Trump pardons Bannon, dozens more on last full day as president – Latest News, Breaking News, Top News Headlines

With just a few hours of work ahead of him, President Trump pardoned several dozen individuals, including former White House and campaign adviser Stephen K. Bannon, charged with federal fraud and money laundering in an alleged scheme to defraud the US. supporters of the border wall.

Bannon, who has pleaded not guilty, became the latest political ally to win such a show of legal generosity from the outgoing president, as Trump granted clemency after midnight to 143 people, including drug offenders serving life sentences, in what appears to be his last executive action.

There were 73 pardons and 70 commutations of sentences. Among those pardoned by Trump were two former Republican congressmen: Randy “Duke” Cunningham of California, released in 2013 from prison on a bribery conviction, and Rick Renzi of Arizona, who was convicted the same year on charges including bribery, money laundering. of money and extortion. Trump pardoned three other former Republican congressmen in December, including California Rep. Duncan Hunter.

Moments after granting clemency to his political allies, Trump issued an executive order that rescinded the ethical standards he had established when he took office four years ago, which prohibited administration officials from working as lobbyists for five years. years after leaving the government. With his action early Wednesday, everyone who worked in the White House “will not be bound by those commitments.”

After weekend consultations with White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and other advisers, Trump had established a list of pardons that did not include Bannon or other political allies. But the outgoing president finally decided to grant the controversial pardon, flexing the muscles of the presidential prerogative one last time.

Bannon had faced trial in May on conspiracy charges stemming from his involvement in a nonprofit group supporting Trump’s effort to build a wall along the US-Mexico border. He and three others allegedly scammed donors out of millions of dollars.

Trump fired Bannon as a White House aide in 2017 and excused him on Twitter at the time. But more recently, the 67-year-old former CEO of the right-wing television station Breitbart News reportedly offered Trump informal advice in support of his efforts to overturn the November election he lost to President-elect Joe Biden.

Trump, who has already used his clemency to reward associates convicted of misconduct crimes in connection with his 2016 campaign, appeared to fail to issue a preventive clemency for himself and other members of his family. No president has ever tried such a dubious tactic from a constitutional point of view.

Trump, however, had discussed the possibility of using his executive powers to inoculate himself for future prosecutions by federal officials. The power of the president, under the Constitution, to pardon or commute sentences does not extend to state courts.

Cipollone and other advisers urged Trump over the weekend not to do so, warning him that it would open himself up to additional legal exposure and scrutiny and perhaps politically hurt his position by entering a second Senate impeachment trial.

But since no law requires a president to disclose his clemency actions, it is possible that Trump secretly signed a pardon for himself that could be revealed later if necessary.

Bannon was not the only political ally to receive clemency. Another was Elliott Broidy, a Republican fundraiser who raised millions for the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee. Broidy pleaded guilty in October to working as an unregistered foreign agent and illegally accepting millions of dollars to secretly pressure the Trump administration on behalf of Chinese and Malaysian interests.

Trump also granted a clemency to rapper Lil Wayne, who was facing up to 10 years in prison for carrying an illegal firearm. Wayne met and supported Trump in the final week of the 2020 campaign.

Kodak Black, a rapper sentenced to three years in 2019 after pleading guilty to a weapons charge, also received clemency. So did former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, a Democrat who had been serving a 28-year sentence after being convicted in 2013 of 24 counts of federal crimes, including mail fraud, wire fraud and blackmail.

The list of people granted clemency was posted after midnight, hours after Trump posted a 20-minute farewell speech on YouTube, recorded inside the White House on Monday.

In his farewell speech, he spoke of his accomplishments and offered the “new administration” good wishes, without mentioning Joe Biden by name. “We did what we came here to do – and much more,” Trump said.

He acknowledged that “he did not seek the path that would receive the least criticism” during four years in office. And he condemned the political violence that his own rhetoric helped incite two weeks earlier, saying it “can never be tolerated.”

At this time of deep division and on the eve of a two-month handover of power that he undermined and is struggling to avoid, he offered benign platitudes about the country’s greatness, asserting – just two weeks after his supporters stormed into the Capitol in an effort to nullify its electoral defeat – that, in the United States, “the government answers to the people.”

Aside from the recorded farewell message, Trump was not seen in public on his last full day in the White House, maintaining his post-election seclusion and apparent apathy for a hard-working job, and closing the final chapter of his chaotic presidency.

His latest business was conducted in private and announced in emails from the White House: praise for those who participated in the accelerated application of COVID-19 vaccines, an executive order to tighten cybersecurity protections, and declassification. “To the fullest extent” of the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into links between Trump’s associates in the 2016 campaign and Russian officials.

A president’s pardoning power under the Constitution is almost absolute, and other presidents have used it to grant favors to friends and associates. Trump not only made an unusual number of such concessions, but he also abruptly broke with past practices. He ignored the Justice Department office upon which previous presidents relied to examine clemency requests for full clemency or commutation of sentences, and instead acted largely on a whim.

Presidential pardons are intended to show mercy to criminals who show contrition for their actions, but few of those chosen by Trump have. Commutations reduce the sentences petitioners are serving, but, unlike pardons, they leave sentences intact.

Several Trump recipients have pleaded guilty or been convicted after being implicated in Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, which Trump denounced as a “witch hunt” and a “ cheated”.

Last month he pardoned two men who refused to cooperate with Mueller’s prosecutors: veteran Republican operative Roger Stone, whose sentence on seven felony counts had previously been commuted, and Trump’s 2016 campaign manager Paul. Manafort, who was sentenced to 7½ years in prison for financial fraud.

A round of pardons or commutations that took place shortly before Christmas included those of Charles Kushner, the father of Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, and four security contractors who were convicted of the 2008 killing of Iraqi civilians.

Three former Republican congressmen were also pardoned last month, including Hunter, who was about to start an 11-month sentence for stealing campaign funds for personal use. Also his wife, Margaret, who had also pleaded guilty to the charges.

The Justice Department review process that Trump ignored is aimed at identifying the most deserving recipients among a flood of applicants. He has also mocked the department’s guidance on who is merciful: “A presidential pardon is normally a sign of forgiveness and is granted in recognition of the applicant’s acceptance of responsibility for the crime, and of good conduct established during a significant time after conviction or release from seclusion. The pardon is not a sign of claim and does not connote or establish innocence ”.

Trump has always especially enjoyed exercising clemency, according to his associates, because he can use it unilaterally and quickly, leaving no recourse to those who disagree with or are outraged by his actions.

Last month, Senator Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) Denounced some of Trump’s pardons as “rotten to the core.”

Some of the individuals charged in connection with the Jan.6 attack on Capitol Hill appealed to Trump, publicly asking for forgiveness because they came to Washington at his behest. Senator Lindsey Graham (RS.C.) on Sunday urged Trump not to extend the power of forgiveness to anyone who takes part in the mob.

“I don’t care if you went there and scattered flowers on the ground,” Graham said on Fox’s “Sunday Morning Futures,” addressing the rioters directly. “You violated Capitol security, you disrupted a joint session of Congress, you tried to intimidate us all.”

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