Donald Trump and his chief strategist Steve Bannon in the White House, January 22, 2017 (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty)
Signalling that he wants to build a Trumpist party, inside or outside the Republicans, Donald Trump pardons his former strategist Steve Bannon, top 2016 fundraiser Elliott Broidy, and former US Representatives.
Trump handed out 143 pardons, some of them pre-emptive, and commutations of sentences just before leaving Washington as Joe Biden is inaugurated as the 46th US President.
They follow dozens issued by Trump since last month, including of his former campaign manager Paul Manafort, his self-proclaimed “political dirty trickster” Roger Stone, ex-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, three former Representatives convicted on campaign and finance charges, and four Blackwater paramilitary personnel who killed Iraqi civilians.
Up to Tuesday night, Bannon’s name was not on the list, according to White House sources. But Trump overruled strident objections, reportedly including those of daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, to insert Bannon’s name just before 9 p.m.
Minutes later, in a farewell video, Trump proclaimed, “Our movement is only just beginning.” In sharp contrast, the Senate’s top Republican Mitch McConnell — formerly Trump’s protector and enabler — said on the floor of the chamber that Trump’s “lies” provoked a “mob” to attack the Capitol on January 6.
The Wall Street Journal, citing people “familiar with the matter”, said Trump is considering the launch of a “Patriot Party”.
The far-right, white nationalist Bannon took over as Trump’s campaign manager in August 2016 after Manafort was forced to step down because of alleged financial crimes. He served as White House chief strategist from January to August 2017, when he was pushed out by opposition that included Ivanka Trump and Kushner.
The activist lost his key position as the chief executive of the attack site Breitbart when the billionaire owners Robert and Rebekah Mercer sided with the Trump camp against him. He maintained a media presence with a digital radio program, even though the show has been blocked by YouTube because of disinformation.
Trump and Bannon reportedly reconciled amid their mutual falsehoods about a “stolen election”, with a series of phone calls between the two men in recent weeks.
A Pardoned Political Network?
Bannon was under indictment over his involvement in a scheme raising $25 million for Trump’s Wall with Mexico. Prosecutors say the activist used $1 million for “personal expenses”.
Broidy pleaded guilty last year to conspiring to violate foreign lobbying laws. He was part of a covert campaign to influence the Trump Administration on behalf of Chinese and Malaysian interests.
The three former Republican Representatives are:
*Rick Renzi of Arizona, sentenced in 2013 to three years over a bribery scheme involving a land swap deal
*Robert Hayes of North Carolina, who pleaded guilty in 2019 to lying to the FBI
*Randall “Duke” Cunningham of California, who pleaded guilty in 2005 to taking $2.4 million in bribes from military contractors.
Trump also commuted the sentence of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, convicted in 2013 for using his office for shakedowns, kickbacks, and bid-rigging.
Personal Favors and Celebrities
One of the commutations was for William Walters, a sports gambler who was convicted in 2017 for insider trader.
Sentenced to five years in prison, Walters hired rump’s former personal lawyer John Dowd in 2018.
Dowd bragged to Mr. Walters and others that he could help them receive a pardon because of his close relationship with Trump. He added that Trump looks favorably upon those who had been investigated by federal prosecutors for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan, which he has long accused of political bias and which has been involved in investigations concerning Trump’s business and political interests.
With his penchant for celebrities, Trump pardoned the rapper Lil Wayne, convicted on federal handgun charges in December 2019. The sentence of rapper Kodak Black, over falsifying of information on federal forms to buy firearms, was commuted.