Trump pardons
January 21, 2021

Almost 12 hours after former President Donald Trump issued a raft of pardons to friends, allies, rappers, GOP lawmakers and fundraisers, and others, he slipped in one last pardon for Albert Pirro, the ex-husband of Fox News host Jeanine Pirro, less than an hour before President Biden was sworn in, ABC News reports. "What was possibly Trump's final act as president reflected a recurring theme in his final months in office: delivering clemencies to scores of personal friends and political allies."

Pirro, 73, was convicted in 2000 on 34 counts of tax evasion and conspiracy for improperly deducting more than $1 million in personal expenses as tax write-offs for his New York real estate law businesses. He and Jeanine Pirro, one of Trump's favorite Fox personalities, were married at the time. Albert Pirro donated about $2,000 to Trump's 2020 campaign and the Republican National Committee, ABC News notes, citing campaign finance records.

During his tabloid-like trial, "prosecutors suggested that Albert Pirro lusted for money in much the way that Richard Nixon lusted for power," The New York Times reported in June 2000, after his guilty verdicts were handed down for Pirro and his accountant brother. "Throughout the trial, prosecutors argued that by improperly deducting $1.2 million of Albert Pirro's personal expenses as business write-offs, thereby reducing Albert Pirro's taxes by $413,000, the brothers had brazenly violated a fundamental tenet of the American tax system: that every taxpayer must pay his or her fair share, regardless of wealth or influence." Peter Weber

January 20, 2021

President Trump has granted pardons to 73 individuals and commuted an additional 70 sentences, the White House announced early Wednesday morning.

There are several well-known names on the list, including Stephen Bannon, Trump's former chief strategist; Elliott Broidy, a major Trump fundraiser and former deputy national finance chair of the Republican National Committee; rapper Lil Wayne; and former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. Trump also pardoned or commuted the sentences of individuals — including several former members of Congress — convicted of drug offenses, fraud, and lying to federal investigators.

In 2013, Kilpatrick was convicted for his part in a racketeering and bribery scheme conducted while in office; Trump commuted his sentence after Kilpatrick served seven years in prison. The White House said several people — including social media personalities Diamond and Silk and televangelist Paula White — supported this commutation.

Similarly, there were several people pushing Trump to grant Broidy a full pardon — the White House said Broidy had the support of Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), and former U.S. Ambassador to Germany Ric Grenell. Broidy pleaded guilty in October to conspiring to violate foreign lobbying laws, and was scheduled to be sentenced in February.

Bannon, however, did not have a long list of supporters. The White House simply said Bannon — who was charged with defrauding investors through a group called "We Build the Wall" — received a full pardon and "has been an important leader in the conservative movement and is known for his political acumen." The organization received donations from Trump fans, something that was not lost on Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.):

Last month, Trump pardoned his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and longtime friend Roger Stone. He still has a few more hours to issue additional pardons and commutations, but is not expected to do so. Catherine Garcia

January 20, 2021

President Trump pardoned Stephen Bannon, his 2016 campaign chairman and one-time White House aide, late Tuesday amid a final flurry of executive clemency with just hours left in his administration. Bannon was arrested in August and charged with defrauding investors, mostly Trump supporters, through a group called "We Build the Wall."

In its pardon notice, the White House said Bannon had received "a full pardon" for "charges related to fraud stemming from his involvement in a political project," adding that the former Breitbart News chief "has been an important leader in the conservative movement and is known for his political acumen." Trump has already pardoned another 2016 campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, as well as longtime ally Roger Stone and other 2016 advisers and allies.

The "We Build the Wall" campaign raised more than $25 million, ostensibly to build a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. Federal prosecutors alleged that Bannon siphoned off more than $1 million through a nonprofit he controlled and gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to another organizer, Brian Kolfage, who was also charged in the alleged scheme. Kolfage was not on Trump's pardon list. Trump distanced himself from Bannon and the fundraising project after the arrests, and aides believed Bannon was not going to get a pardon up until Tuesday, CNN reports.

Trump "made the decision on Mr. Bannon after a day of frantic efforts to sway his thinking, including from Mr. Bannon himself, who spoke to him by phone on Tuesday," The New York Times reports. After Bannon helped elect Trump and joined his White House, the two had a dramatic falling-out when Bannon told journalist Michael Wolff, for his book Fire and Fury, that Ivanka Trump is "dumb as a brick" and Donald Trump Jr. had acted "treasonous" by meeting with Russian agents during the campaign. But since last summer, "Bannon has slowly come back into the Trump orbit," The Washington Post notes.

Bannon may still be in legal jeopardy for his work with exiled Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui, and state prosecutors might still be able to charge him for any "We Build the Wall" fraud. Peter Weber

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