Has President Donald Trump also pardoned Julian Assange? Although his name is not in the list, according to prosecutors and scholars, the President can issue “secret” pardons without notifying Congress of the public. However, according to the publicly available list, Trump has pardoned his former senior adviser Steve Bannon, among scores of others including rappers, financiers and former members of Congress in the final hours of his presidency.
Among the 73 people pardoned was Elliott Broidy, a leading former fundraiser for Trump who has admitted illegally lobbying the US government to drop its inquiry into the Malaysia 1MDB corruption scandal and to deport an exiled Chinese billionaire. Also on the list was Ken Kurson, a friend of Jared Kushner who was charged in October last year with cyberstalking during a heated divorce.
Rappers Lil Wayne and Kodak Black – who were prosecuted on federal weapons offences – and former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who is serving a 28-year prison term on corruption charges, were also pardoned. A further 70 people had their sentences commuted.
Trump did not attempt to give himself a pre-emptive pardon, and has not pardoned members of his family or Rudy Giuliani, his former personal lawyer with whom he has fallen out. Julian Assange was another figure subject to speculation who was not on the list. Prosecutors and scholars have, however, said a grey area in the constitution means a president may be able to issue “secret” pardons, without notifying Congress or the public.
The New York Times and CNN described the pardoning of Bannon, a former editor of Breitbart as a last-minute pre-emptive move to protect Bannon from his upcoming fraud trial. Bannon faces trial in May following his arrest in August last year on a luxury yacht off the Connecticut coast, accused of siphoning money from We Build the Wall, an online fundraiser for Trump’s contentious border wall with Mexico.
Federal prosecutors allege Bannon used a non-profit he controlled to divert “over $1m from the … online campaign, at least some of which he used to cover hundreds of thousands of dollars in personal expenses”.
Officials said We Build The Wall raised more than $25m. Bannon has denied one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and another of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
The news on Bannon and Broidy brought swift outcry. Noah Bookbinder at legal watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington said: “Even Nixon didn’t pardon his cronies on the way out. Amazingly, in his final 24 hours in office, Donald Trump found one more way to fail to live up to the ethical standard of Richard Nixon.”
Democrat Adam Schiff tweeted: “Steve Bannon is getting a pardon from Trump after defrauding Trump’s own supporters into paying for a wall that Trump promised Mexico would pay for. And if that all sounds crazy, that’s because it is. Thank God we have only 12 more hours of this den of thieves.”
Bannon was recently banned from Twitter for calling for the beheading of Dr Anthony Fauci and the FBI director, Christopher Wray.
He and Trump have been estranged since the former adviser left the White House and made critical remarks about the president in a tell-all book about the president called Fire and Fury by journalist Michael Wolff. Trump said his former consigliere had “lost his mind”.
Despite Trump’s last-minute move on Bannon, reportedly delayed because the president was so torn on the issue, it would not protect his former adviser from charges brought by state courts.
Trump has also been mulling future political ambitions, according to the Wall Street Journal, reportedly speaking to aides about the possibility of forming a new political party. The president favoured the name Patriot Party, it reported.
Multiple Republican party figures defending Trump in his second impeachment, for inciting the Capitol attack on 6 January, counseled him not to offer pardons to any of the more than 100 people arrested as a result.
Presidential pardons and acts of clemency do not imply innocence. Presidents often bestow them on allies and donors but Trump has taken the practice to extremes.
Previous recipients include aides and allies Michael Flynn, Roger Stone, George Papadopoulos and Paul Manafort, all convicted in the investigation of Russian election interference and links between Trump and Moscow, and Charles Kushner, the father of Trump’s son-in-law and chief adviser, Jared Kushner.
Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump were reportedly closely involved in the process deciding Trump’s final pardons.
Trump is due to leave Washington on Wednesday morning, ahead of Joe Biden’s inauguration as the 46th president. He will fly to Florida, stripped of the legal protection of office.
Trump faces state investigations of his business affairs and could face legal jeopardy over acts in office including his attempts to overturn election defeat and his incitement of the Capitol riot on 6 January, over which he was impeached a second time.
If Trump is convicted in his second Senate trial, he could be barred from running for office again.
Full list of President Trump’s pardons and commutations
Bannon, 67, was a key adviser in Trump’s 2016 presidential run. He 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 has pleaded not guilty.
White House officials had advised Trump against pardoning Bannon, who left the Trump administration in late 2017. 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.
