EDITOR’S NOTE (Nick Stamatakis): One more grave injustice came to an end today as President Trump gave a full pardon to George Papadopoulos who was basically trapped by intelligence agents to get involved in the fake “Russiagate” scandal…He also pardoned another Greek-American, Weldon Angelos, who had a 55-yr prison sentence deemed generally excessive… But the BIG NEWS of the day was that President Trump sent back to the swamp the 900 billion “porkulus” bill, with specific direction to increase the $600 to each American to $2000… And to cut all the unnecessary “pork” especially to international “projects…
President Donald Trump on Tuesday pardoned 15 people, including Republican allies, a 2016 campaign official ensnared in the Russia probe and former government contractors convicted in a 2007 massacre in Baghdad.
Trump also commuted the sentences of five others. While it is not unusual for presidents to grant clemency on their way out the door, Trump has made clear that he has no qualms about intervening in the cases of friends and allies whom he believes have been treated unfairly. Despite speculation, though, not on the list were members of Trump’s own family, his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and the president himself.
The pardons included former Republican Reps. Duncan Hunter of California and Chris Collins of New York. Trump also commuted the sentence of former Rep. Steve Stockman of Texas and pardoned a current state representative, Phil Lyman of Utah, who led an ATV protest through restricted native lands.
Collins, the first member of Congress to endorse Trump to be president, was sentenced to two years and two months in federal prison after admitting he helped his son and others dodge $800,000 in stock market losses when he learned that a drug trial by a small pharmaceutical company had failed.
Hunter was sentenced to 11 months in prison after pleading guilty to stealing campaign funds and spending the money on everything from outings with friends to his daughter’s birthday party.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the pardons for Hunter and Collins were granted after “the request of many members of Congress.” She noted that Hunter served the nation in the U.S. Marines and saw combat in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Trump also announced pardons for allies ensnared in the Russia investigation. One was for George Papadopoulos, his 2016 campaign adviser whose conversation unwittingly helped trigger the Russia investigation that shadowed Trump’s presidency for nearly two years. He also pardoned Alex van der Zwaan, a Dutch lawyer who was sentenced to 30 days in prison for lying to investigators during special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
Van der Zwaan and Papadopoulos are the third and fourth Russia investigation defendants granted clemency. By pardoning them, Trump once again took aim at Mueller’s probe and pushed a broader effort to undo the results of the investigation that yielded criminal charges against a half-dozen associates.
Last month, Trump pardoned former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who had twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, and months earlier commuted the sentence of another associate, Roger Stone, days before he was to report to prison.
Trump has granted about 2% of requested pardons in his single term in office, and had done 27 before Tuesday’s announcement. By comparison, Barack Obama granted 212 or 6%, and George W. Bush granted about 7%, or 189. George H. W. Bush, another one-term president, granted 10% of requests.
In the group announced Tuesday night were four former government contractors convicted in a 2007 massacre in Baghdad that left more a dozen Iraqi civilians dead and caused an international uproar over the use of private security guards in a war zone.
Supporters of Nicholas Slatten, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard, the former contractors at Blackwater Worldwide, had lobbied for pardons, arguing that the men had been excessively punished in an investigation and prosecution they said was tainted by problems and withheld exculpatory evidence. All four were serving lengthy prison sentences.
The pardons reflected Trump’s apparent willingness to give the benefit of doubt to American servicemembers and contractors when it comes to acts of violence in warzones against civilians. Last November, for instance, he pardoned a former U.S. Army commando who was set to stand trial next year in the killing of a suspected Afghan bomb-maker and a former Army lieutenant convicted of murder for ordering his men to fire upon three Afghans.
Utah state Rep. Phil Lyman was serving as a county commissioner in 2014 when he led a protest of about 50 ATV riders in a canyon home to Native American cliff dwellings that officials closed to motorized traffic. The ride occurred amid a sputtering movement in the West pushing back against federal control of large swaths of land and came in the wake of an armed confrontation Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy had with Bureau of Land Management over grazing fees.
Lyman spent 10 days in prison and was ordered to pay nearly $96,000 in restitution. The Trump administration in 2017 lifted a ban on motorized vehicles in parts of the canyon but left restrictions in place through other areas where Lyman led his ride.
Others on the list included a Pittsburgh dentist who pleaded guilty to health care fraud, two women convicted of drug crimes, and Alfred Lee Crum, now 89, who pleaded guilty in 1952 when he was 19 to helping his wife’s uncle illegally distill moonshine.
Crum served three years of probation and paid a $250 fine. The White House said Crum has maintained a clean record and a strong marriage for nearly 70 years, attended the same church for 60 years, raised four children, and regularly participated in charity fundraising events.
BELOW THE NEWS ABOUT WELDON ANGELOS
Weldon Angelos – Today, President Trump granted a full pardon to Weldon Angelos. Mr. Angelos’ pardon is supported by Senator Mike Lee, Senator Rand Paul, Alice Johnson, former U.S. Attorney Brett Tolman, and others.
Mr. Angelos is an active criminal justice reform advocate and champion of giving second chances. Because of mandatory minimums, Mr. Angelos was sentenced in 2002 to 55 years’ imprisonment for selling marijuana and carrying a handgun in the course of dealing. The presiding judge called this excessive sentence “unjust and cruel and even irrational.”
Mr. Angelos was eventually released by judicial order after serving 13 years in prison, and committed to changing the world for the better through criminal justice reform advocacy. His story has been cited as an inspiration for sentencing reform, including the First Step Act, and he participated in a Prison Reform Summit at the White House in 2018. In his own words, Mr. Angelos wants “to become whole again and put the bad choices in the past and continue changing the world for the better.”
The son of a Greek immigrant, Weldon Angelos worked as a music producer with musicians such as Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur, and was accused of selling marijuana to a police informant on several occasions worth a total of $350. The witness stated that Angelos had a firearm strapped to his body, but no photographs or evidence existed other than his testimony, and Angelos never used or brandished a firearm during the sales.
However, section 924(c) of the federal code provides for mandatory sentences for dealers who carry firearms during their drug transactions; meaning Angelos, who had no prior criminal record, was sentenced in November 2004 to a minimum of 55 to 63 years in prison.