Trump pardons ex-strategist Steve Bannon, dozens of others

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Trump Grants Clemency to Lil Wayne and Kodak Black.The rappers were two of 143 people that Trump granted clemency to on his last full day in office.Last month, Lil Wayne pleaded guilty to carrying an illegal, loaded handgun on a private plane in December of 2019.He was facing up to 10 years in prison.Wayne was an advocate for Trump and his criminal justice reform program during his 2020 presidential campaign.In August of 2019, Kodak Black pleaded guilty to two counts of falsifying written documents to "unlawfully acquire firearms.".In November of 2019, Black was convicted and sentenced to nearly four years in prison.Other high-profile people who were granted clemency include Steve Bannon, Kwame Kilpatrick, Anthony Levandowski and many more

President Donald Trump pardoned former chief strategist Steve Bannon as part of a flurry of clemency action in the final hours of his White House term that benefited more than 140 people, including rap performers, ex-members of Congress and other allies of him and his family.

The last-minute rounds of clemency were announced Wednesday morning.

The list was heavily populated by more conventional candidates whose cases had been championed by criminal justice activists. One man who has spent nearly 24 years in prison on drug and weapons charges but had shown exemplary behavior behind bars had his sentence commuted, as did a former Marine sentenced in 2000 in connection with a cocaine conviction.

Besides Bannon, other pardon recipients included Elliott Broidy, a Republican fundraiser who pleaded guilty last fall in a scheme to lobby the Trump administration to drop an investigation into the looting of a Malaysian wealth fund, and Ken Kurson, a friend of Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner who was charged last October with cyberstalking during a heated divorce.

Wednesday’s list includes its share of high-profile defendants. Among them were rappers Lil Wayne and Kodak Black, both convicted in Florida on weapons charges. Wayne, whose real name is Dwayne Michael Carter, has frequently expressed support for Trump and recently met with the president on criminal justice issues. Others on the list included Death Row Records co-founder Michael Harris and New York art dealer and collector Hillel Nahmad.

Bannon’s pardon was notable given the prosecution was still in its early stages and any trial was months away. Whereas pardon recipients are conventionally thought of as defendants who have faced justice, often by having served at least some prison time, the pardon nullifies the prosecution and effectively eliminates any prospect for punishment.

ExploreWhat is the difference between a pardon, clemency and commutation?

Other pardon recipients include former Rep. Rick Renzi, an Arizona Republican who served three years for corruption, money laundering and other charges, and former Rep. Duke Cunningham of California, who was convicted of accepting $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors. Cunningham, who was released from prison in 2013, received a conditional pardon.

Trump also commuted the prison sentence of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who has served about seven years behind bars for a racketeering and bribery scheme.

Bannon has been charged with duping thousands of donors who believed their money would be used to fulfill Trump’s chief campaign promise to build a wall along the southern border. Instead, he allegedly diverted over a million dollars, paying a salary to one campaign official and personal expenses for himself.

Bannon did not respond to questions Tuesday.

Trump has already pardoned a slew of longtime associates and supporters, including his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort; Charles Kushner, the father of his son-in-law; his longtime friend and adviser Roger Stone; and his former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

A voice of nationalist, outsider conservatism, Bannon — who served in the Navy and worked at Goldman Sachs and as a Hollywood producer before turning to politics — led the conservative Breitbart News before being tapped to serve as chief executive officer of Trump’s 2016 campaign in its critical final months.

He later served as chief strategist to the president during the turbulent early days of Trump’s administration and was at the forefront of many of its most contentious policies, including its travel ban on several majority-Muslim countries.

But Bannon, who clashed with other top advisers, was pushed out after less than a year. And his split with Trump deepened after he was quoted in a 2018 book making critical remarks about some of Trump’s adult children. Bannon apologized and soon stepped down as chairman of Breitbart. He and Trump have recently reconciled.

In August, he was pulled from a luxury yacht off the coast of Connecticut and brought before a judge in Manhattan, where he pleaded not guilty. When he emerged from the courthouse, Bannon tore off his mask, smiled and waved to news cameras. As he went to a waiting vehicle, he shouted, “This entire fiasco is to stop people who want to build the wall.”

The organizers of the “We Build The Wall” group portrayed themselves as eager to help the president build a “big beautiful” barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border, as he promised during the 2016 campaign. They raised more than $25 million from thousands of donors and pledged that 100% of the money would be used for the project.

But according to the criminal charges, much of the money never made it to the wall. Instead, it was used to line the pockets of group members, including Bannon.

Trump, whose term ends at noon Wednesday, spent his last weekend at the White House meeting with a handful of advisers, including son-in-law Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka Trump, reviewing clemency requests from an array of individuals including rapper Lil Wayne and disgraced former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, sources told the New York Times.

Sources told The Washington Post that Trump remained “particularly consumed” with the question of whether to preemptively pardon himself and three of his adult children amid concerns that the Justice Department could prosecute them once he loses his presidential immunity.

Neither Trump nor his children are known to currently be under federal investigation, but a growing chorus of lawmakers and legal experts is calling for them to face charges for a variety of alleged wrongdoing, including his instigation of the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, which left a police officer and four other people dead.

Problematic for Trump is that Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance is known to be investigating him and his namesake company over potential state fraud crimes that cannot be pardoned.

Last year, Trump pardoned and offered clemency for crimes committed by Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser; George Papadopoulos, his former campaign adviser; Paul Manafort, his former campaign manager; Roger Stone, his longtime political confidante; and Charles Kushner, his son-in-law’s father.

Flynn, Stone, Manafort and Papadopoulos were indicted as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump’s 2016 campaign ties to Russia.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.