President Donald Trump issued scores of clemencies early Wednesday, including a pardon for his former chief political strategist Steve Bannon, on the last morning of his presidency.
The list of 143 clemencies — including 73 pardons and 70 commutations — included “rap performers, ex-members of Congress and other allies of (Trump) and his family” and “was heavily populated by more conventional candidates whose cases had been championed by criminal justice activists,” The Associate Press wrote.
Bannon was under federal indictment for misusing funds “he helped raise for a group backing Mr. Trump’s border wall, but had not yet gone to trial,” The New York Times reported.
Also on the list of pardons was Elliot Broidy, a Republican fundraiser and former finance chair of the Republican National Committee, who plead guilty “to conspiring to violate foreign lobbying laws as part of a campaign to sway the administration on behalf of Chinese and Malaysian interests,” Axios reported.
Just had a great meeting with @realdonaldtrump @potus besides what he’s done so far with criminal reform, the platinum plan is going to give the community real ownership. He listened to what we had to say today and assured he will and can get it done. pic.twitter.com/Q9c5k1yMWf— Lil Wayne WEEZY F (@LilTunechi) October 29, 2020
The outgoing president also gave clemency to rappers Lil Wayne and Kodak Black. Dwayne Michael Carter Jr., known as Lil Wayne, was pardoned of a federal gun possession by a convicted felon charge. Bill K. Kapri, known as Kodak Black, had a 46 months sentence for making false statements on a federal document to buy firearms commuted, Rolling Stone reported.
The sentence of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, a Democrat, was also commuted. Kilpatrick had served around seven years in prison for a racketeering and bribery scheme. “During his incarceration,” the White House wrote, “Mr. Kilpatrick has taught public speaking classes and has led Bible Study groups with his fellow inmates.”
Trump, who left the White House for Florida Wednesday morning ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, “retains the power to issue further pardons — including theoretically for himself and members of his family — until noon Wednesday, when his four-year tenure comes to an end. But officials said they did not anticipate him doing so,” according to The Times.
It had been widely speculated that Trump was considering the unprecedented step of pardoning himself for alleged misdeeds. The outgoing president could face federal legal exposure in the deadly riot at the Capitol earlier this month and in a federal investigation in New York.
“We are looking at all actors here, and anyone that had a role, if the evidence fits the element of a crime, they’re going to be charged,” a U.S. attorney in Washington responded when asked if Trump was being investigated as part of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, the Post reported.
Presidential clemency powers say the president “shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment,” according to the National Constitution Center. Trump has been impeached, or charged, twice but he was acquitted of charges in his first impeachment and is awaiting a possible Senate trial on his second impeachment.
The Constitution doesn’t specifically outline if presidents have the authority to pardon themselves and none have ever tried. While some constitutional scholars argue that a self-pardon is unconstitutional — counter to the idea that someone should not be their own judge — others say that the Constitution was left intentionally vague, according to Reuters.
Controversial presidential pardons are not uncommon and modern American history has many recent examples.
President Gerald Ford pardoned a resigned President Richard Nixon for Watergate crimes, President Bill Clinton pardoned his own brother of a drug crime and President Barrack Obama commuted the federal prison sentence of a Wikileaks leaker Chelsea Manning, according to the National Constitution Center
Trump’s past acts of clemency include pardoning longtime friend and adviser Roger Stone, former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio and several American soldiers and military contractors convicted of war crimes.