explaining these pardons lists who pushed the president for mercy, and very frequently it's Trump allies in Congress or in the administration who have pushed for these pardons.

This doesn't necessarily make them bad and wrong—we should all take a dim view of any federal conviction whose sole charges are lying to the FBI—but the list of commutations shows a president who is not terribly interested in mercy for anybody outside of his orbit. Trump ultimately has a poor record of commutations and pardons (though he has just improved on it). The New York Times notes, "A tabulation by the Harvard Law School professor Jack Goldsmith found that of the 45 pardons or commutations that Mr. Trump had granted up until Tuesday, 88 percent aided someone with a personal tie to the president or furthered his political aims."

Tonight added more pardons and commutations to those with ties to Trump, as well as to those without.

Surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden was not on tonight's list, but we know several lawmakers in Trump's orbit are trying to convince him. And, of course, there are many, many more people behind bars who are in situations like Angelos. Let's hope Trump's mercy extends to them as well.

NEXT: Trump Threatens to Sink COVID-19 Relief Bill Unless Congress Cuts Wasteful Spending, Spends More on $2,000 Stimulus Checks

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  1. “Setting modern records for executing prisoners” means 10. Ten prisoners. Don’t believe phony drama from fabulists.

    1. These 10 are now literally stone-cold killers.

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        3. Narrator voice: Most would have recovered quickly from such a great joke at their expense. But not Dee. No, poor Dee didn’t operate like you or I. She was mildly retarded, and anytime the conversation took a sharp turn, she, well, she just couldn’t keep up.

          Sometimes she reacted by acting like a small child, stealing everyone’s handles in a tantrum of rage.

          Other times, she would act like a 14 year old science nerd, demanding proof that the salt on the frozen porch steps would make them safer to walk on in the winter.

          Her greatest ability as a twat, however, was to jump into almost any conversation out of nowhere and misunderstand at least half of what was going on.

          No one knows what ever happened to Dee, but what we do know, unfortunately, is that her ghost still haunts these boards to this very day.

      2. A number might be a lot if someone like Shackford were to want to say it outright instead of hyping it indirectly so you imagine it is high. Unless you have purely evil motives, don’t use deception to attempt to be persuasive.

        Personally I’d get rid of the death penalty because it’s not used enough for it to be a real deterrent but when you use it a little then you still need to deal with endless complaining from the Shackfords of the world. Too much trouble, not enough benefit.

        1. “Unless you have purely evil motives, don’t use deception to attempt to be persuasive.”

          Yep

      3. Is it happening in Benghazi and is a Democrat president?

        1. Only ever cared so long as it could get them political power. Quite clear Rs don’t give a flying fuck about “life” and anyone still believing they do is a moron of the highest grade.

      4. One is too many, but regardless, Shackford is still posturing here.

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  2. More, more, I’m still not satisfied.

    There’s got to be more deserving people rotting in prison – find them and let them out before “Merciful Joe” Biden takes over.

  3. Trump is awesome he knows how to piss off the libs.

    1. Pissing off liberals isn’t valuable in itself, it’s simply useful evidence that maybe something good just happened.

      Of course, we have to allow for the stopped-clock principle that, if only by accident, liberals get something right once in a while.

    2. Clingers get to celebrate a small victory once in a while, mostly because their betters are so generous.

      In general, however, our society’s half-educated bigots, superstitious slack-jaws, disaffected clingers, and anti-social, right-wing culture war casualties get stomped by the liberal-libertarian mainstream, which shapes generations of American progress against the wishes and efforts of conservatives.

      Tired of winning yet, losers? Either way . . . open wider . . .

  4. That’s what we want, right? Not a civil, prosperous country, but instead pissing off the liberals. There’s a high value to aspire to.

    1. If progressives are mad it means someone is doing so the right thing.

      1. Yeah, I mean, when I think about doing the right thing, certain things come to mind, like slaughtering innocent Iraqis, misusing campaign funds, lying to Congress on behalf of Trump, you know…”good things”

    2. This is not an exclusive-or proposition. Both would be great.

    3. You are so right WK. Many of these people are same one that burn their house down rather than split it with a ex-spouse.

  5. Insider trading is no more a crime than outsider trading. It can’t be kept secret, and so informs the market and others will follow suit. But I imagine there are a lot of insider trading convictions and plea deals every year, so I wonder why this one was selected.

    Neither is lying to the FBI a crime. They lie all the time: to each other, to us, to their bosses, to Congress.

    1. Insider trading is a crime. It undermines key fundamentals of the capitalist system, that our markets are fair. That investor have the same opportunities, not that some investors have more. This is why some people are pushing socialism. If we can not be fair then we must all share. I have said before and will say again failing capitalism is the thing most like to send people to socialism.

      1. LOL, you actually believe that dribble you just wrote?

        1. Imagine defending insider trading. What the hell is happening around here?

          1. Except nobody defended insider trading. Perhaps you missed the obivious condratictions about sharing and fairness your sock puppet was bloviating about.

            1. So what are you saying that we can have capitalism and not have fair markets? That special people get inside information that allow them to take money from the rest of the investors. That redistribution of wealth is OK as long as its direct is from the common to the rich and well connected.

