Last updated on April 25th, 2023 at 08:01 am
Donald Trump used his executive clemency power less frequently than other presidents, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Justice Department data.
Trump granted 237 acts of clemency during his four years of presidency in the White House, including 143 pardons and 94 commutations. Only two other presidents since 1900 – George W. and George H.W. Bush – granted fewer acts of clemency than Trump.
His predecessor, Barack Obama, granted clemency 1,927 times for eight years in office, the highest total of any president going back to Harry Truman. Obama’s total was skewed heavily toward commutations (1,715) instead of pardons (212).
Trump also wasn’t the only president to save many of his pardons and commutations for his last hours on the job. Every president from Ford to Trump issued pardons or commutations in his previous days in the White House, according to the Justice Department. Obama, for example, granted 330 acts of clemency on Jan. 19, 2017, and Clinton granted 177 on Jan. 20, 2001.
More than 80% of Trump pardons and commutations came during his last months in the White House. Trump, however, still granted an unusually large percentage of pardons and commutations late in his term. More than eight in ten of his total acts of clemency (84%) came in his final fiscal year in office (the period between Oct. 1 and Jan. 20). That was far higher than the share for other recent presidents, including Obama (61%), Clinton (56%) and George H.W. Bush (49%). Trump also wasn’t the only president to save many of his pardons and commutations for his last hours on the job. Every president from Ford to Trump issued pardons or commutations in his previous days in the White House, according to the Justice Department. Obama, for example, granted 330 acts of clemency on Jan. 19, 2017, and Clinton granted 177 on Jan. 20, 2001.
Here are some Notable Names:
Steve Bannon is an American political strategist and former executive chairman of Breitbart News. He is known for his conservative political views and has served as an adviser to several political campaigns, including that of Donald Trump.
Steve Bannon and Donald Trump had a falling out after Bannon left the White House in August 2017. Bannon had been serving as the chief strategist for the Trump administration but was forced out amid internal conflicts and disagreements with other members of the White House staff.
In a book published in 2018, Bannon was quoted as making critical comments about Trump and his family. He described a meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a group of Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign as “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.” Bannon’s comments caused a rift between him and the president, and he was subsequently fired from his role as executive chairman of Breitbart News.
Since then, Bannon has remained a vocal critic of Trump and his policies, particularly on issues related to immigration and trade. Trump, in turn, has dismissed Bannon as a “self-promoter” and a “phony.” the relationship between Bannon and Trump has become increasingly strained in recent years.
Steve Bannon, a former ally of ex-President Donald Trump, has been sentenced to four months in prison and fined $6,500 for defying a subpoena from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. He was found guilty in July of two counts of contempt of Congress for refusing to testify or provide documents. Bannon had pursued a “bad faith strategy” and had made disparaging statements about the committee, according to prosecutors. The House panel had sought Bannon’s testimony over his involvement in Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Bannon is also facing separate money laundering, fraud, and conspiracy charges in New York related to the “We Build the Wall” campaign.
PIC: Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist under former President Donald Trump, who was found guilty of contempt of Congress charges in July for refusing a subpoena about the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, speaks to reporters after his sentencing hearing at US District Court in Washington, DC, on October 21, 2022.
Former Republican Party fundraiser Elliott Broidy was pardoned by outgoing President Donald Trump in one of his final uses of clemency powers. Broidy had pleaded guilty to charges of illegally lobbying the US government to drop an investigation into embezzlement in Malaysia. He admitted to conspiring to violate the Foreign Agents Registration Act by not registering with the Justice Department, which requires people who lobby the US government on behalf of foreign entities to do so. Broidy played a key role in raising funds for Trump’s 2016 campaign and served as vice-chairman of both the Trump Victory Committee and his Presidential Inauguration Committee. Broidy had previously resigned as deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee after reports that he had paid $1.6 million to secure a disclosure agreement with a Playboy Playmate with whom he had an extramarital affair. Broidy is CEO and Chairman of Broidy Capital Management, an investment firm based in Los Angeles. The White House released a statement saying that Broidy had been granted a full pardon and was well-known for his philanthropic efforts on behalf of law enforcement, the military and veterans programs, and the Jewish community.
Broidy was previously deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee but resigned after paying $1.6 million to a Playboy Playmate with whom he had an extramarital affair and who had an abortion.
