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January 21, 2021

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Trump pardons ex-aide Bannon

US President Donald Trump pardoned 73 people early yesterday, including his former chief strategist Steve Bannon, as part of a flurry of clemency action in the final hours of his White House term. Another 70 people got their sentences commuted.

The last-minute clemency, which benefited people including rap performers, ex-members of Congress, his allies and that of his family, follows separate waves of pardons over the past month for Trump associates convicted in the FBI’s Russia investigation.

The latest list was heavily populated by more conventional candidates. One man who has spent nearly 24 years in prison on drug and weapons charges but had shown exemplary behavior behind bars had his sentence commuted, as did a former Marine sentenced in 2000 in connection with a cocaine conviction.

But the names of prominent Trump allies nonetheless stood out. Bannon has been charged with duping thousands of donors who believed their money would be used to fulfill Trump’s chief campaign promise to build a wall along the southern border. Instead, he allegedly diverted over a million dollars, paying a salary to one campaign official and personal expenses for himself. But yesterday’s statement, announcing his pardon, read: “Mr Bannon has been an important leader in the conservative movement and is known for his political acumen.”

Bannon’s pardon was especially notable given that the prosecution was still in its early stages. Whereas pardon recipients are conventionally thought of as defendants who have faced justice, often by having served at least some prison time.

Other pardon recipients included Elliott Broidy, a Republican fundraiser who pleaded guilty last fall in a scheme to lobby the Trump administration to drop an investigation into the looting of a Malaysian wealth fund, and Ken Kurson, a friend of Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, who was charged with cyberstalking during a heated divorce.


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