Donald Trump grants clemency to 143 people (not himself or family members) in final hours
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly used his clemency authority as a political tool rather than an act of mercy, issued a final wave of pardons and commutations on his last night in office, delivering relief for a mix of beneficiaries that included former strategist Stephen Bannon, Republican Party and Trump fundraiser Elliott Broidy, and former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, found guilty in 2013 of corruption charges.
He granted pardons to 73 people and commuted the sentences of another 70 people, according to a news release from the White House.
Several high-profile figures received pardons, including:
- Former Republican House member Rick Renzi of Arizona, convicted in 2013 of extortion, bribery, insurance fraud, money laundering, and racketeering. Renzi left prison in 2017.
- Former Rep. Randall “Duke” Cunningham, R-Calif., who was released from prison in 2013 after serving eight years for charges of bribery, fraud, and tax evasion.
- Dwayne Michael Carter Jr., the rapper known as Lil Wayne, who pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm and ammunition by a convicted felon.
- Broidy, who pleaded guilty to acting as an unregistered foreign agent and accepting money from Chinese and Malaysian interests to lobby the Trump administration.
- Bannon, who was awaiting trial in Manhattan on federal fraud charges tied to a border wall fundraising effort.
Trump and Bannon have had an up-and-down relationship since the flamboyant adviser left the White House in 2017. At one point, Trump banished Bannon from his inner circle, claiming that he was a source of a critical book about the president, but Bannon still worked as a prominent backer of Trump's 2020 reelection campaign.
Pardons follow intense lobbying effort; no family members included
For weeks, political allies, defense attorneys and others staged an intense lobbying campaign, urging Trump to act on behalf of their clients.
The list was released about 1 a.m. Wednesday, with about 11 hours left in Trump's term.
Soon after, at 1:07 a.m. ET, Trump issued an executive order revoking an ethics rule he authorized in 2017. The move frees former aides from restrictions on lobbying the government.
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Trump intervened in the case of rapper Bill Kapri, also known as Kodak Black. The president commuted a 46-month sentence for lying on a background check related to a gun purchase.
Robert Zangrillo, a Miami real estate developer who was part of the recent college entrance scandal, received a full pardon. He was accused of conspiring with a college consultant to bribe officials at the University of Southern California to designate his daughter as a recruit to the crew team.
Paul Erickson, the former boyfriend of Russian operative Maria Butina, also received a pardon. He was sentenced last year to 84 months in prison on charges of wire fraud and money laundering.
Among the white-collar offenders, Trump commuted the sentence of Sholam Weiss, convicted in a $450 million mortgage and insurance fraud scheme. He had been sentenced to 835 years after jumping bail.
Weiss was captured in Austria in 2000. His case was supported by Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz and Trump attorney Jay Sekulow. Weiss had been scheduled for release in 2738.
Kenneth Kurson was granted a full pardon in a cyberstalking case. He is a longtime friend and associate of Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, and Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal attorney.
The case involves charges that Kurson cyberstalked and harassed his ex-wife and two other people, according to the federal criminal complaint. The allegations came to light when Kurson underwent an FBI background check for a potential appointment by Trump.
The list is also notable for who isn't on it: the president himself, his family and Giuliani.
In the final weeks of his presidency, some had speculated Trump would issue pre-emptive clemency to shield his family and lawyer from future legal vulnerability. Federal authorities have been investigating Giuliani and his business dealings in Ukraine.
Also not on the list were Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder indicted in 2019 on espionage charges, and Edward Snowden, the fugitive American who leaked secret files revealing vast surveillance operations carried out by the U.S. National Security Agency.
Lawmakers had asked Trump not to pardon Assange and Snowden.
Trump talked to aides about preemptive pardons for Republican lawmakers and others involved in planning the Jan. 6 protests who might face legal problems, an aide said. White House officials talked Trump out of granting pardons connected to the riots.
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Last-minute pardons, including disputed ones, are something of a tradition for outgoing presidents.
As he left office in 2001, President Bill Clinton pardoned fugitive financier Marc Rich in a move some analysts tied to financial contributions.
In late 1992, his term soon to expire, President George H.W. Bush pardoned aides involved in the Iran-Contra scandal.
The list of pardons included some who 'turned their pain into purpose'
While many of Trump's pardons and commutations went to political allies and high-profile criminals, others were doled out to relatively unknown figures, including some who had backing from justice reform advocates.
Among those was Amy Povah, who received a pardon from Trump after previously having her prison sentence commuted in 2000 by Clinton. Povah, who served nine years of a 24-year sentence in connection with offenses involving the drug ecstasy, became founder of CAN-Do (Calling for All Nonviolent Drug Offenders) Foundation. The pardon record describes her as “a voice for the incarcerated, a champion for criminal justice reform.”
