Trump Pardons Former White House Strategist Steve Bannon in Wave of Pardons, Commutations

Trump Pardons Former White House Strategist Steve Bannon in Wave of Pardons, Commutations
Former White House senior counselor to President Donald Trump Steve Bannon in Washington on Nov. 18, 2020. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Isabel van Brugen
President Donald Trump on Tuesday granted pardons to dozens of individuals, including former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, in one of his final official acts as president.
Bannon, 67, was granted clemency by Trump as part of a wave of pardons and commutations, the White House confirmed in a news release late Tuesday. It came just hours ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s scheduled swearing-in ceremony which will see the former vice president take office as 46th president of the United States.

"Bannon has been an important leader in the conservative movement and is known for his political acumen," the White House statement said.

The president also granted a full pardon to rapper Lil Wayne, 38, and a commutation to rapper Kodak Black, 23. They were both prosecuted on federal weapons offenses. Trump also commuted the sentence of a former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who was serving a 28-year prison term on corruption charges.

Ex-Breitbart editor-in-chief Bannon, who was a key adviser in Trump’s 2016 presidential run, pleaded not guilty after he was charged in August last year, following allegations from the  Department of Justice (DOJ) that he, Brian Kolfage, and two others funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars from the “We Build the Wall” campaign.

The alleged scheme, according to the DOJ, provided Kolfage with hundreds of thousands of dollars to “fund his lavish lifestyle.” Other investigators said that they engaged in fraud by allegedly telling donors that they misrepresented the use of their funds.

In December 2018, Kolfage and others created an online crowdfunding campaign via GoFundMe called “We Build the Wall” that raised more than $25 million to build a wall along the border.

The four were charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

Bannon in August described his arrest as a “political hit job” and an attempt to create fear in people who support Trump’s efforts to build a U.S.-Mexico border wall.

“I’m not going to back down. This is a political hit job,” Bannon said on his “War Room” podcast, a day after his arrest last year. “I’m in this for the long haul. I’m in this for the fight. I’m going to continue to fight.”

“Everybody knows I love a fight, and I was called ‘honey badger’ for many years. You know, the honey badger doesn’t give a … So I’m in this for the long haul. I’m in this for the fight. I’m going to continue to fight,” Bannon said in the podcast.

Trump meanwhile said at the time of Bannon’s arrest that he felt “very badly.”

“I haven’t been dealing with him for a long period of time as most of the people in this room know,” he said.

Bannon is the latest prominent political ally to receive clemency from Trump. On Dec. 22, Trump pardoned George Papadopoulos, his former campaign aide who pleaded guilty as part of the probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, codenamed "Crossfire Hurricane," as well as 14 others, including several former GOP congressmen.
Jack Phillips and Reuters contributed to this report.