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Graphic: CNN

It’s a white, joyous Christmas for convicts with connections to President Trump. The justice system — and the law enforcers who worked years to prosecute these cases — got a big lump of coal. 

Why it matters: A senior administration official with no role in the pardon process tells Axios that people have been approaching him to ask for pardons for themselves, their clients — even their former clients. The request is a sign of the final days free-for-all among people who want to be on Trump’s extensive pardons list for personal and political allies.

Last evening, Trump granted full pardons to 26 more people, including his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, longtime associate Roger Stone and Charles Kushner, father of Jared Kushner, Axios' Zach Basu writes.

  • Manafort was one of the first major Trumpworld figures to be charged in the Mueller investigation.
  • Stone was charged and convicted for lying to investigators who were probing his contacts with WikiLeaks, which released damaging Democratic emails hacked by the Russian government during the 2016 campaign.
  • Charles Kushner is a developer who pleaded guilty in 2004 to filing false tax returns, retaliating against a witness and making false statements to the FEC as part of a prosecution by then-U.S. Attorney Chris Christie.

True story: Manafort and Stone were once in business together. In the Reagan years of the early '80s, Black, Manafort & Stone was one of the most formidable lobby shops in town.

Subscribe to Axios AM/PM for a daily rundown of what's new and why it matters, directly from Mike Allen.
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Go deeper

Off the Rails

Episode 1: A premeditated lie lit the fire

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 1: Trump’s refusal to believe the election results was premeditated. He had heard about the “red mirage” — the likelihood that early vote counts would tip more Republican than the final tallies — and he decided to exploit it.

"Jared, you call the Murdochs! Jason, you call Sammon and Hemmer!”

OIG: HHS misused millions of dollars intended for public health threats

Vaccine vials. Photo: Punit Paranjpe/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel alerted the White House and Congress on Wednesday of an investigation that found the Department of Health and Human Services misused millions of dollars that were budgeted for vaccine research and public health emergencies for Ebola, Zika and now the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why it matters: The more than 200-page investigation corroborated claims from a whistleblower, showing the agency's violation of the Purpose Statute spanned both the Obama and Trump administrations and paid for unrelated projects like salaries, news subscriptions and the removal of office furniture.

John Kerry: U.S.-China climate cooperation is a "critical standalone issue"

President Biden's special climate envoy John Kerry said Wednesday that the U.S. must deal with China on climate change as a "critical standalone issue," but stressed that confronting Beijing's human rights and trade abuses "will never be traded" for climate cooperation.

Why it matters: The last few years have brought about a bipartisan consensus on the threat posed by China. But as the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter, China will be a vital player if the world is going to come close to reining in emissions on the scale needed to meet the Paris Agreement goals of limiting warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels.