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Trump pardons 74 people, including Steve Bannon, and commutes sentences of 70 others

Trump pardons Bannon before leaving office
Before leaving office, Trump grants clemency to 143 people, including Steve Bannon 03:56

On his way out the door, President Trump pardoned 74 people, including his former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, and commuted the sentences of 70 others. The White House announced the last-minute flurry of pardons and commutations early on Wednesday, Mr. Trump's last day in office.

No members of the president's family — including Mr. Trump himself — were on the list. There was considerable speculation in the waning days of his term over whether he would issue pre-emptive pardons for himself, any of his children or son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Also missing from the list — Rudy Giuliani — Mr. Trump's personal attorney, who led legal efforts to prove false claims that Mr. Trump won the presidential election over Joe Biden.

Among others getting pardons were former top GOP fundraiser Elliott Broidy and rapper Lil Wayne.

Bannon was indicted in August for allegedly defrauding donors out of hundreds of thousands of dollars with a fundraising campaign to build a wall along the southern border, known as the "We build the wall" campaign. The scheme raised $25 million, and Bannon was accused of taking $1 million to cover personal expenses and pay another person accused in the scheme.

FILE PHOTO: Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon exits the Manhattan Federal Court in New York City
Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon leaves Manhattan Federal Court following his arraignment on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering on August 20, 2020. ANDREW KELLY / REUTERS

In announcing his pardon, the White House said Bannon "has been an important leader in the conservative movement and is known for his political acumen."

But Representative Adam Schiff, a California Democrat and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, took to Twitter to swipe at the move, saying, "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. And if that all sounds crazy, that's because it is. Thank God we have only 12 more hours of this den of thieves."

Broidy, the RNC's former deputy finance chair, was charged in October for his alleged role in a covert scheme to lobby the Justice Department and Trump administration on behalf of undisclosed foreign entities. Broidy resigned as the GOP's top fundraiser in 2018 after admitting to paying off a Playboy Playmate.

Mr. Trump also pardoned rapper Dwayne Michael Carter Jr, also known as Lil Wayne. Carter pleaded guilty in December to a federal gun charge. 

In the final hour of his presidency, the president also granted a full pardon to Albert J. Pirro, Jr., the ex-husband of Trump-friendly Fox News host Jeanine Pirro. He was convicted on conspiracy and tax evasion charges. 

The president commuted the sentence of Kwame Kilpatrick, the former Detroit mayor who has served approximately 7 years of a 28 year sentence for racketeering and bribery. "This commutation is strongly supported by prominent members of the Detroit community, Alveda King, Alice Johnson, Diamond and Silk, Pastor Paula White, Peter Karmanos, Representative Sherry Gay-Dagnogo of the Michigan House of Representatives, Representative Karen Whitsett of the Michigan House of Representatives, and more than 30 faith leaders," the White House said.

Kilpatrick, once seen as a rising star in the Democratic Party, received one of the longest sentences for corruption ever given to a major U.S. politician.

New York Attorney General Letitia James issued a statement blasting Mr. Trump's actions, saying in part, "The 143 pardons and commutations, issued in the twilight hours of the Trump Administration, perfectly sum up what this lame-duck president has always been about: favoritism towards those who show absolute loyalty to Donald Trump."

Prior to the late blitz, Mr. Trump had granted 70 pardons, the majority of them in December, according to Justice Department records. 

He waited until after the November election to issue some of his most controversial pardons, including for former campaign manager Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner's convict father Charles Kushner, and longtime Trump ally Roger Stone. 

By the time President Obama had left office, he had pardoned 212 people; 189 were pardoned by President George W. Bush; and 396 received a pardon from President Clinton, according to the Justice Department. 

Mr. Trump isn't the first president to issue highly controversial pardons. Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon, and Mr. Clinton granted clemency to friends and supporters. 

The president's pardon powers are virtually unlimited when it comes to federal crimes. The presidential pardon power allows the president to pardon anyone charged with or convicted of a federal crime — it does not apply to state crimes. Article II of the Constitution states that the president "shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment." 

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