Trump's remarkable presidential pardons: Steve Bannon, Lil Wayne and others

Steve Bannon and other Americans pardoned by President Trump
Steve Bannon
Transactional pardons
Connections, influence, and money
Roger Stone
Lil Wayne
Kodak Black
Kodak is a charitable man
Casey Urlacher
Anthony Levandowski
Dinesh D'Souza
Jack Johnson
Johnson's conviction tainted by racism
Mathew L. Golsteyn and Clint Lorance
Eddie Gallagher
Michael Flynn
Paul Manafort and George Papadopoulos
Susan B. Anthony
Alice Marie Johnson
Jon Ponder
Angela Stanton-King
Rod Blagojevich
Charles Kushner
Charles Kushner: a scheme involving a prostitute
Joe Arpaio
Steve Bannon and other Americans pardoned by President Trump

In the United States, the president has a right to pardon or commute punishments of individuals whom he believes deserve a second chance. This power of clemency is one of the greatest liberties a president has. Many presidents before Donald Trump have used this power to correct convictions that they felt were wrong or disproportionate to the crime. For Trump another question has, at times, also been at play: is this convicted felon a friend of mine?

Let's see whom he granted a pardon over the years.

Steve Bannon

Former chairman of the right-wing Breitbart News site, Steve Bannon was a supporter and aide of Donald Trump from the beginning of his presidential campaign. He served for eight months as Special Counsel to the president, until he and Trump had a fallout. Later, the two reconciled somewhat when Bannon participated in a project to fund the building of the U.S.-Mexico wall that Trump wanted so dearly. While raising funds for the wall, Steve Bannon allegedly embarked on a mail fraud and money laundering scheme that got him arrested in August 2020.

(Image: Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia)

Transactional pardons

Donald Trump pardoned his friend in January 2021. According to legal analysts in USA Today, Trump "turned the presidential pardon power into a personal project designed to reward friends and political supporters." Attorney Bradley Moss added that Trump was likely to grant "clearly transactional pardons." These included "allies of the president who committed white collar crimes in the last few years."

Connections, influence, and money

After Trump left the White House, the New York Times concluded that many of his pardons had gone to people with "connections, influence and money." Whoever managed to organize the best and most expensive lobby to appeal to the president personally, had the biggest chance of getting pardoned. "Of the nearly 240 pardons and commutations he granted during his term, only 25 came through the regular Justice Department process," researchers of the newspaper say.

Roger Stone

Roger Stone is a friend and close advisor of Trump. The eccentric lobbyist worked on Trump's campaign in 2016 and got caught lying about his activities there by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Roger Stone was one of the first and biggest catches and criminal cases during the investigation of Russian mingling in the 2016 elections. He was supposed to report for forty months of jail time in 2020, but then Trump signed a pardon and he was free to go.

Lil Wayne

Trump's pardons also included high-profile cases of celebrities in jail, regardless of their political preferences. Lil Wayne, born as Dwayne Michael Carter, is one of those celebs. Since the 1990s, he has been the face of a hip hop generation. Billboard has even called him one of the 10 best rappers of all time. Lil Wayne was arrested a number of times for smoking marihuana and illegal possession of a gun. Trump pardoned him in January 2021.

Kodak Black

Rapper Kodak Black, formally known as Bill K. Kapri, was arrested and imprisoned for arms possession and making false statements in a federal document. From his prison cell, Black released an album, 'Bill Israel,' and worked on several philanthropic projects. "While still incarcerated," the White House declared, he "donated $50,000 to David Portnoy’s Barstool Fund, which provides funds to small businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Kodak Black’s only request was that his donation go toward restaurants in his hometown" [Pompano Beach, Florida].

Kodak is a charitable man

After his release from prison thanks to Trump's pardon, Kodak Black did not halt his good works. On February 5, prior to the Super Bowl in Tampa Bay, he announced on Twitter that he would help the children of two deceased FBI agents in Florida to get an education. The murdered agents had investigated crimes of child abuse, the Tampa Bay Times reports, and they were considered heroes by the local community.

Casey Urlacher

Former football player and brother of former NFL star Brian Urlacher, Casey Urlacher is the mayor of Mettawa, Illinois. In early 2020 he was indicted for participation in illegal sports gambling activities that made millions of dollars. Trump pardoned the Republican mayor right before he left the White House in January 2021.

 

(Image: CBS Chicago, YouTube)

Anthony Levandowski

Anthony Levandowski is one of the frontrunners in the construction of self-driving cars. He worked for Google to make such vehicles, but when he left to work for Uber, his new employer produced a car very similar to the one Google had secretly been making. As it turned out, Levandowski had downloaded trade secrets from his company's Google drive before leaving and given them to the competition. Trump pardoned him with the support of several lawmakers and by citing the judge in Levandowski's trial: "he's a brilliant, groundbreaking engineer that our country needs."

(Image: K. Axelrod, Wikimedia)

Dinesh D'Souza

The right-wing author and pundit Dinesh D'Souza was convicted of a crime in 2014. He had made unwarranted campaign donations to a friend of his in the Republican Party, Wendy Long, who ran for Senate in 2012. D'Souza was sentenced to five years probation for the violation of campaign finance regulations. Trump pardoned him in 2018.