Broidy is the CEO and Chairman of Broidy Capital Management, an investment firm based in Los Angeles, California.
The White House statement on Broidy’s pardon mentioned his philanthropic efforts, including for law enforcement, the military and veterans programs, and the Jewish community.
The pardons were one of Trump’s last acts as president before Joe Biden’s inauguration.
Former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was released from prison after serving around seven years of a 28-year sentence for corruption. He was convicted in 2013 of 24 federal felony counts including racketeering conspiracy, fraud, extortion, and tax crimes. Kilpatrick had sought a commutation from former President Barack Obama after losing all appeals, and after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear his case. In January 2021, former President Donald Trump reduced Kilpatrick’s prison sentence to time served, prompting criticism from prosecutors in Detroit. Kilpatrick credited businessman Peter Karmanos Jr. for lobbying Trump for his freedom. Karmanos delivered Kilpatrick’s clemency request to Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, and adviser, in 2019. Kilpatrick acknowledged making “some terrible decisions” while he was the Democratic mayor of Detroit between 2002 and 2008, and said he hopes “people see the fruit of my repentance.” He is planning to stay in Atlanta “for a while,” study theology, and is engaged to a Detroit woman.
According to reports, Kwame Kilpatrick now staying with his family in Georgia.
Paul Manafort, who was sentenced to over seven years in prison for financial crimes related to his work in Ukraine, was to home confinement in May 2020 due to coronavirus concerns. Manafort was a pivotal figure in the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. While the charges against Manafort did not directly relate to collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, his close relationship with a man linked to Russian intelligence and his sharing of internal campaign polling data with that person attracted scrutiny during the investigation.
The statement notes that President Trump pardoned Manafort in December 2020, but did not pardon Manafort’s deputy, Rick Gates, or former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, who were both convicted in the Mueller probe. Manafort, in a tweet, thanked Trump and praised him, claiming that history would show he had accomplished more than any of his predecessors.
The statement describes the case against Roger Stone, a longtime friend and political confidant of President Trump, brought by special counsel Robert Mueller as part of his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible ties between Moscow and the Trump campaign. Stone was indicted on charges of lying to Congress, witness tampering, and obstruction related to his efforts during the 2016 presidential race to act as an intermediary between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks.
Days before Stone was to report to prison in July 2020 to serve a 40-month sentence, President Trump commuted his sentence. This decision prompted outrage from Democrats, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calling for legislation to limit the presidential pardon powers and prevent future presidents from granting clemency to individuals who acted to shield them from prosecution. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff called the decision “a real body blow to the rule of law in this country.”
Charles Kushner, the father of senior advisor to the president Jared Kushner and a real estate billionaire who served two years in prison for tax evasion and retaliating against a federal witness, who happened to be his brother-in-law. Kushner was investigated by then-U.S. Attorney Chris Christie in 2003 for making illegal campaign contributions and eventually pleaded guilty to 16 counts of tax evasion, one count of retaliating against a federal witness, and another count of lying to the Federal Election Commission.
Kushner’s retaliation against his brother-in-law was particularly heinous: he hired a prostitute to sleep with Schulder, secretly videotaped the encounter, then mailed a tape of it to his sister. Schulder and his wife turned the tape over to prosecutors, leading Christie to call the case “one of the most loathsome, disgusting crimes” he had ever prosecuted.
Despite this, President Trump granted Kushner a pardon, citing his philanthropy since completing his sentence in 2006 as a reason for the decision. The White House statement said that Kushner’s “record of reform and charity overshadows” his conviction and sentence.
Michael Flynn’s resignation in February 2017 came after reports that he had discussed US sanctions on Russia with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak before Trump took office, and then misled Vice President Mike Pence and others in the administration about the conversations. In December 2017, Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Kislyak during the transition period.
Flynn later sought to withdraw his guilty plea, alleging prosecutorial misconduct, and his case became a political flashpoint, with Trump and his supporters alleging that Flynn was a victim of a “deep state” conspiracy.
In May 2020, the Justice Department moved to drop the case against Flynn, prompting controversy and accusations of political interference. The decision was ultimately upheld by a federal judge, but the case remains a subject of debate and criticism.
