Donald Trump may ‘let off’ Tiger King and HIMSELF in presidential pardoning spree

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Presidential pardons grant clemency to federal criminals, but do not cover state law and do not grant their recipients permanent legal immunity. Throughout his presidency, Mr Trump has issued 29 pardons and 16 commutations, for a total of 45 acts of clemency which is the lowest for any President in the last 100 years. Now the outgoing President is said to be weighing up whether to clear the Netflix star and his family of criminal wrongdoing before he leaves the White House in January.

Joe Exotic, also called Joseph Maldonado-Passage, was the focus of Netflix’s hugely popular Tiger King which released earlier this year.

He is currently serving a 22-year sentence over two counts of murder-to-hire, eight counts of falsifying wildlife reports and nine counts of violating the Endangered Species Act.

But Eric Love, attorney for Mr Maldonado-Passage, revealed to ABC News that he has been in talks with the White House over a pardon.

The attorney added: “We are waiting on the pen to hit the paper, we think we are very, very close.”

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In September, Mr Maldonado-Passage sent a handwritten letter to Mr Trump formally requesting a pardon for his crimes.

In the letter, he begs the President to “give me a miracle” and called Mr Trump his “hero”.

He added: “My parents and my life and everything we ever worked for was stolen by criminals who got everything.

 (…) Allow me to make you proud, to make America proud, to make the world proud. Be my hero please.”

Sources close to the President have also indicated he is preparing to exercise his powers to pardon officials and family members pre-emptively, ahead of potential legal challenges after the family leave the White House.

Mr Trump previously tweeted “I have the absolute right to PARDON myself” in 2018 despite there being no precedent for a sitting President issuing himself clemency.

Rudy Giuliani, Mr Trump’s personal attorney, is also in line for a presidential pardon, as he is reportedly under federal investigation for his business dealings.

But the President is reportedly concerned a spree of Trump pardons would appear to Americans as an admission of guilt, particularly if he issues clemency to himself and officials ahead of the end of his presidency.

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Others in line for a pardon include former contractors for private military company Blackwater, now Academi, who were involved in the controversial 2007 shooting of Iraqi civilians in Nisour Square in Baghdad.

Blackwater operatives killed 17 Iraqis and injured 20 in the September incident.

In 2008, the US charged five Blackwater guards with 14 counts of manslaughter and 20 counts of attempted manslaughter, with one guard seeing his charges dropped in 2013.

Three of the four guards are serving 30-year sentences, with the other Nick Slatten sentenced to life in prison on a murder charge in 2019.

Last month, Mr Trump pardoned his former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in his conversations with the body about Mr Trump’s links to Russia, but he has since retracted his plea.

Rick Gates, deputy of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, both potentially also in line for a pardon, said Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation could influence the President to pardon officials.

He said: “I think the president knows better than anybody the difficult and just tragic event of the Mueller probe and how all of us have suffered.

“I would be absolutely grateful for a pardon and I hope the president does it but, at the end of the day, it’s his choice.”

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