US President Donald Trump on Wednesday pardoned two more aides convicted in the Russia meddling probe – Paul Manafort and Roger Stone – and for the first time extended the extraordinary pardon powers of his office to benefit a family member, Charles Kushner, the father of his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner.
The outgoing president, who has refused to acknowledge his defeat to President-elect Joe Biden and has continued efforts to overturn the election’s outcome, had pardoned George Papadopoulos and Alex Van Der Zwaan, the first convicted in the Russia probe, on Tuesday.
Earlier this month, he had pardoned Michael Flynn, his national security adviser.
Trump granted 26 pardons and three commutations on Wednesday to add to 15 pardons and 5 commutations on Tuesday.
Manafort had headed Trump’s 2016 election campaign before being fired just weeks before polling because of his business dealings with the former Soviet Union. He had been sentenced to seven and a half years for financial fraud in a case prosecuted by special counsel Robert Muller.
Stone, meanwhile, was given 40 months’ jail time for lying to congress, essentially to protect Trump. The president had commuted his sentence earlier, saving him from serving in jail.
The outgoing president’s pardon to Charles Kushner, however, received a lot of comments and criticism as a development that was taken to preview Trump’s larger plan to pardon his immediate family, especially his adult children who are already under investigation by state and local authorities, and possibly himself.
Charles Kushner, a real estate magnate in New Jersey, pleaded guilty in 2016 to 16 counts of tax evasion and other charges that included using a sex worker to influence his sister’s husband to force him to not testify against him. He served two years in prison and got out in 2016.
Charles Kushner, whose son Jared is married to the president’s eldest daughter Ivanka Trump, was prosecuted by Chris Christie, the then US attorney who went on to win two terms as governor of New Jersey and became a close ally of President Trump.