On January 19, 2021, former President Donald Trump issued a flurry of last-minute pardons to various citizens and friends. Some of the names of the people pardoned were expected, but there were plenty of surprises on the list.
One of the biggest surprises was that Trump chose to pardon his former chief strategist, Stephen Bannon. The Hill reports that Former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany simply explained the pardon by noting, “Mr. Bannon has been an important leader in the conservative movement and is known for his political acumen.”
Trump also pardoned Elliott Briody, who previously worked as a fundraiser for the Republican National Party. Briody was charged with conspiring to act as an unregistered foreign agent.
Additional pardons include rappers Lil Wayne and Kodak Black, along with a whole slew of political allies and friends. While the tradition of issuing pardons dates all the way back to George Washington’s presidency, it’s also a custom that has been debated and decried widely.
Political allies that Donald Trump pardoned
CNN has reported that many of Trump’s choices for pardons border on bizarre. These include the ex-boyfriend of accused Russian spy Maria Butina, a North Carolina political donor who was convicted on grounds of trying to offer bribes, the former Mayor of Detroit, and Aviem Sella, an Israeli air force officer who has been accused of spying on the United States.
Alexander Hamilton is credited with coming up with the idea of allowing presidential pardons. National Geographic explains that Hamilton introduced the idea at the 1787 Constitutional Convention, noting that the practice of issuing pardons could “restore the tranquility of the commonwealth.” Now, Article II of the Constitution gives the President the “power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States.”
Of course, former President Trump is hardly the first to issue controversial pardons. Most notably, President Ford pardoned former President Nixon, who had been impeached for his role in the Watergate scandal.
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