New Delhi: Hours before leaving the White House the last time, outgoing US President Donald Trump pardoned former close associate and ex-chief strategist Steve Bannon, as part of a late flurry of clemency action benefiting 142 other people, including rap stars and former members of the US Congress.
The pardons and commutations for these people were announced after midnight Wednesday in the final hours of Trump’s White House term, media reported.
Pardon recipients are generally defendants who have often served at least some prison time. A pardon for Bannon, however, nullified a prosecution still in its early stages in Manhattan, effectively eliminating any prospect for punishment.
Though other outgoing US presidents had issued controversial pardons, Trump used the clemency power to benefit not only friends and acquaintances but also celebrity defendants and those championed by allies.
Bannon got a pardon after defrauding Trump’s own supporters into paying for a wall, that the outgoing President had promised Mexico would pay for, Democratic Representative Adam Schiff tweeted.
Steve had been charged with duping thousands of investors who thought their money would be used to fulfill Trump’s chief campaign promise to build a wall along the southern border. Instead, Bannon allegedly diverted over a million dollars, paying a salary to one campaign official and personal expenses for himself, according to reports.
Trump had already pardoned many long-time associates and supporters, including his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Charles Kushner (the father of his son-in-law Jared), his friend and adviser Roger Stone, and his ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Bannon had served as chief executive officer of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign in its critical final months and then as chief strategist to the President during the turbulent early days of Trump’s Administration. He was at the forefront of many of its most contentious policies, including its travel ban on several Muslim-majority countries.
But, within a year, Bannon, who clashed with other top advisers, was pushed out. His split with Trump deepened after he was quoted in a 2018 book that made critical remarks about some of the US President’s adult children. Recently, however, he had reconciled with Trump.
In August 2020, he was pulled from a luxury yacht off the coast of Connecticut and brought before a judge in Manhattan, where he pleaded not guilty.
The organizers of the “We Build The Wall” group raised more than USD 25 million from thousands of donors and pledged that all this money would be used for the project meant to stop alleged infiltration by illegal immigrants.
But, according to the criminal charges, much of the money never made it to the wall. Instead, it was used to line the pockets of group members, including Bannon, media claimed.