Broidy, a major Republican party fundraiser, pleaded guilty in October to acting as an unregistered foreign agent, admitting to accepting money to secretly lobby the Trump administration for Chinese and Malaysian interests. He has been pardoned. Broidy held finance posts in Trump’s 2016 campaign and on his inaugural committee. 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.
The former Detroit mayor was sentenced in 2013 to 28 years in prison following his conviction on two dozen charges including racketeering, bribery and extortion from a conspiracy, which prosecutors said had worsened the city’s financial crisis. Kilpatrick, 50, once seen as a rising star in the Democratic party, received one of the longest corruption sentences ever handed to a major US politician. Kilpatrick, who was mayor from 2002 to 2008, extorted bribes from contractors who wanted to get or keep Detroit city contracts, prosecutors said. His sentence has been commuted.
Lil Wayne, 38, whose real name is Dwayne Michael Carter, pleaded guilty in federal court in December to illegally possessing a firearm and faced up to 10 years in prison. He was scheduled to be sentenced in March in Florida. A year earlier, the Grammy winner was found with a loaded, gold-plated .45-caliber handgun in his baggage aboard a private plane that had landed at an executive airport near Miami. A previous felony conviction made it illegal for the rapper to have the weapon or ammunition.In October, Wayne tweeted a picture of himself with Trump following what he called a “great meeting” with the president. He has been pardoned.
Rapper Kodak Black
Black, 23, who was born Bill Kahan Kapri, is in federal prison for making a false statement to buy a firearm, and released the album called Bill Israel from behind bars.
Black pleaded guilty in August 2019, and three months later was sentenced to three years and 10 months in prison. He is seeking compassionate release. In a since-deleted tweet in November, Black promised to spend $1m on charity if the president released him, the hip-hop magazine XXL reported. His sentence has been commuted.
Weiss was convicted of bilking $125m from National Heritage Life Insurance and its elderly policyholders. He fled the United States and was sentenced in absentia in 2000 to 845 years in prison, but he was eventually extradited from Austria. Weiss, 66, is at a US penitentiary in Pennsylvania, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
Trump lawyers from his first impeachment, Alan Dershowitz and Jay Sekulow, sent letters to the White House in support of Weiss. His sentence has been commuted.
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’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.
The judge, William Alsup, who has been involved in Silicon Valley litigation for nearly five decades, described Levandowski’s conviction as the “biggest trade secret crime I have ever seen”. He has been pardoned.
Other pardons and commutations
Carl Andrews Boggs
Dr. Scott Harkonen
Johnny D. Phillips, Jr
Dr. Mahmoud Reza Banki
James E. Johnson, Jr
Scott Conor Crosby
Joshua J. Smith
Dr. Frederick Nahas
Dr. Faustino Bernadett
Gregory Jorgensen, Deborah Jorgensen, Martin Jorgensen (posthumous)
William Kale, Paul Behrens
Patrick Lee Swisher
Dr. Robert S. Corkern
David Lamar Clanton
Robert “Bob” Zangrillo
John Duncan Fordham
William “Ed” Henry
Randall “Duke” Cunningham – conditional pardon
Steven Benjamin Floyd
David E. Miller
James Austin Hayes
Robert Cannon “Robin” Hayes
Thomas Kenton “Ken” Ford
Ferrell Damon Scott
Jerry Donnell Walden
Jeffrey Alan Conway
Matthew Antoine Canady
Rodney Nakia Gibson
Tom Leroy Whitehurst
Monstsho Eugene Vernon
Luis Fernando Sicard
Traie Tavares Kelly
Eric Wesley Patton
Robert William Cawthon
Hal Knudson Mergler
Gary Evan Hendler
John Harold Wall
Steven Samuel Grantham
Clarence Olin Freeman
Fred Keith Alford
Kenneth Charles Fragoso
Way Quoe Long
Blanca Virgen –
Jaime A. Davidson
John Estin Davis
Jawad A. Musa
Jodi Lynn Richter
Cassandra Ann Kasowski
Lerna Lea Paulson
Fred “Dave” Clark
James Brian Cruz
In addition, President Trump commuted the sentences to time served for the following individuals: Jeff Cheney, Marquis Dargon, Jennings Gilbert, Dwayne L. Harrison, Reginald Dinez Johnson, Sharon King, and Hector Madrigal, Sr.
Courtesy: The Guardian
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