Another woman, Syrita Steib-Martin, also received a full pardon erasing her conviction, at age 19, for using fire during commission of a felony. After serving 10 years, Steib-Martin founded Operation Restoration to help female convicts make the transition out of prison.
A third individual, Lou Hobbs, had his sentence commuted by Trump after serving 24 months of a life term for a nonviolent drug offense.
Louis L. Reed, director of national organizing for Dream Corps, a criminal justice reform group, said he was ecstatic to see Hobbs gain redemption because the two men served time together at a federal penitentiary in New York.
Reed, who also had petitioned for a pardon, said his disappointment in being turned down “pales in comparison to the level of excitement and optimism I have because as one rises we all rise.”
Reed described Hobbs as an inspirational Christian and self-help teacher behind bars. He said Hobbs, as well as Povah and Steib-Martin, have been “models of positivity” and deserve the relief granted by Trump.
“They turned their pain into purpose,” he added.
The 73 pardons and 70 commutations were granted to a cross-section of Americans that included Lavonne Roach, a Lakota Sioux woman who lived through a cycle of abuse and drug addiction that led her to participate in a methamphetamine distribution scheme, according to a summary of her case published by a New York University Law School study that examined clemency candidates who had been passed over in the past.
Roach was sentenced in 1998 to 30 years in federal prison, said the study, which classified her as one of thousands of nonviolent drug offenders worthy of clemency.
In prison, she enrolled in a drug treatment program, completed thousands of hours of educational programs, took business-related courses and completed a two-year paralegal program. Now 56, Roach was scheduled to be released in July 2023. Trump commuted her sentence.
Another convict, Michael Pelletier, was sentenced to life without parole in 2008 for conspiring to import and distribute marijuana. The NYU study said he used marijuana to cope with the pain and stress of a tractor accident at age 11 that left him paralyzed from the waist down, the study said.
Pelletier, 64, was the only defendant in his case sentenced to life behind bars. He opted to go to trial while the others reached plea deals for lesser sentences, the study said.
Now using oil painting as an outlet, Pelletier has been certified by the federal Bureau of Prisons to teach art to other inmates. His sentence was commuted.
Reed, the Dream Corps activist, declined to question whether Trump may have selected some deserving individuals for clemency to dampen the impact of pardons issued to political cronies.
“If he did the right thing for the wrong reasons, that’s something he’ll have to be answerable for at a later date,” Reed said.
Trump's previous pardons: Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, others
Before the last round of pardons, Trump had granted clemency to more than 90 people during his term in office, including allies and former aides involved in the investigation of Russian election interference during the 2016 election.
That group includes Paul Manafort, a Trump campaign manager in 2016 who was convicted of defrauding banks; George Papadopoulos, a former campaign aide who admitted lying to the FBI; and Michael Flynn, a retired Army general who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian officials.
Trump also commuted the sentence of longtime political adviser Roger Stone just days before he was set to report to prison after he was convicted of lying to Congress and obstructing the Russia investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller.
Among other pardons: Charles Kushner, the father of presidential son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner. The elder Kushner has been convicted of preparing false tax returns and witness retaliation.
Pardons have also been granted to two former Republican members of Congress who were early supporters of Trump's presidential bid: Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., who had pleaded guilty to misusing campaign funds; and Chris Collins, R-N.Y., who had pleaded guilty to charges of conspiring to commit securities fraud.
In many cases, Trump did not work with the pardons office at the Department of Justice, but took action on his own based on requests by lobbyists to him and his top aides.
Legal analysts said Trump turned the presidential pardon power into a personal project designed to reward friends and political supporters.
Full list of Trump pardons on Jan. 20:
- Todd Boulanger, full pardon of conspiracy to commit honest services fraud
- Abel Holtz, full pardon of impeding a grand jury investigation
- Rick Renzi, full pardon to representative from Arizona convicted of extortion, bribery, insurance fraud, money laundering and racketeering
- Kenneth Kurson, full pardon of cyberstalking
- Casey Urlacher, full pardon of sports betting case
- Carl Andrews Boggs, full pardon of two counts to corruption
- James E. Johnson, Jr., full pardon to charges of illegal hunting of wildlife birds
- Tommaso Buti, full pardon of financial fraud involving his restaurant chain
- Glen Moss, full pardon of healthcare fraud
- Anthony Levandowski, full pardon of stealing trade secrets from Google
- Aviem Sella, full pardon of espionage
- Michael Liberty, full pardon of campaign finance violations
- Greg Reyes, full pardon of securities fraud
- Jeffrey Alan Conway, full pardon of financial reporting fraud
- Benedict Olberding, full pardon of bank fraud
- Syrita Steib-Martin, full pardon of the use of fire to commit a felony
- Eric Wesley Patton, full pardon of making a false statement on a mortgage application
- Robert William Cawthon, full pardon of making a false statement on a bank loan application
- Hal Knudson Mergler, full pardon of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribution of LSD
- Gary Evan Hendler, full pardon of conspiracy to distribute and dispense controlled substances
- John Harold Wall, full pardon of aiding and abetting possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine
- Steven Samuel Grantham, full pardon of stealing a vehicle
- Clarence Olin Freeman, full pardon of operating an illegal whiskey still
- Fred Keith Alford, full pardon of a firearm violation
- Alex Adjmi, full pardon of financial crime
- Elliott Broidy, full pardon of conspiracy to serve as an unregistered agent of a foreign principal
- Stephen K. Bannon, full pardon of charges related to fraud stemming from his involvement in a political project
- Douglas Jemal, full pardon of fraud
- Dr. Scott Harkonen, full pardon of fraud based on a misleading caption in a press release with respect to a treatment for a disease
- Johnny D. Phillips, Jr., full pardon of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud
- Dr. Mahmoud Reza Banki, full pardon of monetary violations of Iranian sanctions and making false statements
- John Nystrom, full pardon of failure to alert authorities to double payments of subcontractors
- Gregory Jorgensen, Deborah Jorgensen, Martin Jorgensen, full pardons of knowingly selling misbranded beef
- Jessica Frease, full pardon of converting stolen checks and negotiating them through the bank where she worked as a teller
- Robert Cannon “Robin” Hayes, full pardon of making a false statement in the course of a Federal investigation
- Thomas Kenton “Ken” Ford, full pardon of making material misstatements to Federal mining officials
- Jon Harder, full pardon of misusing investment funds during the real estate crisis
- Scott Conor Crosby, full pardon of intent to commit a bank robbery
- Lynn Barney, full pardon of possessing a firearm as a previously convicted felon, and having previously distributed a small amount of marijuana
- Joshua J. Smith, full pardon of conspiracy to possess drugs with intent to distribute
- Amy Povah, full pardon of a drug offense
- Dr. Frederick Nahas, full pardon of obstructing justice in a health care investigation
- David Tamman, full pardon of doctoring financial documents that were the subject of a Federal investigation
- Dr. Faustino Bernadett, full pardon of failure to report a hospital kickback scheme of which he became aware
- Paul Erickson, full pardon of attempting to develop a backchannel between the NRA and Russian government
- Todd Farha, Thaddeus Bereday, William Kale, Paul Behrens, Peter Clay, full pardons false statements to the Florida Medicaid Program
- David Rowland, full pardon of removing asbestos in elementary school without proper licensing
- Randall “Duke” Cunningham, conditional pardon of accepting bribes while he held public office
- Dwayne Michael Carter Jr. (Lil Wayne), full pardon of possession of a firearm and ammunition by a convicted felon
- Stephen Odzer, conditional pardon of conspiracy and bank fraud
- Steven Benjamin Floyd, full pardon of one count of bank robbery by extortion
- Joey Hancock, full pardon of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance
- David E. Miller, full pardon of making a false statement to a bank
- James Austin Hayes, full pardon of conspiracy to commit insider trading
- Drew Brownstein, full pardon of insider trading
- Robert Bowker, full pardon of illegally wildlife trafficking 22 snakes owned by Rudy “Cobra King” Komarek to be transported to the Miami Serpentarium
- Amir Khan, full pardon of wire fraud
- Patrick Lee Swisher, full pardon of tax fraud and making false statements
- Robert Sherrill, full pardon of conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute cocaine
- Dr. Robert S. Corkern, full pardon of Federal program bribery
- David Lamar Clanton, full pardon of making false statements and related charges
- George Gilmore, full pardon of failure to pay payroll taxes and making false statements
- Desiree Perez, full pardon of a conspiracy to distribute narcotics
- Robert “Bob” Zangrillo, full pardon of involvement in the “Varsity Blues” investigation, a high-profile college admissions fraud scandal
- Hillel Nahmad, full pardon of a sports gambling offense
- Brian McSwain, full pardon of a drug crime
- John Duncan Fordham, full pardon of health care fraud
- William “Ed” Henry, full pardon of aiding and abetting the theft of government property
