Donald Trump played golf with pro Bernhard Langer six days after he pardoned a property developer friend of the two-time Masters champion at his request.
Florida resident Langer, 63, had until now been notable in his absence from publicly playing a round of golf with the president. Trump has been spotted on the greens with Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson and Ernie Els, among other golf pros.
On December 23, Trump announced that he was pardoning South Florida real estate developer James Batmasian. The pardon was backed by Langer, GOP Congressman Brian Mast and ‘many others from the South Flroida community’, according to a White House statement.
Batmasian – who was once the largest commercial property owner developer in Boca Raton – served eight months in federal prison in 2008 for not paying the IRS about $250,000 in payroll taxes.
In a statement, the White House said Batmasian ‘made overtime payments without withholding for income taxes or FICA contributions. While illegal, Mr. Batmasian recorded all of these payments and made no attempt to hide them when confronted by IRS investigators.’
Trump and Langer were seen together at the president’s West Palm Beach golf course Monday
On Monday – six days after Batmasian was granted the pardon – Langer was spotted teeing off with Trump at his golf course in West Palm Beach
Batmasian is pictured with his wife Marta in court in Palm Beach in November 2017
On Monday – six days after Batmasian was granted the pardon – Langer was spotted teeing off with Trump at his golf course in West Palm Beach.
Trump’s decision to help out his golfing friend is just the latest example of his unprecedented use of the presidential pardon.
While other presidents have pardoned more people, Trump is the only one to so openly reward friends and political allies for their loyalty.
Among those he has pardoned are figures from the Mueller investigation such as Roger Stone, Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort and George Papadopoulous, and Jared Kushner’s father, Charles.
He pardoned former Republican Congress members Chris Collins of New York, Duncan Hunter of California, and Steve Stockman of Texas, each of whom pleaded guilty to or was convicted of corruption charges.
Harvard professor Jack Goldsmith estimated 88 per cent of Trump’s pardons and commutations have gone to people with personal or political ties to Trump.
The latest pardons ‘continue Trump’s unprecedented pattern of issuing self-serving pardons and commutations that advance his personal interests, reward friends, seek retribution against enemies, or gratify political constituencies,’ Goldsmith told the New York Times.
The president’s pardon powers are nearly limitless and face almost no constraints.
Past presidents have also used their pardon powers for friends and allies.
Bill Clinton triggered controversy when he issued more than 100 pardons on his last day in office, including to his half-brother and to Marc Rich, whose ex-wife was a Clinton donor.
James Batmasian was among 26 people pardoned by the president on December 23
Langer is pictured with Eric Trump (left) and Donald Trump Jr
Langer lobbied for his friend James Batmasian to be pardoned by Trump, and Trump complied
Langer has previously been drawn into controversy with Trump.
In January 2017 Trump, alleging voter fraud that he said prevented him winning the popular vote, told a story of how ‘the very famous golfer, Bernhard Langer’ had a frustrating experience when trying to vote near his Florida home on Election Day.
Langer – who is German and lives in Florida – later qualified that he is not a US citizen, and was therefore never intended on voting.
He said that Trump had called him to clear up the matter, reported by The New York Times, which he thought was ‘amazing’.
‘We talked on the phone, and he was very clear,’ said Langer during a press conference on tour. ‘If there was anything that hurt me, he apologized.
‘And I apologized, too, for some of the quotes that were incorrect and we’re on good terms.
‘It was fun talking to him briefly and I thought that’s a great gesture from him because he’s got a lot of other things to be concerned about, not just, you know, this golfer Bernhard Langer. He’s got far more important things to do. But for him to take the time, talk to me for a brief while and clear things up is pretty amazing.’
The German golfer has been the dominant player on the PGA Tour Champions, winning 30 career titles to rank second on the all-time list
Langer’s daughter Christina said that her father and Trump were not friends, but Langer himself said Christina was misquoted.
‘I know what my daughter said and it’s not what was quoted,’ Langer said.
‘My daughter said he’s probably not a close friend of Mr Trump. What was the quote? He’s not a friend of Mr Trump.
‘Now, what does that say? Not a close friend means he could be a friend or they had some kind of relationship. Not a friend means he doesn’t like him at all.
‘I was very disappointed with the article, the way it was written and what happened. It’s not the first time and it may not be the last time because it’s out of my control.’