The move comes after the president was impeached by the House for the second time and as he faces a Senate trial in the coming weeks.
Steve Bannon, the alt-right provocateur and former White House aide who spent recent weeks amplifying President Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen, headlined a final, parting-shot pardon spree that Trump issued just hours before he leaves the White House.
The last-minute clemency grant to Bannon, a right-wing firebrand and former Trump strategist facing trial on charges of swindling donors to a private group raising money for border wall construction, may prove to be the most controversial of the 73 pardons and 70 commutations Trump granted late Tuesday.
Trump’s pardon of Bannon may also have an unintended effect on his upcoming impeachment trial in the Senate on a charge of inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol. While Trump did not issue a self-pardon covering his own actions that day, and he turned aside pardon requests from others accused of inciting or participating in the assault on Congress, Bannon was also among those who stoked anger in advance of the riots.
“All hell will break loose tomorrow. It will be quite extraordinarily different. All I can say is strap in,” Bannon said on his “War Room” podcast on Jan. 5. “Tomorrow is game day. So many people said, man, if I was in revolution I would be in Washington. Well, this is your time in history.”
Bannon frequently used similar wartime imagery to urge Trump supporters to contest the 2020 election results. He has also been a frequent antagonist of Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, most notably when he helped propel the doomed candidacy of Republican Roy Moore — derailed by sexual assault allegations — over McConnell’s preferred candidate Luther Strange in an Alabama special election.
With Trump’s impeachment trial looming, the Bannon pardon could push some Republican senators toward convicting Trump and potentially banning him from running for president again, but will probably be seen as less provocative than would a self-pardon or pardons for his closest family members.
Trump’s wave of clemency included a broad range of beneficiaries, from nonviolent drug offenders sentenced to lengthy jail terms, to the man whose relationship with Russian spy Maria Butina ignited a Washington firestorm, to the wealthy doctor accused of paying bribes to Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.). The grants of clemency mark an extended run of post-election pardons and commutations that have skewed heavily toward protecting or rewarding Trump’s political allies.
For Bannon, the pardon represents his full return into the Trump fold after a bitter falling-out in 2018. Bannon gave incendiary and damaging interviews to author Michael Wolff about the Trump family. He also provided testimony to special counsel Robert Mueller that fueled some of the obstruction of justice claims against the president during the Russia investigation.
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