The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations, stressed that Trump has flip-flopped repeatedly as he mulls his final clemency action, and warned the decision could be reversed until it’s formally unveiled.
Trump is expected to offer pardons and commutations to as many as 100 people in the hours before he leaves office at noon Wednesday, according to two people briefed on the plans. The list is expected to include names unfamiliar to the American public – regular people who have spent years languishing in prison – as well as politically connected friends and allies like those he’s pardoned in the past.
Bannon has been charged with duping thousands of investors who believed their money would be used to fulfill Trump’s chief campaign promise to build a wall along the southern border. Instead, he allegedly diverted over a million dollars, paying a salary to one campaign official and personal expenses for himself.
Bannon did not respond to questions Tuesday.
Trump has already pardoned a slew of longtime associates and supporters, including his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort; Charles Kushner, the father of his son-in-law; his longtime friend and adviser Roger Stone; and his former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Nearly two weeks after the rampage at the U.S. Capitol, some participants arrested and charged have already asked the president to pardon them, including the notorious horn-man Jacob Chansley. The president has been urged not to provide clemency for anyone involved in the violence at the Capitol, especially a preemptive pardon for himself, to fend off potential charges that he incited the riot.
“It’s perfectly legal for Trump to pardon as many people as he wants. Maybe except for himself,” ABC7 Chicago legal analyst Gil Soffer told the I-Team.
It is not clear if Trump could legally pardon himself.
“It’s simply a question that has never been tested legally in any court or otherwise and there are conflicting views among legal scholars about whether a president can pardon himself. So, that’s why there’s a question mark hanging over it and of course there’s also political considerations about whether he should, but as a matter of law, it’s simply not clear,” Soffer explained. There’s nothing in the law that says he cannot pardon himself, nothing in the Constitution that says he cannot pardon himself. But nevertheless, there are questions in the law about whether that’s an appropriate use of the pardon.”
Trump was personally involved in the effort to sift through requests, mostly from first-time drug offenders sentenced to life, rejecting some applications and greenlighting others, according to one of the people involved in the effort. Also playing a key role has been the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, who personally met with advocates, reviewed cases and brought them to the Department of Justice and pardon attorney.
Jessica Jackson, a lawyer and criminal justice advocate who has been working with the administration, said that she came to Ivanka Trump with the case of Darrell Frazier, who has served more than 29 years of a life sentence with no parole for his role in a drug conspiracy. While incarcerated, he founded a non-profit foundation in Tennessee that teaches tennis to 100-200 kids a week.
“I heard his story and brought it to Ivanka,” said Jackson. “Once she heard the story, she took it to the DOJ, she took it to the pardon attorney.”
Trump had been expected to move forward with additional pardons and commutations earlier this month, but discussions were put on hold after the insurrection at the Capitol by pro-Trump rioters incited by the president’s fiery and baseless election challenges. That threw an already paralyzed White House into even further chaos.
Trump has since been impeached for a second time and a sense of wariness has set in, with the president’s inner circle fearful of doing anything that could provoke a conviction in the Senate that would potentially bar him from ever holding office again.
Unless President Trump decides to let a few hundred people off the hook on his way out the door, he won’t even end up on the top ten list of presidents who have issued pardons. Franklin Roosevelt pardoned more than 2,800 over three terms. Mr. Trump has issued 70 to date. He is unlikely even to beat Bill Clinton for the most last-day pardons; Clinton issued 140, including some highly controversial choices.
While we do not know yet who may be granted pardons or commutations, we do know some of the potential names are controversial.
That list includes former speaker of the New York State Assembly, Sheldon Silver, who is serving 12 years in prison for bribery.
The list also includes an unlikely name, rapper Lil Wayne, who plead guilty to felony gun possession in November.
It remains unclear whether Trump will pardon Steve Bannon, his former top strategist, or offer pre-emptive reprieves to his attorney, Rudy Giuliani, his adult children and or even himself – uncharted legal territory.
Bannon has been charged with duping thousands of investors who believed their money would be used to fulfill Trump’s chief campaign promise to build a wall along the southern border. Instead, Bannon is charged with diverting over a million dollars, paying a salary to one campaign official and personal expenses for himself.
Giuliani said on his Sunday radio show that, while he fears that prosecutors might “try to frame me,” he is “willing to run that risk.”
“I do not need a pardon. I don’t commit crimes,” he said.
In addition to the bold-faced names, Trump’s list is expected to include people whose cases have been championed by criminal justice reform advocates. They are people like Chris Young, who was sentenced to life in prison for drug possession because of federal sentencing minimums and whose case has been championed by reality TV star Kim Kardashian West.
“Our nation is not well served by spending millions of taxpayer dollars burying people alive under outdated federal drug laws,” said his attorney, Brittany K. Barnett, who is co-founder of the Buried Alive Project, a criminal justice reform advocacy group.
Trump has already pardoned a number of longtime associates and supporters, including his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort; the father of his son-in-law, Charles Kushner; his longtime friend and adviser Roger Stone and his former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Presidential pardons explained
Can a president pardon his relatives and close allies?
Yes. The constitution does not bar pardons for self-interest.
Before leaving office, former President Bill Clinton issued a controversial pardon to his half-brother over a cocaine conviction for which he served about a year in prison.
Can a president pardon himself?
This is unclear. There is no definitive answer because no president has ever tried to pardon himself and then faced prosecution anyway.
The U.S. Supreme Court has never had to rule on the matter. Lawmakers are divided on the topic.
Can a president issue prospective pardons before any charges or conviction?
Yes. It’s rare for a president to do, but it can happen.
Former President Gerald Ford issued a pardon to former President Richard Nixon to prevent prosecution for the Watergate scandal.
A pardon would erase both a person’s conviction and sentence.
Granting commutation would lift an individual’s sentence, but not a conviction.
Despite encouragement from his allies and staff, there is no indication that President Trump will issue pre-emptive pardons for himself or members of his family, but that could change.
WLS-TV and KTRK-TV contributed to this report
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