For one of his final acts as president, Donald Trump dished out more than 140 pardons and commutations — less than half of Barack Obama’s single-day record in 2017. The days leading up to his exit were filled with rampant speculation over which splashy names might be granted pardons — Julian Assange, Rudy Giuliani, Tiger King’s Joe Exotic, the Trump children, Trump himself — but none of them came to pass. He still extended the power to such a wide array of singularly Trumpian figures, which featured hip-hop stars, sports gamblers, and former campaign staffers.
Lil Wayne, who supported Trump during the 2020 homestretch, was pardoned for illegally carrying a handgun on a private jet. Trump also granted clemency for Kodak Black, the rap star who’s faced numerous sexual assault, weapons, and drug charges. Black was halfway through a more than three-year prison sentence for making false statements while trying to purchase weapons from an arms dealer. Former Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany issued a statement that Black is a “prominent artist and community leader,” citing his philanthropic efforts. (One of those, she goes on to mention, is donating $50,000 to depraved sports guy Dave Portnoy’s Barstool Fund.)
But if one of the snubs stung the hardest, it was likely Exotic, who was reportedly “absolutely confident” in his chances for clemency. Exotic’s team felt it was a sure enough thing to hire a tractor trailer-length pickup limo on-demand, just in case the call arrived on Tuesday. Despite his legal team’s public-facing confidence, it’s led to some speculation over the whole thing being a ruse for the limo company. In any event, Exotic’s attorney Francisco Hernandez took it in stride. “It is the President’s Constitutional right to Pardon and we have to accept and respect his use of discretion. Our mission is just and continues,” he wrote on Facebook.
Much like the revolving door of staffers who grifted their way to the highest echelons of power — only to swiftly fall out of favor and pivot to fraudulent enterprises, in some cases — the Trump pardons are similarly tenuous. No matter how many last-ditch groveling loyalty pledges he likely fielded leading up to this, the guy operates on little beyond a gut feeling and unadulterated self-interest.