News World US Donald Trump Lame-duck President Donald Trump’s Christmas pardoning spree

Lame-duck President Donald Trump’s Christmas pardoning spree

Donald Trump reckons he deserves his name on an airport. Photo: AP
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As the end of his term nears, outgoing US President Donald Trump has gone on a pardoning spree, facilitating the release of high-profile Republicans from prisons across the country.

Mr Trump has granted a full pardon to George Papadopoulos, a former campaign aide who pleaded guilty as part of the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Mr Trump also pardoned Alex van der Zwaan, 36, the Dutch son-in-law of Russian billionaire German Khan.

Mr Trump also pardoned attorney Alex Van Der Zwaan. Photo: AAP

Mr Van der Zwaan was sentenced to 30 days in prison and fined $US20,000 ($A26,400) for lying to US Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators about contacts with an official in Mr Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Their names were included in a wave of pre-Christmas pardons announced by the White House on Wednesday (Australian time).

Mr Trump granted full pardons to 15 people, including three former Republican politicians, and commuted all or part of the sentences of five others.

Mr Papadopoulos, 33, was an adviser to Mr Trump’s 2016 campaign. He pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to FBI agents about the timing and significance of his contacts with people who claimed to have ties to top Russian officials.

“The defendant’s crime was serious and caused damage to the government’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election,” Mr Mueller said in a sentencing recommendation memo.

Mr Papadopoulos served 12 days of a 14-day sentence in federal prison, then was placed on a 12-month supervised release.

Former Trump presidential campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos. Photo: AAP

The White House said Mr Papadopoulos was charged with “a process-related crime, one count of making false statements”, as part of the Mueller probe, which Mr Trump has denounced as a witch hunt.

“Today’s pardon helps correct the wrong that Mueller’s team inflicted on so many people,” the White House said.

The pardons were part of a flurry of similar actions expected by the outgoing Republican president before Democratic President-elect Joe Biden takes office on January 20.

Mr Trump, who has still refused to concede, has made unsubstantiated claims of widespread voting fraud and pursued a series of unsuccessful lawsuits to overturn the result.

In November, Mr Trump pardoned his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who had twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI during the Russia investigation. The Flynn pardon drew condemnation from Democrats and other critics.

Also receiving pardons were three former Republican politicians, including former Representative Chris Collins of New York.

Mr Collins, 70, had been the first sitting member of Congress to endorse Mr Trump’s candidacy in 2016 and was a strong defender of the president. He won re-election in 2018 but resigned the next year.

“In 2019, Collins pled guilty to the charges of conspiring to commit securities fraud and making false statements to the FBI. Mr Collins is currently serving his 26-month sentence,” the White House said.

On December 22, Mr Trump pardoned Dustin Heard, Evan Liberty, Nicholas Slatten and Paul Slough.

The four former government contractors were convicted for involvement in a 2007 massacre in Baghdad that left more than a dozen Iraqi civilians dead and caused an international uproar over the use of private security guards in a war zone.

Blackwater guards, from left, Dustin Heard, Evan Liberty, Nicholas Slatten and Paul Slough. Photo: AAP

Mr Trump also issued a full pardon to former Republican Representative Duncan Hunter of California, 44, who pleaded guilty a year ago to a single count of conspiring to convert campaign funds to personal use, a felony carrying a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

The President commuted the remaining prison term of former Republican Representative Steve Stockman of Texas, 64, who was convicted in 2018 of misuse of charitable funds.

The White House said he had served more than two years of his 10-year sentence and would remain subject to a period of supervised release and an order requiring that he pay more than $US1 million ($A1.3 million) in restitution.

Mr Trump also commuted the remaining term of the supervised release of Crystal Munoz, who was convicted of conspiracy to distribute marijuana.

Ms Munoz spent years in a federal prison in Fort Worth, with Alice Johnson, who was granted clemency by Mr Trump in 2018 in a case championed by reality TV star Kim Kardashian West.