President Donald Trump issued a raft of 11th-hour pardons and commutations early Wednesday that included his onetime political strategist, a former top fundraiser and two well-known rappers but not himself or his family. The batch of 73 pardons and 70 commutations issued in the final hours of his presidency was expected, and is in keeping with a long-standing presidential tradition of exercising clemency powers at the last minute. The list reflected a President keen on awarding pardons to his stalwart allies, an unusual number of whom have been swept up in corruption or lying charges. The vast majority of the pardons and commutations on Trump’s list were doled out to individuals whose cases have been championed by criminal justice reform advocates, including people serving lengthy sentences for low-level offenses. But several controversial names do appear, including Steve Bannon, who has pleaded not guilty to charges he defrauded donors in a “We Build the Wall” online fundraising campaign. Trump had spent the past days deliberating over a pardon for the man who helped him win the presidency in 2016 and followed him to the White House. During his final hours in office there was a frantic debate underway behind the scenes on whether to grant Bannon a pardon.
Trump tells people he’s decided to pardon Steve Bannon as one of his final acts in office. One concern was Bannon’s possible connection to the January 6 riot of Trump supporters at the US Capitol, according to a source familiar with the discussions. Over the course of Tuesday, Trump continued to contemplate pardons that aides believed were settled, including for his former strategist. The President continued to go back and forth on it into Tuesday night, sources told CNN. Other names included Tuesday were Elliott Broidy, a former top fundraiser for Trump’s campaign who pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy relating to a secret lobbying campaign to influence the Trump administration on behalf of a foreign billionaire in exchange for millions of dollars. The rapper Lil Wayne received a pardon after pleading guilty to a gun possession charge in Miami. Another rapper, Kodak Black, received a commutation after he pleaded guilty to a weapons charge. Trump also offered clemency to Paul Erickson, the conservative political operative and ex-boyfriend of alleged Russian spy Maria Butina, who pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering charges; Robin Hayes, a North Carolina political donor convicted of trying to bribe officials; Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, convinced of federal charges including racketeering, extortion and the filing of false tax returns; William Walters, a professional sports gambler convicted of insider trading; and Aviem Sella, an Israeli air force officer who the US accused of being a spy. Bob Zangrillo, the Miami developer and venture capitalist charged in the Varsity Blues college admission scandal, also received a pardon. None of the other parents caught up in the probe were pardoned. Though neither Trump or members of his family were included on his list, Trump has until noon on Wednesday to issue any final pardons before leaving office.
Trump to issue around 100 pardons and commutations Tuesday, sources sayTrump’s final acts of clemency come after a scramble in recent days among criminal justice reform advocates and several White House officials to finalize the list and convince Trump to approve the actions. These pardons will undoubtedly be overshadowed by the slew of controversial ones Trump also issue in the same final batch on Tuesday.While outgoing presidents typically issue pardons before leaving office, Trump has proven more willing to use his pardon power to brazenly reward political loyalty, the wealthy and well-connected and those who did not cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.The January 6 riots that led to Trump’s second impeachment have complicated his desire to pardon himself, his kids and personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, and a source close to the process said those are no longer expected.After the riot, advisers encouraged Trump to forgo a self-pardon because it would appear like he was guilty of something, according to one person familiar with the conversations. Several of Trump’s closest advisers have also urged him not to grant clemency to anyone involved in the siege on the US Capitol, despite Trump’s initial stance that those involved had done nothing wrong.