U.S. President Donald Trump has granted clemency to former White House aide Steve Bannon as part of a wave of pardons and commutations he will issue during his final hours in office, a senior administration official said.
Trump was not expected to pardon himself, members of his family or lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who was at the forefront of unsuccessful efforts to get the results of the 2020 presidential election overturned, according to sources.
Trump leaves office on Wednesday, when Joe Biden is sworn in as the nation’s next president.
Trump also pardoned rappers Lil Wayne and Kodak Black who were prosecuted on federal weapons offences, as well as former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who was serving a 28-year prison term on corruption charges, a senior administration official said.
Bannon, who was a key adviser in Trump’s 2016 presidential run, was charged last year with swindling Trump 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.
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.
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.
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.
Lil Wayne, 38, whose real name is Dwayne Michael Carter Jr., pleaded guilty in federal court in December to illegally possessing a firearm and faced up to 10 years in prison. He has expressed support for Trump’s criminal justice reform efforts.
Kodak Black, 23, who was born Bill Kahan Kapri, is in federal prison for making a false statement in order to buy a firearm.
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 preemptive in the sense that it can cover conduct that has not yet resulted in legal proceedings.
While there have been a handful of preemptive 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.
Also on Tuesday, Trump released a “farewell” video. In it, he acknowledged the new administration and wished it luck, but did not mention Joe Biden by name.
WATCH | Trump’s acknowledgement that his time in office is coming to an end: