United States president Donald Trump granted a pardon to his former aide Steve Bannon just hours before relinquishing office. This was among 143 pardons and commutations granted by Trump in the last hours of his presidency. Among those receiving pardons and commutations include lobbyist Elliott Broidy, former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and former House Representative from New Mexico Duke Cunningham.
Bannon was a former Hollywood producer and later co-founded the right-wing website Breitbart News. He was one of the most prominent faces of the 2016 Trump presidential campaign as its chief executive. Bannon is known for his xenophobic and anti-immigrant political views and has for long supported Trump’s campaign promise of building a wall on the US-Mexico border and cracking down on undocumented migrants and asylum seekers.
After Trump assumed the presidency in January 2017, Bannon was appointed as his chief strategist and senior counselor. He was also made a member of the National Security Council. He was forced to step down after receiving a massive backlash for his involvement in the white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville that ended in a series of violent incidents, killing three and injuring dozens.
After his stint as the president’s aide, Bannon was involved with Breitbart and the “We Build The Wall” campaign, which sought to crowdsource funds from anti-immigrationists and Trump supporters to privately build a portion of Trump’s US-Mexico border wall.
In August last year, Bannon, along with three others, was charged by federal prosecutors with fraud and money laundering related to the border wall campaign. He was charged with using the campaign to siphon money, receiving around USD 1 million from the campaign donations.
The eleventh hour clemency has also been awarded to several individuals who have been serving lengthy jail sentences. A significant number of them are corrupt politicians and lobbyists, mostly Republican Party officials who are seen to have been close to Trump.
Elliott Broidy, a Republican Party fundraiser and lobbyist, had pleaded guilty in October 2020 for illegally lobbying the Trump administration over the investigation into the 1MDB fraud case in Malaysia. Duke Cunningham served nearly eight years in prison for receiving bribes of USD 2.4 million from defense contractors while serving as a federal legislator.
Others include former House Representative and Republican donor Robin Hayes who was convicted in a bribery case, conservative lobbyist and fraud convict Paul Erickson, Aviem Sella, an Israeli Air Force officer who worked with Jonathan Pollard to spy for Israel, and Kwame Kilpatrick, the only Democratic Party politician in the list, convicted in 2008 of extortion, racketeering and corruption while serving as mayor of Detroit.
The Trump administration has overlooked calls to pardon whistleblowers and journalists who have exposed US war crimes and snooping activity, like Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.