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Trump's pardons reward close ties and "absolute loyalty"

Breaking down Trump's final weeks in office
Breaking down President Trump's final weeks in office 03:21

President Trump's unprecedented slew of pardons in recent days are tied to the "absolute loyalty" some of his key advisers showed him, even throughout former special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, CBS News chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett said on "CBS This Morning" Thursday.

"Everything [Trump] does the White House asserts is redemptive," Garrett said, discussing the president's viewpoint. "It is essentially balancing the scales of injustice, because as the president has said on Twitter and in comments for years now, the Mueller investigation was based on fraudulent assumptions, the tactics used were abusive."

Paul Manafort, once a pivotal player in President Trump's 2016 campaign, was one of the 26 new pardons issued by the president Wednesday. Political operative Roger Stone and Jared Kushner's father, Charles Kushner, also received pardons.

The president's controversial new pardons have been met with pushback from some Republicans, including Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse who called the pardons "rotten to the core."

Both Stone and Manafort were prosecuted and convicted on charges that arose from Mueller's investigation.

"They went through the judicial process, they were convicted and in Paul Manfort's case plead guilty. Paul Manafort lied to prosecutors, Roger Stone lied to Congress. What are the common themes there? Doing everything they can to not say what they knew about Donald Trump," Garrett said.

The pardon announcements come as tensions rise between the president and congressional Republicans, after Mr. Trump denounced the $900 billion COVID-19 economic relief package that promised some aid for millions of Americans. Garrett said the rift between Republicans and President Trump could have bigger implications when it comes to the future of the Republican Party.

"I think one of the interesting themes of the end of the Trump presidency is, will this result in the crack-up of the modern Republican Party? The president is at war with not just Republicans in general, he's in war with the highest echelon with Republican leaders in Congress."

The president left the White House to celebrate Christmas at Mar-a-Lago on Wednesday afternoon as the threat of a potential government shutdown loomed.

The COVID-19 economic relief package is part of a larger bill that funds the government through September. Otherwise, funding is scheduled to run out Tuesday, December 28.

"We could have a government shutdown next week. On the verge of the new year, collapsing economy, raging pandemic, and the president could shut the government down and Republicans don't know what to do and how to react. And that kind of chaos - it's deeper than that," Garrett said. "This is much deeper. This is about, is the Republican Party about Donald Trump and his personal approach to politics or is it about something larger and more general? Well, right now that fight is playing out on multiple fronts, and the person instigating that fight is the president of the United States."

The president has not said if in fact he would veto the bill, but if he does so, both Republicans and Democrats would have to try to override the veto after Christmas.  

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