- President Donald Trump has pardoned his former campaign CEO and chief strategist Steve Bannon, The New York Times reported.
- The report said Bannon was a last-minute addition to the list of people Trump wanted to grant executive clemency to before his term ended.
- Bannon was charged last year with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and money laundering connected to the We Build the Wall charity.
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President Donald Trump has pardoned his former White House chief strategist and campaign CEO Steve Bannon, The New York Times reported late Tuesday, citing White House officials.
Sources told The Times Trump added Bannon to his list of executive clemency grants at the “last minute.”
Bannon served as the Trump campaign’s CEO near the end of the 2016 election and is widely considered one of the chief architects of Trump’s early presidency.
After the election, Bannon was named chief strategist and senior counselor to the president, a role he held for eight months. He left in August 2017 to return to Breitbart, the conservative news website he co-founded in 2016.
Following his stint with the president, he continued to grow his role in right-wing circles, launching a “political academy” in Italy. He also threw his support behind the We Build the Wall campaign, an initiative he devised along with Brian Kolfage, Andrew Badolato, and Timothy Shea to use private donations to fund the border wall between Mexico and the United States.
The campaign raised more than $25 million for the project. But all four were later arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and money laundering. Prosecutors alleged that Bannon and others defrauded donors out of $25 million as part of a fundraising campaign they said was going toward building Trump’s wall along the US’s southern border with Mexico.
“As alleged, the defendants defrauded hundreds of thousands of donors, capitalizing on their interest in funding a border wall to raise millions of dollars, under the false pretense that all of that money would be spent on construction,” acting Manhattan US attorney Audrey Strauss said in a statement. “While repeatedly assuring donors that Brian Kolfage, the founder and public face of We Build the Wall, would not be paid a cent, the defendants secretly schemed to pass hundreds of thousands of dollars to Kolfage, which he used to fund his lavish lifestyle.”
Bannon was arrested in Westbrook, Connecticut on a luxury yacht owned by Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui. He pleaded not guilty.
In November of 2020, Bannon was permanently suspended from Twitter after suggesting National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci and FBI Director Christopher Wray should both be beheaded.
In recent days, Bannon reportedly returned to Trump’s good graces. Trump sought Bannon’s aid and suggestions in how he could potentially overturn the 2020 presidential election, according to Bloomberg.
Trump has not yet conceded the election to President-elect Joe Biden. On January 6, Trump’s supporters staged a violent insurrection at the US Capitol that resulted in five deaths. The House of Representatives impeached the president for incitement of insurrection after the fact, and with ten Republicans siding with House Democrats, it was the most bipartisan impeachment vote in US history.
Bannon, meanwhile, joins a long list of Trump allies who have received pardons and commutations under this president’s White House tenure. It’s not unusual for presidents to issue higher numbers of executive clemency grants in the waning days of their terms, but Trump has drawn particular scrutiny for circumventing the typical Justice Department process that determines who gets a pardon or commutation.