The US Army is reviewing an internal watchdog report from the Department of Defense into former national security advisor Michael Flynn, The Washington Post reported.
In April 2017, the Pentagon launched an investigation into money Flynn received from Russian and Turkish interests after his retirement but before he joined former President Donald Trump’s administration.
In December 2017, Flynn pleaded guilty to one count of lying to investigators as part of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Flynn admitted that he misled investigators in a January 2017 interview about his communications with Russia’s then-ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak.
He was initially cooperative with the FBI, but in 2019, he reversed course, fired his entire defense team, and hired Sidney Powell as his lawyer. In January 2020, Flynn tried to retract his guilty plea.
Trump pardoned Flynn last November.
CNN reported that then-special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe investigation into the 2016 election had put the DoD’s investigation into Flynn on hold.
The DoD Inspector General’s office did not reply to Insider’s email request for comment at the time of publication.
DoD spokeswoman Dwrena Allen told CNN that following Flynn’s pardon, they were granted permission from the Department of Justice to resume the investigation, which was completed on January 27, 2021.
The investigation looked into whether or not Flynn violated the Constitution’s emoluments clause, which stipulates that officials such as retired military members can’t accept money or gifts from foreign governments.
The Post reported that the payments from Russia were from 2015, when Flynn was paid $45,000 for appearing next to Russian President Vladimir Putin at a gala dinner for the state-controlled outlet RT. His company, Flynn Intel Group, was also paid $530,000 by a Netherlands-based company, Inovo BV, in 2016. The company was founded by a Turkish businessman and lobbies on behalf of Turkey.
In 2017, the DoD said that Flynn did not seek permission to work as a foreign agent on behalf of Turkey.
The results of the report could mean, Flynn, who retired from the Army as a three-star general in 2014, could face tens of thousands of dollars in penalties.
President Donald Trump issued a slow trickle of pardons and commutations late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning, as one of his final acts before he leaves office on Wednesday.
The Washington Post reported that Trump and close aides, including his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, drew up the list during a Sunday meeting in the Oval Office. The New York Times reported that Ivanka sent the final list to the White House counsel’s office for approval and that the Justice Department’s pardon office, which typically reviews who gets executive clemency grants, was not included in the process.
Several people reportedly on the list include:
Former chief strategist Steve Bannon will be pardoned, according to The New York Times
Former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick will be granted clemency, according to Reuters
Rapper Lil Wayne will be granted clemency, according to Reuters
Rapper Kodak Black will be granted clemency, according to Reuters
Former RNC finance chair Elliott Broidy will be pardoned, according to The Washington Post
According to The Times, Trump came to his decision on including those individuals after consulting with the criminal justice advocacy group #Cut50, the former Koch Industries executive Mark Holden, and Alice Johnson, a criminal justice reform advocate who was convicted on drug trafficking charges and sentenced to life in prison before Trump commuted her sentence and later granted her a full pardon.
Before the White House announced the latest pardons and commutations, a source told CNN that some Trump allies believe many of the recipients were people the president expects to enjoy beneficial relationships with after he leaves office.
“Everything is a transaction,” the source told CNN. “He likes pardons because it is unilateral. And he likes doing favors for people he thinks will owe him.”
Last month, Trump pardoned 46 people and commuted the sentences of eight others. The list featured several people who had personal connections to the president. Others were not directly tied to Trump, but right-wing media figures had aggressively lobbied for their pardons.
Names on the list included:
George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign foreign policy aide who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in the Mueller probe.
Alex van der Zwaan, a Dutch lawyer who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in the Mueller probe.
Roger Stone, a Republican strategist who was convicted in the Mueller probe of multiple felony counts of making false statements, obstruction, and witness tampering.
Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman who was convicted of eight counts of tax fraud, bank fraud, and failure to report foreign bank accounts, and who pleaded guilty to conspiracy and obstruction.
Charles Kushner, Jared’s father and a former real estate businessman who pleaded guilty in 2005 to 16 counts of tax evasion, one count of retaliating against a federal witness, and one count of lying to the Federal Election Commission.
Former Republican congressman Steve Stockman, who was convicted on 23 counts of fraud, money laundering, conspiracy, and false statements.
Former Republican congressman Chris Collins, who pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI and conspiring to commit securities fraud
Former Republican congressman Duncan Hunter and his wife, Margaret, who pleaded guilty to misusing campaign funds.
Four former Blackwater guards convicted in connection to the massacre of more than a dozen Iraqi civilians in Baghdad’s Nisour Square in 2007.
Two former Border Patrol agents convicted of shooting and injuring an unarmed undocumented immigrant in 2006.
The president is granted extraordinarily broad pardon powers under the Constitution. But Trump has drawn significant scrutiny for circumventing the lengthy legal and ethical review process at the Justice Department that determines who gets executive clemency.
Instead, the vast majority of the president’s most high-profile pardons and commutations have gone to his friends and loyalists, or to others whose names were suggested by conservative media powerhouses, such as Fox News, Newsmax, and One America News.
Former Maryland K-9 police officer Stephanie C. Mohr was among the 29 people to whom President Donald Trump issued pardons or commutations on Wednesday.
Mohr served ten years in prison after being convicted of a federal civil rights violation for setting her police dog on an unarmed homeless man in 1995.
The man, Ricardo G. Mendez, had been sleeping on the roof of a business that officers were staking out as part of a burglary investigation. The attack on him resulted in a bite wound that required ten stitches.
Earlier this month Mohr had appeared on Newsmax, a pro-Trump conservative outlet, to plead her case for a pardon.
She claims she was made a scapegoat when an FBI investigation into brutality at her police department failed to result in other convictions.
A former Maryland K-9 police officer who served ten years in prison for setting her police dog on an unarmed homeless man was among the 29 people who were given pardons or commutations by President Donald Trump on Wednesday.
Stephanie C. Mohr was 30 years old in 2001 when she was convicted of a felony civil rights violation for a September 21, 1995 incident involving an unarmed homeless man.
Mohr set her police dog on Ricardo G. Mendez, a Mexican national, after he had surrendered to police, who were investigating a burglary – and the dog took out a chunk of his leg, The Washington Post reported at the time of her conviction.
It later turned out that Mendez was not a burglar and had simply been sleeping on the roof of the business that officers were staking out that night.
“She served 10 years in prison for releasing her K-9 partner on a burglary suspect in 1995, resulting in a bite wound requiring ten stitches,” the White House said in a statement about Mohr’s pardon on Wednesday. “Officer Mohr was a highly commended member of the police force prior to her prosecution.”
“Today’s action recognizes that service and the lengthy term that Ms. Mohr served in prison.”
Earlier this month, Mohr had appeared on Newsmax, a pro-Trump conservative news outlet, to plead her case for a presidential pardon, saying she had been scapegoated.
Mohr said that charges were pressed one day before they were set to expire under the statute of limitations, and that she was targeted because a federal investigation into brutality in the Prince George’s County Police Department failed to result in any other convictions.
She called her ten-year sentence “harsh,” saying that the average sentence for the same charge is 33 months. She also had a two-year-old son at the time of her sentencing, and therefore was separated from him for most of his childhood.
“I got ten years, basically one year for every stitch that the suspect received on his calf,” she said.
Mohr was traveling with her parents and partner on Wednesday when she heard she had gotten a pardon, according to USA Today.
“So many emotions flooding through me. It’s been a long, long, long battle for this. I’m just so grateful,” she told the outlet.
The Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund and the National Fraternal Order of Police, the biggest police union in the US, helped push for Mohr’s pardon. The National Fraternal Order of Police endorsed Trump in the 2016 and 2020 elections.
President Donald Trump issued a wave of pardons and commutations to 20 people on Tuesday.
Included on the list were two associates who were ensnared in the FBI’s Russia investigation, as well as multiple former Republican congressmen who were convicted of or pleaded guilty to several felonies.
Also included were four Blackwater guards who were implicated in the 2007 massacre of 17 Iraqi civilians, and two Border Patrol agents accused of shooting an unarmed undocumented immigrant in 2006 and covering it up.
President Donald Trump issued a series of pardons and commutations on Tuesday to 20 people including associates ensnared in the Russia probe, three former Republican congressmen who pleaded guilty to or were convicted of felonies, and four former Blackwater guards implicated in the massacre of more than a dozen Iraqi civilians.
Also included on Trump’s list of pardons were two former Border Patrol agents who were convicted in connection to the shooting of an unarmed undocumented immigrant. And the president granted executive clemency to multiple individuals convicted of nonviolent drug offenses.
Among the former lawmakers Trump pardoned was Duncan Hunter, who pleaded guilty last year to one count of misusing campaign funds. He was sentenced to 11 months in prison but has not yet begun serving out his sentence.
Also on the list was former GOP congressman Steve Stockman, who was convicted in 2018 on 23 felony counts of fraud, money laundering, conspiracy, and false statements. Stockman was sentenced to ten years in prison and ordered to pay more than $1 million in restitution. Trump commuted the remainder of Stockman’s sentence on Tuesday, citing his age, his pre-existing health conditions, and the fact that he contracted COVID-19 while in prison.
Trump also granted a pardon to former Rep. Chris Collins, who pleaded guilty last year to making false statements to the FBI and conspiracy to commit securities fraud. He is currently serving out a 26-month sentence.
The four Blackwater guards Trump pardoned on Tuesday were found guilty in connection to a deadly shooting in Baghdad that killed 17 Iraqi civilians. One of the former contractors, Nicholas Slatten, was convicted of first-degree murder and is serving out a lifetime prison sentence. The other three defendants were convicted of multiple counts of voluntary manslaughter, attempted manslaughter, and firearms offenses.
“This verdict is a resounding affirmation of the commitment of the American people to the rule of law, even in times of war,” the US attorney in Washington, DC, said in a statement after the verdict came out in 2014. “Seven years ago, these Blackwater contractors unleashed powerful sniper fire, machine guns and grenade launchers on innocent men, women, and children. Today, they were held accountable for that outrageous attack and its devastating consequences for so many Iraqi families.”
The two former Border Patrol agents the president pardoned, Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, were convicted in 2006 for shooting and injuring an unarmed undocumented immigrant. Their sentences were later commuted by President George W. Bush, and Trump granted them full pardons on Tuesday.
George Papadopoulos and Alex van der Zwaan both pleaded guilty to charges in connection to the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US election. Both men were pardoned on Tuesday.
Papadopoulos, a former foreign policy advisor to Trump’s 2016 campaign, pleaded guilty to one count of lying to the FBI as part of the Mueller investigation. But he later backtracked on the admission, saying in his book that he “misspoke” to the FBI and that the lie he pleaded guilty to was “unintentional.”
He also wrote that he felt “forced” into pleading guilty to avoid being charged with violating foreign lobbying laws. The former aide also told Reuters last year that he had formally applied for a pardon from Trump. Papadopoulos reiterated his hope for a pardon last month, saying in an interview with ABC’s Chicago affiliate this month, “Of course I would be honored to be pardoned.”
Van der Zwaan, a Dutch lawyer who worked with former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates, was charged with “willfully and knowingly” making “false, fictitious, and fraudulent statements and representations” to federal investigators about his work in 2012 for the law firm Skadden, Arps, Meagher & Flom.
He was also accused of misleading federal investigators about his communications with Gates, who is a longtime associate of Manafort.
In particular, van der Zwaan is said to have lied to investigators about why he did not provide the special counsel Robert Mueller’s office with a September 2016 email between him and another person referred to as “Person A” in the February charging document.
Papadopoulos and van der Zwaan are among several Trump associates caught up in the Russia probe whom the president has shown leniency to in recent months.
