Trump pardons Steve Bannon and dozens of others in final hours

Lauren Egan and Doha Madani and Phil Helsel and Diana Dasrath
·5 min read

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump issued a wave of pardons Tuesday night, using the final hours of his presidency to grant clemency to 143 people, including former top White House aide Steve Bannon, according to a list made public by the White House on Wednesday morning.

Bannon — Trump's former White House chief strategist who was in charge of the final months of his 2016 presidential campaign — was indicted in August along with three others on wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy charges.

Prosecutors alleged that Bannon’s crowdfunding “We Build the Wall” campaign took hundreds of thousands of donated dollars and used them for personal expenses. He was brought into custody by U.S. Postal Inspection Service agents while on board the yacht of Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui.

Trump distanced himself from Bannon following the arrest, calling it a “very sad thing” for Bannon and insisted that he was not in favor of private funding for his border wall. The president called the effort “showboating.” “I know nothing about the project, other than I didn’t like, when I read about it, I didn’t like it,” Trump said.

The release from White House announcing the pardons, described the charges Bannon faced as "stemming from his involvement in a political project" and added, "Mr. Bannon has been an important leader in the conservative movement and is known for his political acumen."

Trump granted pardons to 73 people and commuted the sentences of 70 others.

Among the others pardoned are rapper and music executive Lil Wayne, rapper Kodak Black, Trump fundraiser Elliott Broidy, and former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

Lil Wayne, a Trump supporter whose real name is Dwayne Michael Carter Jr., pleaded guilty in December to a federal weapons charge after he carried a handgun from California to Florida on his private jet. Due to past felony convictions, Lil Wayne is barred under federal law from possessing firearms. The charge carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.

"A pardon for Mr. Carter is consistent with the views of many jurists — including Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett — that prosecuting a non-violent citizen for merely possessing a firearm violates the Second Amendment to the U. S. Constitution," the artist's lawyer Howard Srebnick said in a statement.

"The gold-plated firearm, which Mr. Carter never operated, is a collector’s piece, given to him as a Father’s Day gift."

Broidy was a top fundraiser for Trump and the Republican Party who pleaded guilty in October to conspiring to violate foreign lobbying laws. Prosecutors said that the scheme aimed to have the Trump administration sink an investigation into the multibillion-dollar looting of a Malaysian state investment fund.

Kodak Black, whose legal name is Bill Kapri, was sentenced to 46 months in prison on federal weapons charges in 2019 after admitting that he falsified information on federal forms to buy four firearms. The rapper obtained three guns: a 9 mm handgun, a .380-caliber handgun and a semi-automatic Mini Draco weapon.

"He is happy he will be able to see his son and his family thanks to the President communing his sentence of 46 months for a paperwork offense," Kodak Black's attorney Bradford Cohen said in a statement. "He appreciates President Trump for taking the time to recognize that he can contribute to society in a meaningful way."

Kilpatrick pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and resigned from office as part of a plea deal in 2008 following a pay-to-play scheme in which Kilpatrick and his father took kickbacks and bribes to steer city business to certain contractors. He initially served 99 days in prison but then served an additional year for violating his probation and was released in 2011.

Trump has spent the final days of his presidency fixated on his power to issue pardons, meeting with advisors to hash out who should be on his list.

Trump, who did not hold any public event in his last week in office, met in the Oval Office on Monday with aides, including White House counsel Pat Cipollone, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, to discuss the final list of pardons and commutations, according to a White House official.

Trump, his family members and personal lawyer, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, were not on the list of pardons released by the White House, although there has been speculation he was considering that. Trump can make additional pardons up until President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in and names are required to be made public.

The Constitution gives the president broad clemency powers over federal offenses, including the authority to pardon crimes and commute sentences.

"Thank God we have only 12 more hours of this den of thieves," Rep. Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California who was the lead House manager in Trump's impeachment trial, tweeted in part after news broke that Bannon would be pardoned.

Trump has been criticized for granting clemency to people with personal or political connections to him and for bypassing the Justice Department process through which clemency requests are typically considered.

In November, Trump pardoned his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. He has also pardoned longtime confidant Roger Stone; former campaign manager Paul Manafort; Charles Kushner, his son-in-law's father; as well as former House Republicans convicted of federal crimes and four military contractors convicted of a massacre in Baghdad.

Trump left Washington early Wednesday morning for his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, without participating in any ceremonial events usually attended by the outgoing president.

Lauren Egan reported from Washington, D.C., and Doha Madani from New York.