There’s a growing list of people seeking pardons from Donald Trump and expecting to be looked after by the president in his final weeks in office.
The names include the famous, infamous and anonymous: Tiger King Joe Exotic, former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and a host of other figures tied to the president’s 2016 campaign, former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, and a series of people convicted of nonviolent crimes as part of Jared Kushner’s criminal justice reform.
President Trump’s pardon of his former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn sparked speculation that others could be next.
Particularly of interest are Manafort and two other former Trump campaign advisers, Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos, who like Flynn were convicted in cases stemming from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
There’s a growing list of people seeking pardons from President Donald Trump
Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort (left) and former White House Counselor Steve Bannon (right) are two people with close ties to Trump trying to get a pardon
Joseph Maldonado-Passage, the former Oklahoma zoo owner who is better known as Joe Exotic, who starred in the Netflix documentary ‘Tiger King,’ is also seeking a pardon
Gates pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the United States and making false statements in the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. On December 17, 2019, he was sentenced to 45 days’ jail and three years of probation.
Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to making false statements to FBI agents about the timing and the possible significance of his contacts in 2016 relating to U.S.–Russia relations and Trump’s campaign. He served twelve days in federal prison, then was placed on a 12-month supervised release.
Both have ties to Manafort, who is serving time after being convicted of conspiracy to defraud the United States and witness tampering. He is on home confinement due to the coronavirus.
‘The president knows how much those of us who worked for him have suffered, and I hope he takes that into consideration if and when he grants any pardons,’ Gates told The New York Times.
Also in Trump’s circle are are Steve Bannon, his former White House counselor who was indicted in August on charges of defrauding donors regarding a campaign to help fund Trump’s goal to build a wall along the border with Mexico, and Elliott Broidy, a top GOP fund-raiser, who pleaded guilty last month in a foreign lobbying case.
But attorneys and others who have been in touch with the White House told The New York Times they anticipate the president will use his power to pardon in cases that extend beyond those involving Mueller’s inquiry and the lengthy cast of aides and associates who have gotten in legal trouble since he first ran for the White House.
Several groups are working with Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, with a goal of announcing as many as hundreds of commutations for offenders now in jail for crimes ranging from nonviolent drug convictions to mail fraud and money laundering.
‘Lists of people are being circulated,’ Brandon Sample, a Vermont lawyer who specializes in presidential pardons and has submitted several names of people to be considered told The Times.
Others seeking a pardon include Joseph Maldonado-Passage, the former Oklahoma zoo owner who is better known as Joe Exotic, who starred in the Netflix documentary ‘Tiger King.’
He is one year into a 22-year sentence for trying to hire a hit man to kill an animal-rights activist. His team has been trying to catch Trump’s attention through appearances on Fox News and a visit to the Trump International Hotel in Washington where they ran up a tab of about $10,000.
In April, Trump said he would ‘take a look at’ a pardon for the so-called Tiger King.
Two former Trump campaign advisers, Rick Gates (left) and George Papadopoulos (right), who like Flynn were convicted in cases stemming from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, are seeking pardons
Jared Kushner is working to get nonviolent convicts paroled as part of his work on criminal justice reform
Political strategist Roger Stone (left) and Wall Street executive Michael Milken (right) are among those who used their ties to Trump to get their sentence commuted or their conviction pardoned
President Trump retweeted this missive from Rep. Matt Gaetz on presidential pardons
After he pardoned Flynn, Trump shared a tweet on Wednesday from Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz, one of his closest allies on Capitol Hill, who said the president should also consider a pardon for himself.
‘President Trump should pardon Flynn, the Thanksgiving turkey, and everyone from himself, to his admin, to Joe Exotic if he has to,’ Gaetz wrote.
There have been questions about whether Trump would pardon himself from any possible federal investigations into his business activities and taxes, which would not absolve him from any probes from New York state officials.
Legal scholars doubt the constitutionality of such a move and many think the Supreme Court would strike it down.
And President-elect Joe Biden told NBC’s Lester Holt he would not push his own Justice Department to go after Trump, with some Democrats calling for probes.
Biden said: ‘I will not do what this president does and use the Justice Department as my vehicle to insist that something happen.’
