President Donald Trump on Dec. 22 pardoned George Papadopoulos, his former campaign aide who pleaded guilty as part of the probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
In a wave of pre-Christmas pardons, the president pardoned Papadopoulos, 33, as well as 14 others, including several former GOP congressmen. The White House said in a statement
that the president was granting full pardons to 15 people and commuted part or all of the sentences of five others.
Alex van der Zwaan, 36, a Belgian-born Dutch national, was one of the 15 granted a full pardon by Trump. He was sentenced to 30 days in prison in April 2018 for lying to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators about contacts with an official in the president’s 2016 campaign.
Others pardoned include former Republican Reps. Duncan Hunter of California and Chris Collins of New York and four former Blackwater contractors convicted in the deaths of Iraqi civilians
in Nisour Square in Baghdad, including Nicholas Slatten, a former contractor for the company.
Papadopoulos pleaded guilty in October 2017 to one count of making false statements. In the plea deal, Papadopoulos admitted to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Joseph Mifsud, a Maltese professor whom the Mueller team cast as a figure deeply connected to Russian officials. Open-source research indicates that Mifsud has extensive ties to Western intelligence
, rather than Russia.
After his sentencing, Papadopoulos embarked on a media spree, alleging, in part, that he was the victim of an international intelligence conspiracy
to shape the 2016 presidential election and undermine Trump.
He served 12 days of a 14-day sentence in federal prison and was subsequently placed on a 12-month supervised release.
The White House said in a statement
: “Notably, Mueller stated in his report that he found no evidence of collusion in connection with Russia’s attempts to interfere in the election. Nonetheless, the Special Counsel’s team still charged Mr. Papadopoulos with this process-related crime.
“At the time that Mr. Papadopoulos allegedly made the false statements, he was not represented by counsel, and, after he was arrested, Mr. Papadopoulos gave additional information on his prior statements to the Special Counsel.
“Today’s pardon helps correct the wrong that Mueller’s team inflicted on so many people.”
Papadopoulos thanked Trump in a statement on Twitter, saying that the decision “means the world to me and my family.”
The series of pardons comes just weeks after the president pardoned former national security adviser Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn amid a four-year criminal case.
Flynn had pleaded guilty to lying during a 2017 FBI interview about his conversations with then-Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak during Trump’s 2016 transition period. But Flynn, who is represented by high-profile attorney Sidney Powell, later withdrew his plea, saying that he had accepted a plea deal because prosecutors were threatening his son with charges and his former lawyers hadn’t represented him effectively. He also repeatedly accused the government of misconduct related to his case.
Ivan Pentchoukov and Reuters contributed to this report.