 

(Image: Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia)

Jack Johnson

The president can pardon individuals who are no longer alive, so as to clear their posthumous reputation. Trump did that for box champion Jack Johnson, an African American who was convicted in 1913 for traveling across state lines with his white girlfriend.

 

Johnson's conviction tainted by racism

Strictly speaking, the Mann Act prohibited men from traveling with women who were not their wives, but in reality Johnson's conviction was racially motivated. Trump learned about the boxer's case through Sylvester Stallone, the star from 'Rocky.' The actor convinced Trump to set the historical record straight.

Mathew L. Golsteyn and Clint Lorance

Some controversial pardons occurred when Donald Trump gave clemency to military officers who had committed murders in Afghanistan. Golsteyn, left on the photo, had killed an Afghan bomb-maker, and Lorance, on the right, had instigated the shooting of three Afghan men on a motorcycle, killing two. Lorance was turned in by his own men, but back in the U.S., Fox pundit Sean Hannity did not agree with his punishment. Trump listened and granted both Golsteyn and Lorance a pardon in 2019.

Eddie Gallagher

Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher reportedly committed several war crimes during his service in Afghanistan and Iraq. On the photo (retrieved from his phone by The New York Times) Gallagher is the person wearing a baseball cap while holding (outside the picture) the hair of a deceased 17-year old civilian boy. Gallagher was court martialed and demoted in 2019. President Trump intervened a few months later and reversed his demotion.

Michael Flynn

Michael Flynn was Trump's National Security Advisor for 22 days in 2017, until it appeared that he had been in some undisclosed meetings with Russian officials while working with the Trump administration. The Special Counsel Investigation under Robert Mueller found that Flynn had lied about his foreign contacts to the FBI. Even before the Trump ally could be sentenced, though, the president had already pardoned him.

Paul Manafort and George Papadopoulos

Paul Manafort and George Papadopoulos were members of Donald Trump's campaign team in 2016. They, too, got caught during the Mueller investigation: Papadopoulos for 'making false statements,' just like Michael Flynn, and Manafort for fraud and conspiracy as a consultant working for the Ukrainian government. Trump pardoned both of them in 2020.

 

(Left: Paul Manafort, still from 'Voice of America'. Right: George Papadopoulos, from @GeorgePapa19 on Twitter)

Susan B. Anthony

The legendary feminist activist was arrested in 1872 for trying to vote. Women would not have the right to vote until 1920, when the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified. At the 100th anniversary of that amendment in 2020, Trump pardoned Susan B. Anthony posthumously and honored her fight for equal rights between men and women.

Alice Marie Johnson

This was the famous case for which Kim Kardashian lobbied. Alice Marie Johnson had gotten a life sentence in 1996 for her involvement in a cocaine trafficking band in Memphis, Tennessee. First, President Trump commuted Johnson's sentence in 2018, causing her to walk free after 21 years in prison, and then, in 2020, he pardoned the rehabilitated ex-convict altogether.

 

(Image: NBC, The Today Show)

Jon Ponder

Jon Ponder was convicted three times for bank robberies. The last time he got out of prison, in 2009, he founded a program to rehabilitate ex-convicts and help them reintegrate into society. His 'Hope for Prisoners' program in Nevada got national attention when President Donald Trump decided to give Ponder a pardon for his past crimes during the 2020 National Republican Convention. Here we see Trump making the gesture of signing the pardon, with Ponder on the left.

Angela Stanton-King

Angela Stanton-King climbed the social ladder from a gang of car thieves to a successful writer and politician in little more than a decade. She did time for her crime in the early 2000s, then participated successfully in a reality TV show, joined the Republican Party, and ended up supporting conservative causes, QAnon, and anti-LGBTQ politics. Trump thought she was alright and pardoned Stanton-King for her past offenses.

Rod Blagojevich

This man was Governor of Illinois before his impeachment in 2009 on the basis of corruption. In 2010, Donald Trump invited the blemished politician to compete in 'Celebrity Apprentice,' where he got 'fired' in the fourth episode. A year later, the court sentenced 'Blago' to fourteen years in prison. Once Trump became president, he remembered his old TV apprentice and signed him a pardon in February 2020.

 

Charles Kushner

This is Jared Kushner's father. It is quite obvious how this case for clemency landed on President Trump's desk. Usually, presidents grant pardons in cooperation with the Office of the Pardon Attorney in the Justice Department. But not Trump. He rarely consulted with them and made his own decisions to relieve people from their punishments.

 

Charles Kushner: a scheme involving a prostitute

Charles Kushner's crime was particularly juicy: to stop his brother-in-law from cooperating with a federal investigation of his tax evasion, he had hired a prostitute to seduce the man and then tried to blackmail him with video material of the event. He spent two years in prison for tax evasion and witness-tampering, among other offenses.

Joe Arpaio

The sheriff of Maricopa County in Arizona, Joe Arpaio, was one of the first convicted felons who got a pardon from president Trump. The list of suspected crimes was endless: as the self-declared "Toughest Sheriff" of the country, he abused his power, held 'immigrant round-ups,' racially profiled Hispanic Americans, mistreated suspects in custody - with one wrongful death case - and finally got a conviction for 'contempt of court.' Arpaio was a supporter of Trump who shared his ideas about immigration, which caused the president to grant him a highly controversial pardon in 2017.

 

(Image: Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia)

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