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Trump issues final batch of 73 pardons, 70 commutations

WASHINGTON, DC -- President Donald Trump issued a raft of 11th-hour pardons and commutations early Wednesday that included his one-time political strategist, a former top fundraiser and two well-known rappers but not himself or his family.

The latest batch of names, released by the White House on Trump's final night as president, granted 73 pardons and commuted all or part of the sentence of 70 additional individuals, after Trump had already issued several dozen such directives in recent months.

The clemency issued in his final day in office was expected, and is in keeping with longstanding presidential tradition. The vast majority of the pardons and commutations on Trump's list were doled out to individuals whose cases have been championed by criminal justice reform advocates, including people serving lengthy sentences for low-level offenses.

To be sure, the latest list was heavily populated by conventional candidates. One man who has spent nearly 24 years in prison on drug and weapons charges but had shown exemplary behavior behind bars had his sentence commuted, as did a former Marine sentenced in 2000 in connection with a cocaine conviction.

But several controversial names nonetheless stood out, including Steve Bannon, who had pleaded not guilty to charges he defrauded donors in a "We Build the Wall" online fundraising campaign. Trump had spent the past days deliberating over a pardon for the man who helped him win the presidency in 2016 and followed him to the White House.

"Mr. Bannon has been an important leader in the conservative movement and is known for his political acumen," read a statement released by the White House.

Another name included on the pardons list was Elliott Broidy, a former top fundraiser for Trump's campaign who pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy relating to a secret lobbying campaign to influence the Trump administration on behalf of a foreign billionaire in exchange for millions of dollars.

Another Trump family friend to get a pardon was Ken Kurson, a friend of Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, who was charged last October with cyber-stalking during a heated divorce.

The rapper Lil Wayne received a pardon after pleading guilty to a gun possession charge in Miami. Another rapper, Kodak Black, received a commutation after he pleaded guilty to a weapons charge. Wayne, whose real name is Dwayne Michael Carter, has frequently expressed support for Trump and recently met with the president on criminal justice issues. Others on the list included Death Row Records co-founder Michael Harris and New York art dealer and collector Hillel Nahmad.

Bob Zangrillo, the Miami developer and venture capitalist charged in the Varsity Blues college admission scandal, received a pardon too. But none of the other parents caught up in the probe were pardoned.

Trump gave clemency to Paul Erickson, the conservative political operative and ex-boyfiend of alleged Russian spy Maria Butina, who pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering charges.

"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," read the White House statement. "This pardon helps right the wrongs of what has been revealed to be perhaps the greatest witch hunt in American History."

At least one recipient in Trump's final batch of pardons allegedly paid "tens of thousands of dollars" to the president's former lawyer for help securing it, according to The New York Times.

William T. Walters, who was convicted on insider trading charges, reportedly sought the help of Trump's former personal attorney, John Dowd, who "marketed himself" as someone who could use his access to the White House to secure the pardon for Walters and other convicted felons, according to the Times. Dowd denied that he had used his access to lobby for pardons.

Other pardon recipients included former Rep. Rick Renzi, an Arizona Republican who served three years for corruption, money laundering and other charges, and former Rep. Duke Cunningham of California, who was convicted of accepting $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors. Cunningham, who was released from prison in 2013, received a conditional pardon.

Trump also offered clemency to Robin Hayes, a North Carolina political donor convicted of trying to bribe officials; Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, convinced of federal charges including racketeering, extortion and the filing of false tax returns; William Walters, a professional sports gambler convicted of insider trading; and Aviem Sella, an Israeli air force officer who the U.S. accused of being a spy.

Bannon, Broidy and Erickson joined a long list of former Trump allies and supporters to have their legal travails squashed through Trump's intervention.

In the final months of his presidency, Trump had already issued pardons or commutations to dozens of members of his inner circle, including his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, his longtime friend Roger Stone, his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and his former campaign adviser George Papadopoulos.

Trump's use of the pardon for members of his inner circle has garnered backlash from critics. But past presidents have also taken advantage of sweeping powers to pardon friends and associates in their final weeks in office.

President George H.W. Bush, for example, issued pardons to several Reagan-era officials caught up in the Iran-Contra scandal prior to his departure from office. On his last day in office, President Bill Clinton granted clemency to Marc Rich, a fugitive businessman whose ex-wife was a longtime Clinton donor.

Though neither Trump or members of his family were included on his pardon list, Trump has until noon on Wednesday to issue any final pardons before leaving office.

The January 6 U.S. Capitol riot that led to Trump's second impeachment had complicated his desire to pardon himself, his kids and personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

Advisers encouraged Trump to forgo a self-pardon because it would appear like he was guilty of something, according to people familiar with the conversations. Several of Trump's closest advisers had also urged him not to grant clemency to anyone involved in the siege on the U.S. Capitol, despite Trump's initial stance that those involved had done nothing wrong.

ABC News

Associated Press

CNN

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