Before his pardon of Flynn, Trump had granted 28 pardons, which wipe out convictions, and 16 commutations, which reduce prison sentences.
Many of those who benefited are those associated with Trump, including Roger Stone, who 40 month prison sentence was commuted by the president; conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza, who was pardoned by Trump after being convicted of an illegal campaign contribution in a Senate race; and Wall Street executive Michael Milken, who was pardoned by Trump after being convicted of violating U.S. securities laws. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin pushed for Milken’s pardon.
Trump also commuted the sentence of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, who was found guilty of public corruption after he attempted to solicit bribes to occupy the U.S. Senate seat vacated by then president-elect Barack Obama; and Scooter Libby, the former aide to Vice President Dick Cheney who was caught up in the Valerie Plame scandal.
Any further pardons would likely draw the scrutiny of Democrats, who criticized Trump for his pardon of Flynn.
House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler has called Trump’s pardon of Flynn ‘undeserved’ and ‘unprincipled’.
‘The President’s enablers have constructed an elaborate narrative in which Trump and Flynn are victims and the Constitution is subject to the whims of the president,’ Nadler said in a statement.
He added: ‘Americans soundly rejected this nonsense when they voted out President Trump. This pardon is undeserved, unprincipled, and one more stain on President Trump’s rapidly diminishing legacy.’
But Republican John Kasich – who backed Joe Biden in the election – told CNN: ‘Let’s move on, it’s what presidents do.’
Trump on Wednesday pardoned Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his calls with the Russian ambassador, only to later seek to withdraw the plea.
‘It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon. Congratulations to @GenFlynn and his wonderful family, I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving!’ Trump wrote on Twitter. ‘Have a great life General Flynn!’
House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler, pictured, has called Donald Trump’s pardon of Michael Flynn ‘undeserved’ and ‘unprincipled’
Republican John Kasich, left – who backed Biden in the election – said: ‘Let’s move on’
Democrats have lambasted the pardon as undeserved and unprincipled.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called it ‘an act of grave corruption and a brazen abuse of power,’ while Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democratic chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said a ‘pardon by Trump does not erase’ the truth of Flynn’s guilty plea, ‘no matter how Trump and his allies try to suggest otherwise.’
Nadler called the move an ‘abuse of power’, arguing Trump ‘granted clemency to protect an individual who might have implicated the President in criminal misconduct.’
But Trump critic and 2016 GOP hopeful Kasich, who had been probed on his thoughts on the pardon by CNN’s Jim Acosta, insisted the network move on.
He said: ‘Let’s get on with all of this. The president has lost [the election]. Now we’re having a big debate about his pardons. Every president has the ability to pardon … There’s gonna be more pardons that are gonna come. That’s what presidents do.
‘I mean, I remember when Bill Clinton had some pardons and people went crazy. That’s the power that they have! And frankly, he’s done! He’s gonna leave. The transition has started, let’s just move on!’
‘I mean, tomorrow’s Thanksgiving. Can we just, like, move on a little bit?’
‘You know, I want to move on,’ Kasich added. ‘I want to change the subject.’
President Trump says he has pardoned Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser. Flynn is seen above with his lawyer Sidney Powell in September
Trump announced the pardon Wednesday
Flynn’s family issued this statement which he shared on Twitter
Flynn’s family on Wednesday issued a statement expressing their profuse gratitude to President Trump for pardoning him.
‘We are forever appreciative to President Trump for giving back to Michael his freedom in undoing a hideous wrong,’ Flynn’s family said in a statement shared on his Twitter account.
‘Let it be heard across this great country and around the world that tyranny will not topple us. Masks will not silence us. Threats will not stop us. Evil will not triumph. We are Americans,’ the statement added.
Trump has long championed Flynn and used his prosecution to make the case that the FBI ‘spied’ on his campaign – although back in 2017 he fired Flynn after just weeks on the job after it was revealed he did not disclose his contacts with Russia’s former ambassador to the U.S. to Vice President Mike Pence.
In a tweet almost three years ago – long before the Mueller probe Flynn cooperated with would wrap up and the House would impeach him, Trump wrote: ‘I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!’
Flynn was on the job for just 24 days before Trump fired him.