Trump Issues Slew of Pardons in Final Hours as President

Trump pardoned his former chief strategist Steve Bannon and other notable figures.

President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, speaks with reporters in New York after pleading not guilty to charges that he ripped off donors to an online fundraising scheme to build a southern border wall. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez, File)

(CN) — In his final hours in office, President Donald Trump pardoned 73 people, including his former chief strategist Steve Bannon, rapper “Lil Wayne,” and a Republican fundraiser.

Around 1 a.m. Wednesday, the White House released the list of Trump’s pardons and an additional 70 sentence commutations. Trump is set to leave Washington at 8 a.m., before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden. 

Trump’s list did not include preemptive pardons for himself, his children, or his lawyer Rudy Giuliani, as some had speculated it might. 

The president reportedly went back and forth Tuesday as to whether he should pardon Bannon, his former adviser who has been charged with defrauding donors who believed their money would fund the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Bannon has not yet had a trial. 

“Mr. Bannon has been an important leader in the conservative movement and is known for his political acumen,” a White House statement said Wednesday. 

California Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff said on Twitter following the pardon announcement that 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.”

“And if that all sounds crazy, that’s because it is,” he added. “Thank God we have only 12 more hours of this den of thieves.”

Trump also pardoned rapper Dwayne Michael Carter Jr., aka “Lil Wayne,” and commuted the sentence of rapper Bill Kapri, aka Kodak Black. Last month, Lil Wayne pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm and ammunition by a convicted felon. During the 2020 presidential election, the rapper tweeted a photo of himself with Trump in an apparent endorsement of him. He said in the Oct. 29 tweet he “had a great meeting” with the president and commended Trump’s record on criminal justice reform.

The White House said in its statement that Lil Wayne had “exhibited his generosity through the commitment to a variety of charities, including donations to research hospitals and a host of food banks.”

Kodak Black was sentenced to 46 months in prison for making a false statement on a federal document while attempting to purchase firearms, and he has served about half of his sentence. Black has also been indicted on drug, weapons and sexual assault charges and has been arrested on several occassions, according to the Associated Press. 

Republican fundraiser Elliot Broidy, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to serve as an unregistered agent of a foreign principal for lobbying the Trump administration to drop its probe of a multibillion-dollar embezzlement scandal involving Malaysia’s state-owned investment fund, received a full pardon. Broidy was once the deputy national finance chair of the Republican National Committee.

Former New York Observer editor Ken Kurson, a friend of Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, was also pardoned. Kurson was charged last year with cyberstalking. He was accused of sending threatening messages to three people. According to the White House statement Wednesday, the charges related to Kurson’s 2015 divorce. 

“In a powerful letter to the prosecutors, Mr. Kurson’s ex-wife wrote on his behalf that she never wanted this investigation or arrest and, ‘repeatedly asked for the FBI to drop it … I hired a lawyer to protect me from being forced into yet another round of questioning. My disgust with this arrest and the subsequent articles is bottomless…’ This investigation only began because Mr. Kurson was nominated to a role within the Trump Administration,” the statement said.

In 2018, Kurson was up for a seat on the board of the National Endowment for the Humanities, before the FBI uncovered harassment allegations against him. Kurson also served as chief operating officer for Rudy Giuliani in his failed 2008 bid for president.

Trump’s pardon list Wednesday also included Anthony Levandowski, a former engineer for Google who headed the company’s self-driving car project. In August, he was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison for stealing more than 14,000 proprietary documents from his former employer. 

Former North Carolina Congressman Robert Hayes and former Arizona Congressman Rick Renzi received full pardons, while former California Congressman Randall Cunningham received a conditional pardon. Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who has served seven years in prison for his role in a racketeering and bribery scheme while in office, had his sentence commuted. 

Prior to the last-minute flurry of pardons Wednesday, Trump had already issued pardons to several members of his inner circle including former campaign manager Paul Manafort, Charles Kushner, Roger Stone and Michael Flynn

“Tiger King” star Joseph Maldonado-Passage, aka Joe Exotic, who was convicted of murder-for-hire, was not on the pardon list, nor was WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. 

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