US President Donald Trump granted clemency to former White House aide Steve Bannon as part of a wave of pardons and commutations issued in his final hours in office, a senior administration official said, but did not pardon himself, members of his family or lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
Mr Trump leaves office on Wednesday, when Joe Biden is sworn in as the nation’s next president. White House officials had advised Mr Trump not to pardon himself or his family because it might look as if they are guilty of crimes, according to a source.
Mr Trump also pardoned Elliott Broidy, a former top fund-raiser for the president who pleaded guilty last year to breaching foreign lobbying laws, and former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who was serving a 28-year prison term on corruption charges, a senior administration official said. Rappers Lil Wayne and Kodak Black, who were prosecuted on federal weapons offences, were also granted pardons.
Mr Bannon, who was a key adviser in Mr 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 US-Mexico border. He pleaded not guilty.
White House officials advised Mr Trump against pardoning Mr Bannon. The two men have recently rekindled their relationship as Mr Trump sought support for his unproven claims of voter fraud, an official said.
Mr Giuliani, who has been at the forefront of unsuccessful efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, has not been charged with a crime, but investigators have been studying his activities in Ukraine.
Mr Bannon, 67, is the latest prominent political ally to receive clemency from Mr Trump, who has often used the powers of the executive branch to reward loyalists and punish his enemies.
Mr 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.
Mr 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, Mr Alonso said.
Mr Broidy pleaded guilty in October to a breach of lobbying laws by attempting to influence the administration on behalf of Chinese and Malaysian interests.
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 Mr Trump’s criminal justice reform efforts.
Kodak Black, 23, who was born Bill Kahan Kapri, is in federal prison for making a false statement to buy a firearm.