Trump pardons ex-strategist Steve Bannon, dozens of others in final hours in office
U.S. president didn't pardon himself, members of his family, lawyer Rudy Giuliani or the 'Tiger King'
U.S. President Donald Trump granted clemency to former White House aide Steve Bannon and former fundraiser Elliott Broidy as part of a wave of pardons and commutations issued in his final hours in office, but did not pardon himself, members of his family or lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
Trump leaves office on Wednesday, when Joe Biden is sworn in as the nation's next president. 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.
Bannon, who was a key adviser in Trump's 2016 presidential run, was charged last year with swindling the president's own supporters over an effort to raise private funds to build the president's wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. He has pleaded not guilty.
"Bannon has been an important leader in the conservative movement and is known for his political acumen," the White House said in a statement.
White House officials had advised Trump against pardoning Bannon. The two men have lately rekindled their relationship as Trump sought support for his unproven claims of voter fraud, an official familiar with the situation said.
As part of more than 140 pardons and commutations, Trump also pardoned Elliott Broidy, a former top fundraiser for Trump who pleaded guilty last year to violating foreign lobbying laws, and former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who was serving a 28-year prison term on corruption charges.
Giuliani, who has been at the forefront of Trump's unsuccessful efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, has not been charged with a crime, but investigators have been probing his activities in Ukraine.
Trump was impeached by the Democratic-led House last week on charges of inciting the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol by the president's supporters. He may face a Senate trial and could be barred from running for president again if convicted.
Bannon fired in 2017
Bannon, 67, is the latest prominent political ally to receive clemency from Trump, who has often used the powers of the executive branch to reward loyalists and punish his enemies.
Trump previously pardoned former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn for lying to the FBI about his conversation with the former Russian ambassador, and 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, before later pardoning him.
The former executive chairman and co-founder of the right-wing news outlet Breitbart, Bannon is credited as being the architect behind the rise of "America First" right-wing populism. He was a key influencer behind some of Trump's staunch anti-immigration policies in the early days of Trump's presidency, as well as the border wall that was one of Trump's key campaign promises.
He was fired from his post at the White House in August 2017.
WATCH | Trump's acknowledgement that his time in office is coming to an end:
Bannon can still be charged with fraud by New York state prosecutors, 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.
Broidy, who was a top fundraiser for Trump during the 2016 campaign, pleaded guilty in October to violating lobbying laws by attempting to influence the administration on behalf of Chinese and Malaysian interests.
Prosecutors alleged Broidy received millions of dollars in payments from an unnamed foreign national to try to arrange the end of a U.S. investigation into billions of dollars embezzled from 1MDB, a Malaysian government investment fund.
Broidy held finance posts in Trump's 2016 campaign and on his inaugural committee.
Albert Pirro Jr., the former husband of Fox News television commentator Jeanine Pirro who had represented Trump as a real estate lawyer two decades ago, also received a pardon on Wednesday morning. He had been convicted on tax evasion and conspiracy charges.
Rappers pardoned, but not 'Tiger King'
Rapper Lil Wayne, whose real name is Dwayne Michael Carter Jr., was given a full pardon.
The Grammy-winner was charged in Florida on Nov. 17, 2020, with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, a federal offence that carries a potential sentence of up to 10 years in prison.
In the pardon, Lil Wayne was praised for his "commitment to a variety of charities, including donations to research hospitals and a host of food banks."
Lil Wayne is one of the seminal figures in rap in the last two decades, selling more than 20 million albums in the U.S. since releasing his debut in 1999.
Sentencing for the rapper, who frequently expressed support for Trump, was set for Jan. 28.
In a statement, Carter's attorney, Howard Srebnick, said a pardon was appropriate since "prosecuting a non-violent citizen for merely possessing a firearm violates the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution."
Rapper Kodak Black, born Bill K. Kapri, was granted a commutation.
The Tunnel Vision rapper is serving a three-year prison sentence for falsifying documents used to purchase weapons at a Miami gun store.
The pardon notes that Kodak Black paid for schoolchildren's notebooks, supplies to daycare centres and food for the hungry and donated $50,000 US for restaurants in his hometown of Pompano Beach, Fla.
Desiree Perez, CEO of Roc Nation, was granted a full pardon.
Perez was arrested in 1994 for drug possession and in 1998 for grand larceny and possession of a firearm. In 2019, she was named head of the entertainment company founded by rapper Jay-Z that's home to such artists as Rihanna, Alicia Keys and Megan Thee Stallion.
The pardon mentions that "Perez has taken full accountability for her actions and has turned her life around."
Zookeeper turned reality TV-star "Tiger King" Joe Exotic had also hoped for good news, but it was not to be.
The celebrity zookeeper, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, was sentenced in January 2020 to 22 years in federal prison for violating federal wildlife laws and for his role in a failed murder-for-hire plot.
His team was so confident in a pardon that they'd readied a celebratory limousine and a hair and wardrobe team to whisk him away from a Texas prison.
But he wasn't on the list announced Wednesday morning.
Exotic was prominently featured in the popular Netflix documentary Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness.
Anthony Levandowski was also pardoned. Levandowski, a former Google engineer, pleaded guilty to stealing secret technology related to self-driving cars from the company before becoming the head of Uber Technologies Inc's rival unit.
In August, a judge in San Francisco sentenced Levandowski to 18 months in prison but said he could enter custody once the COVID-19 pandemic has subsided.
Full legal forgiveness
A pardon in practice grants full legal forgiveness for a federal crime, as a result removing any remaining prison sentence, probation conditions or unpaid fines. It also relieves the person of the potential consequences of a felony conviction, such as being barred from voting, running for public office and owning a gun.
A pardon cannot cover future conduct, but a pardon can be pre-emptive in the sense that it can cover conduct that has not yet resulted in legal proceedings.
While there have been a handful of pre-emptive pardons — including Gerald Ford for Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter for those who evaded the Vietnam War draft — most have been for those who have had their actions or crimes adjudicated in legal proceedings. The Ford and Carter pardons also did not apply to any future activities.
With files from CBC News and the Associated Press