President Donald Trump issued a late flurry of clemency action benefiting nearly 150 people, including rap stars Lil Wayne and Kodak Black, former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and his former strategist Steve Bannon
The batch of 73 pardons and 70 commutations issued in the final hours of his presidency was expected, and is in keeping with a long-standing presidential tradition of exercising clemency powers at the last minute.
The list reflected a President keen on awarding pardons to his stalwart allies, an unusual number of whom have been swept up in corruption or lying charges.
The vast majority of the pardons and commutationson Trump’s list were doled out to individuals whose cases have been championed by criminal justice reform advocates, including people serving lengthy sentences for low-level offenses.
But several controversial names do appear, including Steve Bannon, who has pleaded not guilty to charges he defrauded donors in a “We Build the Wall” online fundraising campaign. Trump had spent the past days deliberating over a pardon for the man who helped him win the presidency in 2016 and followed him to the White House. During his final hours in office there was a frantic debate underway behind the scenes on whether to grant Bannon a pardon.
Trump also offered clemency to rapper, Kodak Black, received a commutation after he pleaded guilty to a weapons charge and former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, convinced of federal charges including racketeering, extortion and the filing of false tax returns.
Lil Wayne, born Dwayne Michael Carter, was arrested in December 2019 while disembarking a private plane in Miami and carrying a loaded, gold-plated semiautomatic handgun, as well as various drugs. He pleaded guilty to federal charges of possession of a firearm and ammunition by a felon in December in Florida court. His sentencing was scheduled for Jan. 28, and he faced up to 10 years in prison.
Carter voiced his support for Trump during the election, and the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, reportedly pushed for a pardon for the musician. Kushner, Trump’s daughter Ivanka, and White House counsel Pat Cipollone reportedly consulted with Trump heavily on his choices of whom to pardon.
Though speculation loomed that Trump would pardon his sons Eric and Don Jr., Kushner, and even himself, he has so far not done so on his last full day in office, nor has he declared plans to. No U.S. president has ever pardoned himself. The Manhattan District Attorney’s office is probing Trump’s company for possible criminal activity, and Bannon was charged with fraud over a campaign to collect financing for Trump’s pet project the U.S.-Mexico border wall. He pleaded not guilty.