Trump pardons former adviser Steve Bannon, 142 others — however not himself
In his final term in office, President Donald Trump granted pardons and changed sentences to 143 people early Wednesday, including a preventive pardon for former White House strategist Steve Bannon. Trump did not apologize preventively or any of his family members.
Other prominent beneficiaries were former self-driving vehicle engineer Anthony Levandowski of Uber and Google, former Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy, rappers Lil Wayne and Kodak Black, and former New York Observer editor Ken Kurson, an employee of Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. Other recipients included politicians convicted of bribery, executives who had committed fraud and those who served time on drug offenses.
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Levandowski’s name came as a bit of a surprise – the engineer was at the center of a year-long litigation in Silicon Valley and was sentenced to 18 months in prison in August for stealing trade secrets. Trump ally and tech billionaire Peter Thiel backed his grace, as did Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey, and the White House said, “Mr. Levandowski paid a significant price for his actions and plans to use his talents to advance the common good. ”
The list of pardons and commutations had been expected the previous Tuesday, but the back and forth decision on whether to pardon Bannon delayed the matter until the wee hours of Wednesday, according to the New York Times.
The pardon for Bannon was preventative and would nullify a possible federal fraud conviction. He still has to stand trial. In theory, Bannon could face new government fraud allegations that the pardon would not cover.
Bannon was charged by federal prosecutors in August for defrauding donors in a fundraising program to build a wall along the Mexican border and allegedly pocketing more than $ 1 million in donations. Bannon was on the yacht of an exiled Chinese billionaire when he was arrested.
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Advisors reportedly warned Trump not to pardon themselves because it would imply guilt, and they had also advised Capitol rioters from grace. It is possible that Trump could change his mind and issue further pardons before leaving office on Wednesday noon.
Trump had already issued a number of high-profile and controversial pardons, including political allies like Roger Stone, Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort; shamed former Republican Congressmen Duncan Hunter and Chris Collins; and four former Blackwater contractors convicted in 2007 of the murder of 14 unarmed Iraqi civilians.
Last weekend, the Trump administration carried out its 13th execution in an unprecedented riot that resulted in three death sentences being passed in an Indiana federal prison last week alone. There were no federal executions for 17 years before the Trump administration carried them out again in 2020. No president has overseen so many federal executions in the past 120 years, according to the Associated Press.