A federal judge in South Dakota was blunt last summer when she sentenced Paul Erickson, a seasoned Republican operative who had pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering.
“What comes through is that you’re a thief, and you’ve betrayed your friends, your family, pretty much everyone you know,” federal District Judge Karen Schreier told Erickson in July, before sentencing him to seven years in prison for scamming dozens of people out of $5.3 million.
But Erickson, who had advised GOP presidential campaigns and a noted conservative organization, had a way out.
He had the ear of White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, a member of President Donald Trump’s inner orbit. And, unrelated to his conviction, he had been caught up in the investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, an inquiry much reviled by Trump.
And so after less than five months in prison, Erickson received a pardon and was freed on Inauguration Day — part of a…
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