Donald Trump announced 26 new pardons and commutations tonight. The recipients included former campaign advisers Paul Manafort and Roger Stone.
Like yesterday's 20 pardons and commutations, tonight's list is a mix of Trump loyalists, law enforcement officers, conservative cause célèbres—and drug war cases who criminal justice advocates have been bringing to the White House.
Manafort was serving a seven-and-half-year sentence for bank fraud, tax evasion, and illegally lobbying for Ukraine. Trump had already commuted Stone's 40-month sentence for lying to Congress and witness tampering. The White House painted both convictions as overreach by Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe.
"As a result of blatant prosecutorial overreach, Mr. Manafort has endured years of unfair treatment and is one of the most prominent victims of what has been revealed to be perhaps the greatest witch hunt in American history," the White House said in a statement announcing the pardons.
The White House also attributed Stone's conviction to "prosecutorial misconduct by Special Counsel Mueller's team" and "potential political bias at his jury trial."
Federal prosecutors originally recommended a seven- to nine-year prison sentence for Stone, prompting Trump to fume on Twitter that this was "horrible and very unfair." A day later, the Justice Department overrode the line prosecutors' recommendations—an almost unheard of event—saying Stone deserved a far lighter sentence.
As Reason's Jacob Sullum wrote, Stone's sentence was indeed excessive, but the Justice Department's sudden about-face was "unseemly and smacks of legal favoritism."
Charles Kushner, father of senior White House adviser and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, also received a full pardon. Kushner was convicted of tax evasion, witness tampering, and making false statements to federal election officials in a lurid case that involved sex tapes and a prostitute.
But while the pardons of Manafort and Stone will attract the most attention, the clemency list also contained several victims of the drug war. One of the brighter spots of the Trump administration has been its embrace of second chances and redemption.
For instance, Trump granted a full pardon to Topeka Sam, who was convicted of drug conspiracy and was incarcerated for three years. After her release, Sam founded Ladies of Hope Ministries, where she helps formerly incarcerated women transition back into society. Sam also facilitated a viral video on the case of Alice Johnson, a grandmother serving a life sentence for drug offenses, that caught the attention of megacelebrity Kim Kardashian. Kardashian's personal appeal to Trump led the president to commute Johnson's sentence. As it happens, Johnson was part of a group of criminal justice advocates who supported Sam's pardon and brought her case to the White House.
Trump also granted a pardon to Cesar Lozada, a Cuban immigrant who was convicted of conspiring to distribute marijuana, and Louisville activist Chris 2X.
"Mr. II X is a powerful example of the possibility of redemption," the White House statement said. "For a two-decade period ending in 1998, Mr. II X battled a severe addiction to both cocaine and marijuana. In this period he committed numerous state and federal offenses. Since overcoming his drug dependency and following his release from prison for the last time over 20 years ago, Mr. II X has become an acknowledged community leader in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky."
Pardons also went to former Ron Paul campaign staffers Jesse Benton and John Tate, both convicted in 2016 for their roles in a scheme to funnel $73,000 to an Iowa state legislator in return for the legislator's support in the 2012 Iowa caucuses. Benton and Tate's pardons were supported by Paul's son, Sen. Rand Paul (R–Ky.), according to the White House.
Other pardon recipients included a Maryland police officer who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for siccing a K-9 on a burglary suspect, and a Border Patrol agent found guilty of deprivation of rights under the Fourth Amendment for assaulting several compliant detainees who were caught crossing the border.
Start your day with Reason. Get a daily brief of the most important stories and trends every weekday morning when you subscribe to Reason Roundup.