• Trump granted 20 high-profile pardons on Tuesday
  • Among those pardoned are four Blackwater guards who murdered 17 Iraqi civilians
  • He also pardoned former congressman Hunter who pled guilty to misusing campaign funds

President Donald Trump on Tuesday granted a wave of executive clemencies -- including the pardons of four military contractors involved in a fatal shooting of 17 Iraqi civilians -- just days before the Christmas holiday.

Trump’s recent lame-duck pardons kicks off what many expect to be a series of clemencies in the final weeks of his presidential term. Before Tuesday’s pardons, the president granted 28 pardons and 16 commutations during his tenure, including the Nov. 25 full pardon of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Among those recently pardoned was former Texas Rep. Steve Stockman. A jury convicted him for nearly two dozen felony charges, including fraud and money laundering. In a statement, the White House cited the Republican’s age and “underlying health conditions” as the reason for the clemency.

Mueller Investigation

The president’s recent pardons include 2016 campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos and former lawyer Alex van der Zwaan. Both served prison time after pleading guilty to making false statements to federal officials during the Russian investigation helmed by special counsel Robert S. Mueller II.

Papadopoulos spent less than two weeks in prison in late 2018. Van der Zwaan, the son-in-law of a Ukrainian-Russian billionaire, spent less than a month behind bars before being deported to Europe in June 2018.

Former Congressmen

Aside from Stockman, Trump also pardoned Duncan D. Hunter of California and Chris Collins of New York.

In December 2019, the former California lawmaker pleaded guilty to misusing over $200,000 campaign funds for personal expenses. He and his wife spent the funds on fast food, movie tickets, video games, luxury hotels and overseas vacations.

“This was not an accounting mistake by his campaign. This was a deliberate, years-long violation of the law. Congressman Hunter used the power of his position to fund a lifestyle out of his reach, unwittingly financed by those who put him there,” Assistant U.S. Attorney David Leshner said in a statement.

Hunter was scheduled to begin serving an 11-month sentence in prison next month before he was issued a pardon.

Collins, a former New York congressman and a known Trump endorser, has been serving a 26-month sentence before Tuesday’s announcement. On Sept. 30, 2019, he pled guilty to making false statements to authorities and conspiring to commit securities fraud. Collins represented New York’s 27th Congressional District for nearly seven years before his arrest.

Iraqi Shooting

Trump pardoned Nicholas Slatten, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty, and Dustin Heard — Blackwater Worldwide guards convicted of killing 17 people in the Nisour Square traffic circle in Baghdad on Sept. 16, 2007.

The former security guards carried out the attack in a crowded intersection using sniper fire, machine guns and a grenade launcher. Their lawyers described the incident as “unavoidable” and a “consequence of urban warfare.”

They were charged with voluntary manslaughter, murder and weapons charges after more than two dozen Iraqi witnesses testified against them in court.

Border Patrol Agents

Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean were granted a pardon after receiving 11- and 12-year prison sentences for their involvement in a 2006 shooting on the U.S.-Mexico border near El Paso, Texas.

The former Border Patrol agents shot Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila, who was fleeing toward the Rio Grande. Both men said the victim had brandished a gun and resisted arrest at the border. However, Davila later disputed their statements and said he was unarmed and trying to surrender when Compean attempted to beat him.

The former Border patrol agents were convicted on assault charges, lying about the incident and violating the immigrant’s Fourth Amendment right.

Time is running out on US President Donald Trump's bid to overturn the November election result
Time is running out on US President Donald Trump's bid to overturn the November election result AFP / ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS