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President Trump Pardons Roger Stone, Paul Manafort And Charles Kushner

NOEL KING, HOST:

President Trump pardoned some more people last night - among them, his friends, his loyalists and his daughter's in-law. NPR White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe is following this one. Good morning, Ayesha.

AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: Good morning.

KING: So we have some very familiar names, household names - Paul Manafort, Roger Stone and Charles Kushner. Explain what they all did.

RASCOE: Well, Paul Manafort was one of the president's campaign chairmen in the 2016 campaign. He was prosecutor during the Mueller probe into Russian interference in the campaign. So was Roger Stone. His charges were related to trying to be a middleman between WikiLeaks and the campaign and efforts to cover that up. Trump's complained that both of them were victims of overreach in a probe that he says never should've happened. Manafort thanked Trump on Twitter last night and praised his leadership.

And Charles Kushner - he's the father of Jared Kushner, who's married to Ivanka Trump. Both Jared and Ivanka work in the White House. Charles Kushner was convicted of tax evasion and retaliating against a witness, his own brother-in-law. And these three pardons were widely expected.

KING: And because they were widely expected, I imagine the criticism came pretty quickly. Who's saying what?

RASCOE: Yeah, there's widespread criticism. Republican Ben Sasse sent out a short statement saying, quote, this is "rotten to the core." Democrat Congressman Adam Schiff said the pardon shows Trump is, quote, "lawless to the bitter end."

KING: Ayesha, you did some great reporting this year on advocates who are trying to get clemency for people who've served long sentences for nonviolent drug crimes. Now, this is something that President Trump has shown interest in during his term. Did any of those folks get pardons?

RASCOE: There were a couple - a woman named Topeka Sam, who was one of the champions of the First Step Act, the criminal justice reform law that passed earlier in Trump's tenure. There was a man in Louisville, Ky., who turned his life around and has been helping others, and another woman who was a victim of sex trafficking. But mostly, you know, by and large, these pardons and the ones that the president did on Tuesday night are for people who are very well connected. They were for financial white-collar crimes and campaign finance violations.

And, you know, what jumped out to me as you read the name on the full list of pardons were some of the people who were vouching for these pardon recipients. It was people like Pam Bondi, Darrell Scott, Christopher Ruddy. These are all friends and strong supporters of President Trump.

KING: There was one name on the list that is not a household name, but he is a former member of Congress, Mark Siljander. What did he do?

RASCOE: He was a Michigan congressman who later, as a lobbyist, took money from a group with ties to a terror group. He - but he has close ties to prominent evangelicals. And earlier this week, you know, Trump pardoned several other former congressmen who had been convicted of white-collar crimes.

KING: So with less than a month left in his presidency, how does President Trump's use of the pardon power compare to presidents who came before him?

RASCOE: He's offered clemency, pardons and commutations to more than 90 people. That's a lot more than President George W. Bush did in his first term or President Obama did in his first term. But at the same time, Trump has - what's different about Trump is that he is pardoning very high-profile people that are close to him, his friends and his associates, and that's very different.

KING: NPR White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe. Thanks, Ayesha.

RASCOE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.