Trump Pardons 143 People Including Lil Wayne and Steve Bannon

Published January 20th, 2021 - 07:05 GMT
In this file photo taken on August 20, 2020 US President Donald Trump's former Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon exits Manhattan Federal Court following his arraignment on fraud charges over allegations that he used money from his group "We Build The Wall" on personal expenses in New York. (AFP)
In this file photo taken on August 20, 2020 US President Donald Trump's former Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon exits Manhattan Federal Court following his arraignment on fraud charges over allegations that he used money from his group "We Build The Wall" on personal expenses in New York. (AFP)
Highlights
In August last year he pleaded not guilty to charges that he defrauded MAGA donors to 'We Build the Wall' .

Donald Trump has granted clemency to Steve Bannon as part of a wave of 143 pardons and commutations announced early Wednesday morning during the president's final hours in office. 

Bannon, 67, helped Trump win the election in 2016 and was a senior White House adviser. In August last year he pleaded not guilty to charges that he defrauded MAGA donors to 'We Build the Wall,' an online campaign that raised $25 million.     

Pardoning Bannon the White House said: 'President Trump granted a full pardon to Stephen Bannon. Prosecutors pursued Mr. Bannon with charges related to fraud stemming from his involvement in a political project. 

'Mr. Bannon has been an important leader in the conservative movement and is known for his political acumen.'

Trump has also pardoned rappers Lil Wayne and Kodak Black, who were prosecuted on federal weapons offenses, as well as former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who was serving a 28-year prison term on corruption charges. 

He will also pardon Elliott Broidy, a former top fundraiser for Trump who pleaded guilty last year to violating foreign lobbying laws, Ken Kurson, a friend of Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner who was charged last October with cyberstalking during a heated divorce and Anthony Levandowski, a former Google engineer was sentenced to 18 months in prison for stealing the internet giant's self-driving car files ahead of joining Uber.

Bannon had fallen out with Trump after he was quoted calling the president's son Don Jr. 'treasonous' and his daughter Ivanka 'dumb as a brick'. Trump said then: 'Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency.' 

But the two men have since rekindled their relationship as Trump sought support for his unproven claims of voter fraud, an official familiar with the situation said. White House officials are said to have advised Trump against pardoning Bannon.    

Bannon can still be charged in state court in New York, where a pardon would not help him, said Daniel R. Alonso, a former prosecutor now at the Buckley law firm. Fraud prosecutions are frequently brought by the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, Alonso said.

The pardon power, which comes from the U.S. Constitution, is one of the broadest available to a president. While pardons are typically given to people who have been prosecuted, pardons can cover conduct that has not yet resulted in legal proceedings.

A pardon is not reviewable by other branches of government and the president does not have to give a reason for issuing one. But the pardon power is not absolute; it only applies to federal crimes.   

White House officials had argued to Trump that he should not pardon himself or his family because it might look like they are guilty of crimes, according to a source familiar with the situation. 

There was also no pardon for lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who was at the forefront of unsuccessful efforts to get the results of the 2020 presidential election overturned. 

Giuliani has not been charged with a crime, but investigators have been probing his activities in Ukraine. 

And one other name also not on the list was Joseph Maldonado-Passage, better known as Joe Exotic. He has served roughly two years of a 22-year sentence after he was convicted on 17 federal charges in 2019 for animal abuse and an attempted murder-for-hire plot on Carole Baskin.

His team had a limo ready from a Fort Worth prison to immediately get his hair done before seeing his husband Dillon Passage.  

Trump had previously pardoned former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn for lying to the FBI about his conversation with the former Russian ambassador. 

He commuted the prison term for Roger Stone, who was convicted of lying to Congress during its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. 

'Steve Bannon is getting a pardon from Trump after defrauding Trump's own supporters into paying for a wall that Trump promised Mexico would pay for,' Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff said on Twitter. 'And if that all sounds crazy, that's because it is. Thank God we have only 12 more hours of this den of thieves.' 

Bannon was in August last year pulled from a luxury yacht and arrested on allegations that he and three associates ripped off donors trying to fund a southern border 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, who served in Trump's White House and worked for his campaign.

He allegedly took over $1 million, using some to secretly pay co-defendant Brian Kolfage, an Air Force veteran who lost both legs in a mortar attack in Iraq and the founder of the project, and to cover hundreds of thousands of dollars in personal expenses.

'This case should serve as a warning to other fraudsters that no one is above the law, not even a disabled war veteran or a millionaire political strategist,' said Philip R. Bartlett, inspector-in-charge of the New York office of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, which arrested Bannon.  

After the arrest, Trump quickly distanced himself from Bannon and the project.

'When I read about it, I didn't like it. I said this is for government, this isn't for private people. And it sounded to me like showboating,' he told reporters at the White House. 


A voice of nationalist, outsider conservatism, Bannon led the conservative Breitbart News before being tapped to serve as chief executive officer of Trump's campaign in its critical final months. 

He later served as chief strategist 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.

Bannon, who served in the Navy and worked as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs and as a Hollywood producer before turning to politics, now hosts a pro-Trump podcast called 'War Room,' which began during the president's impeachment proceedings and has continued during the pandemic.  

Lil Wayne pleaded guilty last month to possessing a loaded, gold-plated handgun when his chartered jet landed in Miami in December 2019. He faced a sentence of up to 10 years in prison at a January 28 hearing in Miami.

The rapper appeared to support Trump during last year's presidential campaign when he tweeted a photo of himself with the president and said he backed Trump's criminal justice reform program and economic plan for African Americans. 

Bannon was in August last year pulled from a luxury yacht and arrested on allegations that he and three associates ripped off donors trying to fund a southern border 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, who served in Trump's White House and worked for his campaign.

He allegedly took over $1 million, using some to secretly pay co-defendant Brian Kolfage, an Air Force veteran who lost both legs in a mortar attack in Iraq and the founder of the project, and to cover hundreds of thousands of dollars in personal expenses.

'This case should serve as a warning to other fraudsters that no one is above the law, not even a disabled war veteran or a millionaire political strategist,' said Philip R. Bartlett, inspector-in-charge of the New York office of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, which arrested Bannon.  

After the arrest, Trump quickly distanced himself from Bannon and the project.

'When I read about it, I didn't like it. I said this is for government, this isn't for private people. And it sounded to me like showboating,' he told reporters at the White House. 

A voice of nationalist, outsider conservatism, Bannon led the conservative Breitbart News before being tapped to serve as chief executive officer of Trump's campaign in its critical final months. 

He later served as chief strategist 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.

Bannon, who served in the Navy and worked as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs and as a Hollywood producer before turning to politics, now hosts a pro-Trump podcast called 'War Room,' which began during the president's impeachment proceedings and has continued during the pandemic.  

Lil Wayne pleaded guilty last month to possessing a loaded, gold-plated handgun when his chartered jet landed in Miami in December 2019. He faced a sentence of up to 10 years in prison at a January 28 hearing in Miami.

The rapper appeared to support Trump during last year's presidential campaign, when he tweeted a photo of himself with the president and said he backed Trump's criminal justice reform program and economic plan for African Americans. 

This article has been adapted from its original source.


© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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