Criminal Justice

Among those pardoned by President Donald Trump on Tuesday is a former associate at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, who pleaded guilty in the special counsel probe of Russian election influence in 2016.

The associate, Alexander van der Zwaan, was sentenced to 30 days in prison in April 2018 for lying to investigators.

Trump pardoned 15 people in all and granted commutations to five others, report Law.com, the Washington Post, Politico and the New York Times. A White House press release is here.

Van der Zwaan had pleaded guilty in February 2018 to lying in connection with his Ukraine work as a lawyer for Skadden. The law firm was hired in 2012 by the Ukraine Ministry of Justice, with the assistance of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, to prepare a report on the trial of a former Ukraine prime minister who was a political rival to the man who was then the leader of Ukraine.

The White House press release said Van der Zwaan “is a Dutch national who voluntarily returned to the United States to correct his statements and surrendered his passport upon entry.” The press release described his conduct as a “process-related crime” that did not involve unlawful underlying conduct.

Skadden also was faulted in the incident for failing to register as a foreign agent of the Ukraine government. In January 2019, the law firm agreed to pay the U.S. Treasury more than $4.6 million that it received in fees for the Ukraine work to resolve the allegations.

Van der Zwaan’s pardon was supported by Republican former U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, now a partner with Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, according to Law.com.

Another person who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in the Russia probe, former Trump adviser George Papadopoulos, also received a pardon Tuesday. Others who received clemency included four Blackwater security contractors convicted in the deaths of Iraqi civilians and three former Republican members of Congress.

Two former Republican lawmakers received pardons. They are former U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, who pleaded guilty to misusing campaign funds, and former U.S. Rep. Chris Collins of New York, who pleaded guilty in an insider trading scheme. Former U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman of Texas had his prison sentence commuted. He was convicted for misuse of charitable funds.

Sidney Powell, a lawyer who has filed lawsuits alleging election fraud, had sought clemency for Stockman, according to the Washington Post.

Trump commuted sentences of supervised release for three drug offenders whose prison sentences he had already commuted. A fourth drug offender received a full pardon. Alice Johnson, whose sentence was previously commuted after a request by Kim Kardashian West, had supported the grants of clemency.

Trump also pardoned Alfred Lee Crum, 89, who pleaded guilty in 1952 to helping his wife’s uncle illegally distill moonshine in Oklahoma. According to the White House press release, 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.”

According to Politico, the commutations favored “the well-connected and those with A-list advocates, while appearing to shunt aside—at least for now—more than 14,000 people who have applied for clemency through a small Justice Department office that handles such requests.”