Full list of Trump commuted sentences Jan. 20:
- Jaime A. Davidson, commuted sentence of life imprisonment in relation to the murder of an undercover officer
- Bill K. Kapri (Kodak Black), commuted sentence for making a false statement on a Federal document
- Jawad A. Musa, commuted sentence of life imprisonment for a non-violent, drug-related offense
- Adriana Shayota, commuted sentence for conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods, commit copyright infringement, and introduce misbranded food into interstate commerce
- Ferrell Damon Scott, commuted sentence for life imprisonment sentence for possession with intent to distribute marijuana
- Jerry Donnell Walden, commuted sentence for intent to distribute cocaine
- Michael Ashley, commuted sentence of bank fraud
- Lou Hobbs, commuted sentence
- Matthew Antoine Canady, commuted sentence for drug-related convictions
- Mario Claiborne, commuted sentence for leading drug related business conspiracy in Chicago
- Rodney Nakia Gibson, commuted sentence for trafficking drugs
- Tom Leroy Whitehurst, commuted sentence for conspiracy to manufacture at least 16.7 kilograms of methamphetamine and possession of numerous firearms
- Monstsho Eugene Vernon, commuted sentence for committing a string of armed bank robberies
- Luis Fernando Sicard, commuted sentence for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and possession of a firearm during and in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime
- DeWayne Phelps, commuted sentence for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine
- Isaac Nelson, commuted sentence for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribution of 5 kilograms or more of cocaine and 50 grams or more of crack cocaine
- Traie Tavares Kelly, commuted sentence for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute 50 grams or more of cocaine base and 5 kilograms or more of cocaine
- Javier Gonzales, commuted sentence for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine and distribution of methamphetamine
- John Knock, commuted sentence for a first-time, non-violent marijuana only offender
- Kenneth Charles Fragoso, commuted sentence for a nonviolent drug offense
- Luis Gonzalez, commuted sentence for a non-violent drug offense
- Anthony DeJohn, commuted sentence for conspiracy to distribute marijuana
- Corvain Cooper, commuted sentence for non-violent participation in a conspiracy to distribute marijuana
- Way Quoe Long, commuted sentence for non-violent conviction for conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana
- Michael Pelletier, commuted sentence for conspiracy to distribute marijuana
- Craig Cesal, commuted sentence for conspiracy to distribute marijuana
- Darrell Frazier, commuted sentence for intent to distribute cocaine
- Lavonne Roach, commuted sentence for non-violent drug charges
- Blanca Virgen, commuted sentence for intent to distribute methamphetamine
- Robert Francis, commuted sentence for non-violent drug conspiracy charges
- Brian Simmons, commuted sentence for non-violent conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana
- Derrick Smith, commuted sentence for distribution of drugs to a companion who passed away
- Raymond Hersman, commuted sentence for distribution of methamphetamine
- David Barren, commuted sentence for non-violent drug conspiracy charge
- James Romans, commuted sentence for involvement in a conspiracy to distribute marijuana.
- Jonathon Braun, commuted sentence for conspiracy to import marijuana and to commit money laundering
- Michael Harris, commuted sentence for conspiracy to commit first-degree murder
- Kyle Kimoto, commuted sentence for non-violent telemarketing fraud scheme
- Chalana McFarland, commuted sentence of money laundering, bank and wire fraud and other financial crimes
- Eliyahu Weinstein, commuted sentence of real estate investment fraud
- John Estin Davis, commuted sentence for serving as Chief Executive Office of a healthcare company with a financial conflict of interest
- Noah Kleinman, commuted sentence for a non-violent crime to distribute marijuana
- Tena Logan, commuted sentence for a non-violent drug offense
- MaryAnne Locke, commuted sentence for a non-violent drug offense
- April Coots, commuted sentence for a non-violent drug offense
- Caroline Yeats, commuted sentence for a non-violent drug offense
- Jodi Lynn Richter, commuted sentence for a non-violent drug offense
- Kristina Bohnenkamp, commuted sentence for a non-violent drug offense
- Mary Roberts, commuted sentence for non-violent drug offense
- Cassandra Ann Kasowski, commuted sentence for a non-violent drug offense
- Lerna Lea Paulson, commuted sentence for a non-violent drug offense
- Ann Butler, commuted sentence for a non-violent drug offense
- Sydney Navarro, commuted sentence for a non-violent drug offense
- Tara Perry, commuted sentence for a non-violent drug offense
- Jon Harder, commuted sentence for misusing investment funds during the real estate crisis
- Chris Young, commuted sentence for role in a drug conspiracy
- Adrianne Miller, commuted sentence for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine and possession of a list I chemical.
- Kwame Kilpatrick, commuted sentence for racketeering and bribery scheme while he held public office
- Fred “Dave” Clark, commuted sentence for a non-violent drug offense
- William Walters, commuted sentence for insider trading
- James Brian Cruz, commuted sentence for a drug crime
- Shalom Weiss, commuted sentence for racketeering, wire fraud, money laundering, and obstruction of justice
- Salomon Melgen, commuted sentence for healthcare fraud and false statements
Contributing: Kevin McCoy