Most notably, Trump did not pardon himself or his family. Trump, his family, and the Trump Organization face litigation including tax evasion, defamation and fraud.
January 19, President Donald Trump’s last full day in office, was busy. On that day, Trump granted clemency to 143 people, many of whom had close ties to the president. Below are a few of the more prominent individuals who received a presidential pardon.
In August of 2020, former Trump administration chief strategist Steve Bannon was charged with defrauding donors. According to the Department of Justice, Bannon, along with Brian Kolfage and two others, funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars from the “Build the Wall” campaign into their own pockets.
This pardon was notable in that Bannon had previously claimed that he was innocent of his crimes, which breaks from the Department of Justice’s standard that those who receive pardons must first express “acceptance of responsibility, remorse, and atonement.” Bannon’s case was also at a very early stage, with the trial yet to take place.
In a statement released by the White House, Bannon was described as “an important leader in the conservative movement … known for his political acumen.”
Another of those pardoned with close ties to Trump was Elliot Broidy. Broidy was a top Republican fundraiser who worked as a deputy finance chair for the Republican National Committee at the beginning of Trump’s presidency. He pleaded guilty in October of 2020 of using his ties to the Trump administration to do the bidding of a foreign government.
In exchange for millions of dollars, Broidy lobbied the Justice Department to stop investigations into Jho Law, a Malaysian national who was under scrutiny for embezzling billions of dollars from the Malaysian government.
Paul Erickson, a former conservative operative connected to Trump through the Russian interference investigation, was also granted a pardon. In July of 2020, Erickson was convicted of fraud and money laundering.
In a statement explaining the pardon, the Trump White House said, “Mr. Erickson’s conviction was based off the Russian collusion hoax. After finding no grounds to charge him with any crimes with respect to connections with Russia, he was charged with a minor financial crime.”
Dwayne “Lil Wayne” Carter & Bill K. Kapri, aka “Kodak Black”
Trump also pardoned Dwayne Carter (better known as Lil Wayne), Bill K. Kapri (better known as Kodak Black) and two others in the hip-hop industry.
Carter met Trump in October of 2020, just ahead of the presidential election. He later tweeted an endorsement of Trump, saying, “besides what he’s done so far with criminal reform, the platinum plan is going to give the community real ownership.” The White House promoted the tweet in an effort to appeal to Black voters.
A little less than a month before meeting with Trump, Carter pleaded guilty to illegally possessing a loaded gun. After his pardon, the White House released a statement saying, “Mr. Carter has exhibited this generosity through commitment to a variety of charities, including donations to research hospitals and a host of foodbanks.”
Bill K. Kapri also received a commutation for his crimes. In August of 2019, Kapri pleaded guilty to “knowingly making a false and fictitious written statement in connection with the acquisition and attempted acquisition of a firearm from a federally licensed firearms dealer.”
Bradford Cohen, who is the personal lawyer for both rappers, dismissed any claims that Trump granted the pardons in exchange for Carter’s endorsement, telling Rolling Stone, “President Trump and his administration have been tireless advocates on behalf of the African-American community.” Cohen added that Trump’s “pardons are a perfect example of this administration following up on its reforms and commitments.”
Joseph “Joe Exotic” Maldonado-Passage
Joseph Maldonado-Passage – better known as Joe Exotic from last year’s hugely popular Netflix docuseries “Tiger King” – thought his pardon was a foregone conclusion. Maldonado-Passage was so convinced that he would be pardoned and released from prison on January 19 that his lawyer, Eric Love, told the British tabloid Metro, “We’re confident enough we already have a limousine parked about half a mile from the prison. We are really in action mode right now.”
After the White House released the list of pardons, Maldonado-Passage’s name was not included. In a statement directed at fans of the Netflix series, Love expressed his frustration with the decision.
“We are … disappointed that The President did not sign Joe’s Pardon, as we were confident yesterday that he would. It is only because of you 140 million fans that Joe’s Pardon was even a possibility. Since his trial, the evidence has made it clear that Joe is not guilty but, rather, he is a victim of the persons he trusted most.”
Rumors circulated in December that Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph Giuliani, who currently is not facing any charges, would receive a preemptive pardon before Trump left office. Instead, Trump left office without granting Giuliani clemency.
When asked about a potential pardon from the president, Giuliani texted Forbes journalist Andrew Solender, “I don’t need or want a pardon.”
Trump and his family
Most notably, Trump did not pardon himself or his family. Trump, his family and the Trump Organization face litigation including tax evasion, defamation and fraud. Despite this, Trump decided not to be the first president in the history of the United States to pardon himself.
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