Just one day after pardoning a pair of corrupt former congressmen, and a group of private mercenaries responsible for the Nisour Square massacre in Iraq, President Donald Trump continued his sprint toward the end of his administration with a new slate of pardons late Wednesday evening. While this latest round of beneficiaries doesn't sink to the amoral depths of Tuesday's quartet of literal war criminals, it does highlight Trump at his most unambiguously corrupt.
Nestled within the list of 25 full pardon recipients, and three additional people who received sentence commutations are former Trump campaign head Paul Manafort, flamboyant Trump consiglieri Roger Stone, and Charles Kushner, father of Trump's son-in-law and top advisor Jared Kushner — three men who embody the Trump administration's willingness to transparently flaunt his relatively unchecked pardoning powers in exchange for fealty or familial proximity.
In a press release announcing the pardons, Trump made clear that his decision to absolve Manafort and Stone stems directly from "Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation, which was premised on the Russian collusion hoax," and "injustices [...] faced at the hands of the Mueller investigation." Importantly, both men refused to cooperate with the Mueller investigation, which Mueller noted in his final report, writing that Trump "suggested that a pardon was a more likely possibility if Manafort continued not to cooperate."
Kushner, while not involved in the Mueller probe, seems part of that same quid-pro-quo push by Trump to reward those closest to him — in this case, his son-in-law Jared.
"Since completing his sentence in 2006, Mr. Kushner has been devoted to important philanthropic organizations and causes, such as Saint Barnabas Medical Center and United Cerebral Palsy," The White House wrote in its press release announcing the elder Kushner's pardon. "This record of reform and charity overshadows Mr. Kushner’s conviction and 2 year sentence for preparing false tax returns, witness retaliation, and making false statements to the FEC."
Moral implications of giving of ill-gotten wealth to essentially gloss over his criminality aside, Charles Kushner's pardon is likely to particularly gall Trump stalwart Chris Christie, who said Kushner was behind "one of the most loathsome, disgusting crimes" he'd ever prosecuted during his time as a U.S. Attorney. Kushner ultimately pled guilty to multiple counts of tax evasion, and witness retaliation, after he'd hired a prostitute to sleep with his brother-in-law, filmed it, and sent the footage to his sister in an attempt to coerce her not to testify against him to a federal grand jury.
Taken in aggregate, however, Trump's latest pardoning spree can only be seen as a wholesale — and utterly shameless — effort to reward those closest to him for acting in his best interests. Indeed, before this month, 88 percent of the Trump's total pardons were estimated to have gone to people with whom he had a personal connection. Now, given this week's additions, that transparent linkage between proximity to Trump and political protection has only gotten stronger.
The question now becomes: who's next?