In his final precious moments as president, Donald Trump managed to rise (or lower himself) to the occasion as was largely expected, issuing a last-minute deluge of more than 140 pardons and commutations before boarding Air Force One and leaving the White House for the last time as president.
While not noteworthy in and of itself — final bursts of clemency are not uncommon for outgoing presidents — Trump's list of beneficiaries was a fitting capstone to an administration more focused on fealty and quid-pro-quo than any overarching sense of justice. (Here's how Axios described an earlier round of Trump pardons: "Trump pardons the swamp.") And indeed, the so-called swamp of professional politicians and notables whose influence and celebrity Trump has relied upon to buoy his own career was one of the major winners in the former president's last-minute spree.
Here are some of the more eyebrow-raising pardons filed by Trump as he headed out the door, along with some of the people he pardoned earlier in his administration.
Stephen K. Bannon: Pardon
The president's onetime chief adviser and campaign strategist, Bannon was arrested and charged with fraud this past summer for his alleged role in a scheme to misuse funds donated to a private group for the purpose of helping build Trump's border wall. Despite Trump's having publicly fallen out with Bannon, the White House described him as "an important leader in the conservative movement [...] known for his political acumen" in its statement announcing his pardon.
Kwame Kilpatrick: Commutation
Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's (D) 28-year-long federal sentence was cut by more than two-thirds by Trump. Kilpatrick was imprisoned in 2013 for racketeering and bribery. Notably, the White House cited longtime Trump allies and media personalities Diamond and Silk as having helped push for Kilpatrick's clemency.
Kodak Black: Commutation
Rapper Kodak Black had already served a considerable portion of his sentence for lying on a federal document when Trump commuted his sentence — a move supported by "Bernie Kerik, Hunter Pollack, Gucci Mane, Lil Pump, Lil Yachty, Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens, Jack Brewer formerly of the National Football League, and numerous other notable community leaders," per a White House statement. In 2019, Black — whose real name is Bill Kapri — pleaded guilty to falsifying information on federal forms as part of an effort to purchase guns. He was sentenced to nearly four years in prison.
Lil Wayne: Pardon
Superstar rapper Lil Wayne faced up to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to illegally owning a gun, following a felony conviction a decade earlier. Instead, just months after his guilty plea, Wayne — real name Dwayne Michael Carter Jr. — was given a full pardon by Trump, thanks in part to the efforts of football great Dion Sanders, who described the rapper as "a provider for his family, a friend to many, a man of faith, a natural giver to the less fortunate, a waymaker, [and] a game changer," in a letter encouraging the pardon.
Albert Pirro: Pardon
While attorney Albert Pirro may not be a household name, his former wife, Judge Jeanine Pirro, has been one of Trump's staunchest cable news supporters. Pirro, who was convicted two decades ago on multiple counts of tax evasion and conspiracy, was pardoned with just hours to go in Trump's term in office. According to campaign finance records obtained by ABC News, Pirro also donated thousands of dollars to Trump's failed re-election bid in 2020.
Roger Stone: Pardon
Trump pardoned Roger Stone, his long-time confidant, in December — after already commuting Stone's sentence in July 2020, just hours before Stone was set to be imprisoned, per NPR. Stone was convicted of lying to Congress about information related to former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Paul Manafort: Pardon
In another Mueller-related act of clemency, Trump pardoned Paul Manafort, his former campaign chairman, in December. Manafort was convicted of financial crimes as an offshoot of Mueller's investigation.
Charles Kushner: Pardon
In perhaps his most blatantly personal use of pardoning power, Trump pardoned Charles Kushner — his son-in-law Jared's father — in December. Kushner pleaded guilty in 2005 to several counts of tax evasion, as well as witness tampering and lying to federal investigators in charges related to a bizarre blackmail scheme he exacted against his brother-in-law, William Schulder, after he realized Schulder was cooperating with the prosecution. Kushner served a little over two years in prison for his crimes. The case was famously prosecuted by former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), who was then a U.S. attorney.
Eddie DeBartolo Jr.: Pardon
A member of the pro-Football Hall of Fame and former owner of the San Francisco 49ers, DeBartolo pleaded guilty in 1998 to failing to report a felony. While he did not serve any jail time, he paid a $1 million fine for gambling fraud. Trump pardoned him in February 2020.
Michael R. Milken: Pardon
The mind behind “junk bonds” — also known as high-yield bonds, which carry higher risk — Milken served two years in prison for violating securities laws. He pleaded guilty in 1990 was one of the 11 people involved in Trump's clemency actions last February.
Bernard B. Kerik: Pardon
Kerik rose from his position as a “close ally” of Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor and current personal lawyer for Trump, eventually becoming commissioner of the New York City Police Department. He was convicted of tax fraud and lying to the Bush White House; he served three years after being sentenced in 2010.
Ariel Friedler: Pardon
An investor and entrepreneur, Friedler served two months in 2014 for conspiracy charges for hacking into a competitor’s network. At the time, he was the CEO of software company Symplicity Corp. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was reportedly influential in securing Friedler's pardon.
Paul Pogue: Pardon
Convicted in 2010 for tax fraud, Pogue owned a Texas construction company. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is among those who supported his clemency, and he was included in Trump's flurry of pardons Tuesday. The Daily Beast found that Pogue and his family had donated to several Republican figures, including to Trump's re-election campaign.
David Safavian: Pardon
Safavian served less than a year for perjury and obstruction of justice while he was working for a federal agency, in connection with an investigation into lobbyist Jack Abramoff. He was sentenced in 2009; Trump pardoned him Tuesday.
Angela Stanton: Pardon
A best-selling author who wrote Lies of a Real Housewife: Tell the Truth and Shame the Devil, Stanton spent six months on house arrest in 2007 for her role in a stolen vehicle ring. She was pardoned by Trump on Tuesday.
Rod Blagojevich: Commutation
The former Democratic governor of Illinois essentially tried to sell the Senate seat Barack Obama vacated when he won the presidency in 2008. Blagojevich competed on Trump's Celebrity Apprentice show and was convicted of political corruption and sentenced in 2011 to 14 years in prison. He would have been eligible for release in 2026 had Trump not commuted his sentence Tuesday.
Tynice Nichole Hall: Commutation
Hall served 14 years of her 18-year sentence for drug distribution charges. While incarcerated, Hall completed coursework for a college degree as well as job training programs. Trump pardoned her Tuesday.
Crystal Munoz: Commutation
Judith Negron: Commutation
Mathew Golsteyn: Pardon
Golsteyn, pardoned by Trump in November 2019, was charged with killing a suspected bombmaker who had been ordered released from questioning. Trump's intervention came just before Golsteyn was scheduled to stand in court-martial trial. Last month, the Army stated that it would consider reinstating an award for valor to Golsteyn.
Clint A. Lorance: Pardon
Lorance was serving a 19-year sentence for war crimes, including ordering soldiers to fire on unarmed Afghan civilians. He was pardoned along with Golsteyn last November.
Zay Jeffries: Pardon
Michael Anthony Tedesco: Pardon
Tedesco was convicted in 1990 of drug trafficking and fraud. He was pardoned by President Barack Obama in 2017, but a clerical error prevented his full clemency. Trump reissued the pardon to correct the error last summer.
Roy Wayne McKeever: Pardoned
McKeever was arrested in 1989, when he was 19 years old for transporting weed from Mexico to the U.S. and was later charged with an intent to distribute the drugs. Per the White House, he "immediately accepted responsibility and pled guilty" when he was detained. He was pardoned by Trump in summer 2019.
John Richard Bubala: Pardon
In 1990, Bubala was convicted on a charge of improper use of federal property and was pardoned by Trump last July.
Chalmer Lee Williams: Pardon
Williams was pardoned for charges related to the sale of firearms he stole while working as a baggage handler in 1995. Trump pardoned him in July 2019.
Rodney M. Takumi: Pardon
Takumi was pardoned by Trump in 2019 for gambling charges stemming from a 1987 raid at the illegal gambling parlor where he worked.
Theodore E. Suhl: Commutation
Ronen Nahmani: Commutation
Patrick James Nolan: Pardon
Michael Chase Behenna: Pardon
Though he was sentenced to 25 years in prison, Behenna served just five years for killing an Iraqi man in 2008 while on duty in the U.S. Army. He was fully pardoned by Trump last May.
Conrad Moffat Black: Pardon
Black was a media mogul and was convicted of mail fraud and obstruction of justice in 2007. He authored the 2018 book Donald J. Trump: A President Like No Other, prompting Vice to note that "Trump just pardoned a guy who wrote a glowing book about him." The president granted the pardon in May 2019.
Dwight Lincoln Hammond and Steven Dwight Hammond: Pardon
Father Dwight and son Steven were convicted of arson in 2010 that led to the destruction of 100 acres of public land. The case motivated cattle rancher Ammon Bundy to occupy Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016, sparking a standoff between armed militias and the federal government. The Hammonds became right-wing heroes; Trump pardoned the pair in 2018 in what Vox called "latest example of Trump wielding the power to pardon as a cudgel in the culture war."
Alice Marie Johnson: Commutation
Johnson was a first time nonviolent offender when she was sentenced in 1997 to life imprisonment for drug charges. Kim Kardashian West played a role in the high-profile commutation of her sentence, granted by Trump in June 2018. Johnson had already served 21 years behind bars before being freed.
Dinesh D’Souza: Pardon
The far-right conservative commentator and conspiracy theorist was pardoned by Trump in May 2018. He was serving a five-year probation sentence after pleading guilty in 2014 to making illegal campaign contributions. D'Souza characterized his plight on Fox News as Obama and Eric Holder, his former attorney general, having "decided to make an example of me," per The New York Times, which were "terms that evidently resonated with Trump."
Jack Johnson: Pardon
The world famous boxer was convicted in 1913 by an all-white jury for traveling with his white girlfriend across state lines. Trump's posthumous pardon, granted in May 2018, came 72 years after his death.
Lewis “Scooter” Libby: Pardon
The former chief of staff to former Vice President Dick Cheney was convicted in 2007 of obstruction of justice and perjury in connection with leaking the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame. Trump pardoned him in April 2018.
Kristian Mark Saucier: Pardon
Saucier was charged in 2015 for “illegal retention of defense information” after he was found to have taken photos of classified areas while serving in the Navy on a nuclear submarine. He served one year in prison and was released in September 2017; he was pardoned by Trump in March 2018.
Sholom Rubashkin: Commutation
Rubashkin was convicted in 2009 of wire fraud, mail fraud, and money laundering in relation to his kosher meat operation. He was sentenced to 27 years in prison and served eight before receiving his commutation. Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, played a major role in convincing the president to commute Rubashkin’s sentence — which Trump did in December 2017.
Joe Arpaio: Pardon
Arpaio, the former Arizona sheriff who was a lightning rod for controversy, was Trump's first pardon. Arpaio was convicted in 2017 of criminal contempt for defying a judge's ruling and unlawfully detaining undocumented immigrants. Arpaio faced up to six months of jail time but did not serve any; Trump teased his decision before finally pardoning Arpaio in August 2017.
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