At an event outside the White House the next day, Trump described Wayne as “an activist in a really positive way.”
Behind the scenes, Wayne — a convicted felon barred from possessing firearms — found himself in serious trouble after Miami authorities acting on a tip raided his private jet in December 2019 and found a gold-plated .45-caliber pistol, ammunition and various illicit drugs, according to The Los Angeles Times.
Wayne told officials the gun was a gift but also acknowledged that he could be sent to prison for having it, reports said.
Less than a week before the election, on Oct. 29, the rapper met with Trump on an initiative called the Platinum Plan, which is aimed at enabling Black-owned businesses easier access to capital.
Lil Wayne wrote afterward: “Just had a great meeting with [Donald Trump] besides what he’s done so far with criminal reform, the platinum plan is going to give the community real ownership. He listened to what we had to say today and assured he will and can get it done.”
On Dec. 11, Wayne pleaded guilty to one count of possessing a firearm and ammunition as a felon. Unless Trump intervenes with a pardon before Jan. 20, Wayne will be sentenced Jan. 28 and faces up to 10 years in prison.
Recent presidential pardons have shown two distinct ways to be granted one, says Dr. Jeffrey Crouch, assistant professor of American politics at American University and author of “The Presidential Pardon Power.”
The first is to apply to the Office of the Pardon Attorney in the Department of Justice. The other way is to ask the president for one directly.
“President Trump has apparently worked outside the Pardon Attorney for many of the clemency grants he has made, so for him the second option is probably more likely to succeed.”
A few days before Lil Wayne’s endorsement, Florida rapper Kodak Black, whose birth name was Dieuson Octave but later legally changed to Bill Kahan Kapri, also made positive mention of Trump in a tweet. Tagging the president, Kodak, 23, wrote, in part, “What do you think of the ‘Platinum Plan?’ ... This is what the community needs ... more ownership.” He concluded by saying, “I want to help with justice reform when I am out as well.”
Black posted the missive from prison, where he’s serving 46 months and hoping to be pardoned for firearms possession. His jail time came after agents found him with a Glock during a search at the Canadian-American border. Another gun registered in his name was used at a crime scene and traced back to the rapper. Authorities later learned that the artist had lied on his background check when buying the guns.
A prodigious rapper who earned a huge following for tracks including “Zeze,” “Roll in Peace” and “Wake Up in the Sky,” since his rise in the mid-2010s, Black seems to have spent nearly as much time in court as in the studio.
Before he turned 20, he’d been accused in several jurisdictions of rape, sexual violence, burglary, false imprisonment of a child and gun possession. Three years ago, he was arrested on suspicion of child endangerment after he posted to Instagram a clip of drugs and a pistol near a toddler.
Black hired Bradford Cohen as his attorney.
The Broward County-based lawyer has personally interacted with the Trump clan; in 2009 he was a contestant on “Celebrity Apprentice.” For the past week, Cohen has taken to Twitter to rally Trump on his client’s behalf.
Cohen amplified support from Black’s famous fans and peers including Yo Gotti, Jake Paul, Lil Yachty and Lil Pump, adding #freekodak to the end of each. Whether the insurrection Wednesday at the Capitol changes the equation is not yet known.
Representatives for Lil Wayne and Black haven’t responded to requests for comment.
Such public petitioning isn’t new. Before her pardon, heiress Patricia Hearst, convicted of her role in a series of bank robberies after being kidnapped by a guerrilla group, wore a T-shirt that read “Pardon Me” in public appearances. President Bill Clinton pardoned her as he was leaving office in 2001.
Presidential pardon expert Crouch also notes the rappers wouldn’t be the first musicians spared prison time:
“John F. Kennedy pardoned Hampton Hawes, a jazz piano player [and] Jimmy Carter pardoned Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary.” Add in President Ronald Reagan’s pardon of New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, President George W. Bush’s commutation of Fugees songwriter and producer John Forte’s prison sentence and Obama’s pardon of Studio 54 co-owner Ian Schrager’s conviction, and Trump’s potential move seems less unprecedented.
Crouch stressed, though, that Trump’s approach has been different from his recent predecessors of both political parties. “Most pardon recipients under Bush and Obama were largely unknown people without an apparent connection to the president,” he says. “Many of Trump’s pardons have gone to his political allies, supporters and people who have a connection to him.”
Trump has issued a litany of controversial pardons since the November election, including ones for his closest allies Michael Flynn, Roger Stone and Paul Manafort, among others.
Trump has spoken to his advisers about whether he should grant preemptive pardons to his children, son-in-law and Rudy Giuliani, although it’s unclear what if any federal criminal charges they may face in the future.
Giuliani could be exposed to criminal liability due to a federal investigation in Manhattan over his business dealings in Ukraine. Other factors in that case, including the ouster of the American ambassador to Ukraine, ultimately led to President Trump’s impeachment in late 2019.
On Monday, Trump’s White House counsel Pat Cipollone and former Attorney General William Barr warned Trump against giving himself a pardon, according to reports.
Information provided by Tribune News Service was used to supplement this report.