In November 2020, President Trump granted Flynn a full pardon, citing his “impeccable” service record and arguing that he had been unfairly targeted by the FBI and Justice Department. The pardon was criticized by Democrats and some legal experts as an abuse of power and a dangerous precedent, but praised by many of Trump’s supporters as a long-overdue vindication of Flynn.
Lil Wayne, a rapper whose real name is Dwayne Michael Carter Jr., was granted a pardon by Donald Trump for a firearms conviction. Lil Wayne was facing the possibility of a 10-year prison sentence for illegally owning a handgun, which he was prohibited from possessing due to a previous weapons conviction in New York. However, he received a pardon from Trump, which removed the conviction and the associated sentence. The article notes that Lil Wayne had expressed support for Trump during the 2020 election campaign and that he was one of 73 people to receive a pardon in Trump’s final hours as President. The White House praised Lil Wayne for his philanthropic work in hospitals and food banks and referred to him as a trustworthy and generous musician.
Trump also granted commutation to fellow rapper Kodak Black, who was in prison for falsifying information on federal forms to buy firearms in Miami on two separate occasions, as Revolt TV reports. He admitted to lying on the forms and pleaded guilty in 2019. as New York Times reports. The rapper was slated to serve a 46-month prison sentence that was expected to end in November 2022. Last month, he made a plea to reduce his sentence, though prosecutors denied his request.
“[Kodak Black] has not presented ‘extraordinary and compelling reasons’ supporting his request for release” assistant U.S. Attorney Bruce O. Brown wrote in his motion denying Kodak’s request via Revolt. “Stated [for] correction: [Kodak] has not presented ANY reason supporting his request for release. He merely states he is not an evil person and promises to participate in community-based programs aimed at helping the ‘younger generation.’ That simply is inadequate according to the statute.”
The rappers’ clemency was part of a last-minute spree that included pardons for Steve Bannon, who was charged with defrauding Trump donors in an online fundraising campaign, Elliott Broidy, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy in connection with lobbying the Trump administration, and former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who was convicted of racketeering and extortion, among other crimes. In total, Trump granted clemency to 143 people, according to the Washington Post.
Sholam Weiss, a fraudster from Rockland County, had his sentence reduced by 825 years when Donald Trump granted him clemency on his last full day in office. Weiss was convicted for looting more than $400 million from National Heritage Life Insurance Co. in the 1990s, in what was believed to be the largest insurance company failure ever caused by criminals. He was convicted on 78 counts of racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering, and was sentenced to 845 years in prison, which was believed to be the longest prison term ever imposed for a white-collar crime. Weiss had also been ordered to pay $123 million in restitution to the victims, pay a $123 million fine, and serve three years of supervised release after his prison term. Despite the commutation, federal courts have found no reason to waive a nearly $300 million fine or reduce three years of supervised release. Weiss has been lobbying for compassionate release, but his requests have been denied. Federal Judge Philip M. Halpern ruled that the commutation did not relieve Weiss’s supervised release, fine, or forfeiture obligations.
Anthony Levandowski is a former Google engineer sentenced to 18 months in prison for stealing trade secrets related to self-driving cars. In August 2020, Levandowski was sentenced for transferring thousands of files from Google before founding Otto, a start-up that Uber later acquired. Google’s self-driving car unit, Waymo, accused Uber of using the stolen trade secrets, leading to Levandowski facing criminal charges.
On January 20, 2021, former US President Donald Trump granted Levandowski a full pardon on his last night in the White House. The pardon was among dozens of others issued by Trump on the same night. Levandowski’s pardon was supported by tech billionaire Peter Thiel and Oculus founder Palmer Luckey, who were listed as supporters of the pardon by the White House.
Levandowski expressed his gratitude for the pardon in a tweet, stating that he and his family were “thankful to the President and others who supported and advocated on my behalf.” Trump’s pardon called Levandowski “an American entrepreneur who led Google’s efforts to create self-driving technology” and stated that he had “paid a significant price for his actions and plans to devote his talents to advance the public good.”
In March 2021, Levandowski declared bankruptcy after being ordered to pay $179 million to Google for his role in the trade secret theft.
Here are some other people on the Trump pardon and commutation list- Lavonne Roach, Blanca Virgen, Robert Francis Brian Simmons, Derrick Smith Rick Renzi, Kenneth Kurson, Casey Urlacher, Carl Andrews Boggs, and Dr. Scott Harkonen. Johnny D Phillips Jr and the list continues.