              So who more of a socialist you or AOC?

      2. “If we can not be fair then we must all share”
        GFY, keep your hand out of my pocket, asshole!

  6. There is no way Trump wasn’t the biggest dickhead in middle school.

    1. I thought you liked a large head on your penises?

    2. Bet someone like Trump took your milk money everyday in middle school and you are still all butthurt about it.

  7. “The New York Times notes, “A tabulation by the Harvard Law School professor Jack Goldsmith found that of the 45 pardons or commutations that Mr. Trump had granted up until Tuesday, 88 percent aided someone with a personal tie to the president or furthered his political aims.”

    If the president pardoned or commuted the sentences of everyone who was convicted of a crime for exercising their Second Amendment rights, selling marijuana to an adult, making an error on their income taxes, or violating some BS regulation that depends on a bad interpretation of the commerce clause, should he be criticized for using clemency to further his political aims?

    My political aim is to get rid of all those laws. Short of that, I’d like to see those laws undermined as much as possible.

    When juries in the North refused to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act, should they have been criticized for using the judicial system to further their political aims?

    Is clemency more legitimate when, for some reason, the president doesn’t give a shit about the issue or the person in question?

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  9. SleepyJoe will right the ship.

    1. Yes he will. We are lucky he was elected.

  10. And yet people won’t regret voting for this asshole. “Party of law and order” my ass.

    Nothing but a bunch of asshole hypocrites. Fuck him and fuck the lot of them.

  11. Whenever we encountered the murdering cowards from Blackwater in Baghdad, we trained our weapons in their direction. My men had “shoot to kill” orders if any one of them as much as pointed a weapon in our direction. Yes, it was THAT bad.
    They were the American version of Einsatzgruppen, the murdering Nazi shits that avoided the real battlefield so that they could hide in the rear and kill innocent, unarmed civilians “for score”. They strutted around the embassy dressed like clowns, they wore earrings, mohawks, and shot steroids by the quart.
    They were kid killers. Nearly every VIP and politician that they transported witnessed them murdering civilians for “being in the way” on Iraqi roads. It was no secret. After all, the “VIPs” that Blackwater was transporting had “important meetings” to get to.
    They should be tried in Iraq by the Iraqis. I can never unsee those shot up, dead civilians on Route IRISH/Route FORCE in Baghdad. Blackwater disgraced our country and our people. Nothing was done about it for several years. Every politician was aware of it. Biden too.
    The next 9/11 will be much worse. As a nation, we have earned it for employing these murdering scumbags.

    1. TX, Quoting some one or personal experience?

      At least Trump has pardoned former cop killers or domestic terrorist bombers

    2. I agree. I was in a national guard unit for a bit with a bunch of these dorks.

      What all the fake patriot thank-you-for-your-service types don’t seem to understand in all of the war criminal pardon cases, is that these criminals’ fellow service members are the ones who turned them in.

      In the case of Eddy, it was his platoon members who turned him in.

      In the case of the blackwater guards, their fellow contractors testified against them. They killed 12 unarmed civilians. There was no evidence that they had been fired on at all by anybody. There is no excuse.

  12. Unfortunately, Trump’s dollops of mercy here will be overshadowed by some of the other very politicized pardons. Trump pardoned two more people who gotten caught up in the Russia probe of Trump’s campaign in Robert Mueller’s special investigation, George Papadopoulos and Alex van der Zwaan. The two men, much like Michael Flynn, had been convicted of lying to FBI agents during the course of the investigation. And much like Flynn, they were not charged with any additional crimes. Both have already served their time (14 days for Papadopoulos, and 30 days for van der Zwaan, who was also subsequently deported).

    Since Shackford implies that pardoning the people who supposedly lied to the FBI is “unfortunate”, we have to conclude that Shackford believes that lying to the FBI should be a serious offense that requires no mercy, and, of course, no proof beyond what some FBI agent says.

    That’s what “Libertarianism” has turned into at Reason: support for locking people up based on the wishes of government employees with no possibility of parole, for supposed “crimes” that have no victims, no witnesses, and no consequences.

  13. oh no! lying to the FBI lol

  14. The entire constitutional premise during the “Jim Crow” era was that one clause of the U.S. Constitution couldn’t be interpreted to violate another clause – especially violating individual constitutional rights.

    In other words, although the 10th Amendment (states’ rights) is constitutional today in state marijuana laws (since no other rights are being violated), the interpretation the during Jim Crow era was illegal, since it was used to violate the 14th Amendment rights of African-Americans.

    A president can pardon anyone they want, but wouldn’t the 14th Amendment (equal protection/equal justice) require ALL Americans with those same past convictions, of similar circumstances, be pardoned also? America is the world’s largest jailer, maybe we need “equal justice” for average folks also?

  15. Question for the Trump fans on here. Do any of you, yes or no, have a problem with the Blackwater guys, what they did, or these pardons? Don’t deflect to Hillary or Biden comments. Answer the freaking question directly. And if it doesn’t bother you, say why. Instead of letting “lefties” ascribe motives/thoughts to you, make your own thoughts clear. Let people understand where you are coming from and why.

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