Trump issues pardons, commutations in final wave of executive clemency grants before leaving office
- President Trump issued pardons and commutations on Tuesday as one of his final actions in office.
- Trump was criticised for bypassing the DOJ review process that decides who gets executive clemency.
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President Donald Trump issued a slow trickle of pardons and commutations late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning, as one of his final acts before he leaves office on Wednesday.
The Washington Post reported that Trump and close aides, including his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, drew up the list during a Sunday meeting in the Oval Office. The New York Times reported that Ivanka sent the final list to the White House counsel's office for approval and that the Justice Department's pardon office, which typically reviews who gets executive clemency grants, was not included in the process.
Several people reportedly on the list include:
- Former chief strategist Steve Bannon will be pardoned, according to The New York Times
- Former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick will be granted clemency, according to Reuters
- Rapper Lil Wayne will be granted clemency, according to Reuters
- Rapper Kodak Black will be granted clemency, according to Reuters
- Former RNC finance chair Elliott Broidy will be pardoned, according to The Washington Post
According to The Times, Trump came to his decision on including those individuals after consulting with the criminal justice advocacy group #Cut50, the former Koch Industries executive Mark Holden, and Alice Johnson, a criminal justice reform advocate who was convicted on drug trafficking charges and sentenced to life in prison before Trump commuted her sentence and later granted her a full pardon.
Before the White House announced the latest pardons and commutations, a source told CNN that some Trump allies believe many of the recipients were people the president expects to enjoy beneficial relationships with after he leaves office.
"Everything is a transaction," the source told CNN. "He likes pardons because it is unilateral. And he likes doing favors for people he thinks will owe him."
Last month, Trump pardoned 46 people and commuted the sentences of eight others. The list featured several people who had personal connections to the president. Others were not directly tied to Trump, but right-wing media figures had aggressively lobbied for their pardons.
Names on the list included:
- George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign foreign policy aide who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in the Mueller probe.
- Alex van der Zwaan, a Dutch lawyer who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in the Mueller probe.
- Roger Stone, a Republican strategist who was convicted in the Mueller probe of multiple felony counts of making false statements, obstruction, and witness tampering.
- Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman who was convicted of eight counts of tax fraud, bank fraud, and failure to report foreign bank accounts, and who pleaded guilty to conspiracy and obstruction.
- Charles Kushner, Jared's father and a former real estate businessman who pleaded guilty in 2005 to 16 counts of tax evasion, one count of retaliating against a federal witness, and one count of lying to the Federal Election Commission.
- Former Republican congressman Steve Stockman, who was convicted on 23 counts of fraud, money laundering, conspiracy, and false statements.
- Former Republican congressman Chris Collins, who pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI and conspiring to commit securities fraud
- Former Republican congressman Duncan Hunter and his wife, Margaret, who pleaded guilty to misusing campaign funds.
- Four former Blackwater guards convicted in connection to the massacre of more than a dozen Iraqi civilians in Baghdad's Nisour Square in 2007.
- Two former Border Patrol agents convicted of shooting and injuring an unarmed undocumented immigrant in 2006.
In November, the president also pardoned his former national security advisor, Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI as part of the Mueller probe.
The president is granted extraordinarily broad pardon powers under the Constitution. But Trump has drawn significant scrutiny for circumventing the lengthy legal and ethical review process at the Justice Department that determines who gets executive clemency.
Instead, the vast majority of the president's most high-profile pardons and commutations have gone to his friends and loyalists, or to others whose names were suggested by conservative media powerhouses, such as Fox News, Newsmax, and One America News.
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