In July, he commuted the sentence of the longtime Republican strategist Roger Stone, who was convicted last year of seven felony counts of making false statements, obstruction, and witness tampering. Last month, Trump also pardoned former national security advisor Michael Flynn, who in December 2017 pleaded guilty to one count of lying to the FBI.
Politico reported earlier this month that Trump is considering pardoning as many as 20 associates in the waning days of his presidency, including his three eldest children, his son-in-law Jared Kushner, and his personal defense lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
Axios reported that the president is offering pardons “like Christmas gifts” and has even offered them to people who never asked for and did not want them.
The president’s pardon power as outlined in the Constitution is extraordinarily broad and has very few exceptions. That said, Trump has faced significant blowback for his decision to show leniency towards his friends and allies, as well as his willingness to circumvent the extensive legal and ethical review process that determines who receives executive clemency.
Jack Goldsmith, a professor at Harvard Law School, tallied up the number of pardons Trump has issued throughout his presidency, and found that 88% were granted to those who were close to him or political loyalists.
Trump’s actions this week and media reports detailing the executive clemency grants that still may come show he’s been more than willing to continue testing the limits of that power, and he’s even suggested pardoning himself.
Trump has not been charged with any crime but is caught up in multiple federal and state investigations into his business and financial dealings. He was named as “Individual-1,” an unindicted co-conspirator, in the Manhattan US attorney’s office’s charging document against the former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, who pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws while facilitating illegal hush-money payments to two women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump.
Mueller’s team also found at least ten instances in which Trump may have obstructed justice in connection to the Russia inquiry. Prosecutors ultimately declined to make a “tradiitonal prosecutorial judgment” on whether Trump obstructed justice, citing a 1973 Justice Department memo saying a sitting president cannot be indicted. But Mueller testified to Congress last year that the president could be charged with obstruction upon leaving office.
The president is also the focus of two fraud investigations in New York looking into the Trump Organization. Any charges that stem from the inquiries would not fall under the scope of the pardon power, which only applies to federal crimes.
At least eight former service members and Blackwater security guards convicted of war crimes have filed petitions seeking pardons or clemency from President Donald Trump, including a former Army staff sergeant who pleaded guilty to killing 16 Afghan men, women and children.
Getting action from Trump in the case of former Staff Sgt. Robert Bales was “admittedly a long shot,” but “we’d be remiss if we didn’t try,” his lawyer John Maher, a former military Judge Advocate General, told Military.com Thursday.
Bales, now 45, pleaded guilty in a 2013 general court martial to avoid the death penalty on charges of going off alone at night from his base in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province in 2012 to kill three Afghan men, four women and nine children, including a 2 year old.
Bales then set fire to the bodies, according to his guilty plea.
He has been serving a life term without eligibility for parole in the maximum security section of the military’s Midwest Joint Regional Correctional Facility in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
The killings, believed to be the worst atrocity carried out by a single American soldier in the Afghan war, triggered widespread demonstrations against the US military presence.
Maher said Bales had had an exemplary record in three previous combat tours in Iraq prior to the incident and “then he goes out and kills 16 people. No one ever determined whether he was in his right mind.”
Bales had been taking the antimalarial drug mefloquine, which can have adverse psychiatric effects, leading to violence in some patients, according to Maher.
Bales’ use of mefloquine was not presented at court-martial to determine whether he had the mental capacity to enter a guilty plea, Maher said.
At his sentencing hearing, Bales also said he had been taking the steroid stanozolol to get “huge and jacked,” and then added that, “There’s not a good reason in this world for why I did the horrible things I did.”
Although a pardon for Bales is likely out of the question, Maher said he was asking that Trump consider commuting the sentence to 20 years, or ordering a new trial.
In a December 2 petition to Trump filed with the Justice Department’s pardon attorney, Maher asked that the president to “disapprove the findings and the sentence in this court-martial, or grant a full and unconditional pardon, or commute the present sentence to 20 years confinement” at Fort Leavenworth.
The filing included a personal plea to Trump from Bales, in which he cited previous pardons granted by the president to Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance and Maj. Matt Golsteyn. Lorance was convicted of second-degree murder after he was found to have ordered platoon members to fire on Afghan men on motorcycles in 2012, resulting in the deaths of two. Golsteyn had been facing court-martial over his killing of a suspected Afghan bomb-maker in 2010.
Bales also cited the case of former SEAL Master Chief Eddie Gallagher, whose demotion was reversed by Trump after he had been acquitted at a court martial of killing a prisoner.
“All these men committed violations of the UCMJ [Uniform Code of Military Justice] and most of these men spent less time on the ground in hostile fire areas than I, they all outranked me, and all made more money than I,” Bales said.
He asked that Trump afford him “the same level of clemency that has already been shown to others.”
“Please let me return home to be a husband and a father. Without your involvement, I may never be able to go home,” Bales said.
Maher has the support of the United American Patriot advocacy group and the Justice for Warriors Congressional Caucus, led by Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas.
Among other cases the lawyer is handling, the “most promising” for Trump’s possible action, he said, was that of four former Blackwater Worldwide security guards, convicted in federal district court in Washington, DC, in 2014 of various counts of murder, manslaughter and weapons charges in the 2007 killings in Baghdad’s Nisour Square of 17 Iraqis. All four men had military backgrounds.
The defendants claimed that they opened fire in response to an ambush, but US Attorney Ronald Machen said in a statement that the guilty verdicts were ” a resounding affirmation of the commitment of the American people to the rule of law, even in times of war.”
Maher said the defendants – Paul A. Slough, Dustin L. Heard, Nicholas A. Slatten and Evan S. Liberty – were the victims of prosecutorial misconduct and political pressure from the Obama administration.
Several sources, Maher said, told him that the arguments for pardon in the Blackwater case had been made known to Trump and “the president’s view of that is very friendly.”
Speculation that Trump would issue a rash of pardons before leaving office was triggered by his November 25 pardon of retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser.
Flynn pleaded guilty twice to lying to the FBI about his contacts with a Russian diplomat, but with a new defense team he sought to retract his guilty plea. In May, the Justice Department asked to drop the case, but the request was blocked by federal district court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan.
Trump’s pardon made the arguments for and against proceeding in the Flynn case moot.
The White House has been silent on whether Trump would issue more pardons before leaving office but several news outlets, including The New York Times and The Washington Post, have reported that Trump is considering more pardons, including a possible preemptive pardon for himself.
However, the petitions for pardon, clemency or commutation of sentences for other former members of the military have largely gone unnoticed.
Lorance had served six years of a 19-year sentence when Trump issued his pardon in 2019. He is now petitioning to clear his record of the conviction, Maher said.
Lorance was attending law school and the record of conviction would likely block him from ever being admitted to the bar, Maher said.
In an October interview with Military.com, Lorance said that if admitted to practice law, he would seek to reform the UCMJ.
Maher, backed by United American Patriots, has also filed a petition for pardon for former Army 1st Sgt. John Hatley, who was released on parole in October from Fort Leavenworth after serving 11 years on what initially had been a life sentence.
Hatley had been convicted at court-martial of participating in the premeditated murders of four Iraqi prisoners in 2007.
Maher has also filed for pardon or commutation of sentence for former Army Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, the alleged ringleader of a self-styled “kill team” who was convicted of participating in the murders of at least three Afghans in 2009 and 2010. The group also allegedly took body parts as trophies.
In January 2020, Gibbs filed suit in federal court seeking to have the conviction overturned, claiming that his original defense lawyer failed to present testimony disputing his role in the killings. Gibbs has been serving a life sentence at Fort Leavenworth.
According to a November report by the Pew Research Center, Trump has issued far fewer pardons or sentence commutations than any of his recent predecessors.
Citing Justice Department data, the Pew report said that by mid-November Trump had granted 28 pardons and 16 commutations, the lowest total of any president since William Mckinley, who served from 1897 until his assassination in 1901.
By contrast, former President Barack Obama granted 212 pardons and 1,715 commutations in his eight years in office, the Pew report said.