Donald Trump Has Pardoned Right Wing Strategist Steve Bannon In The Final Hours Of His Presidency
Steve Bannon has been given a pardon by President Donald Trump
The architect of Donald Trump's 2016 Presidential campaign, strategist Steve Bannon, has been pardoned hours before Trump leaves office.
The former White House strategist was among a group of 73 people who were granted pardons by the outgoing President, with a further 70 sentences being commuted.
Mr Bannon, who founded right-wing media outlet Breitbart before becoming a senior member of Mr Trump's 2016 election team, was charged in August with fraud over a fundraising effort related to the US-Mexico border wall.
US prosecutors said Mr Bannon was part of a group who defrauded hundreds of thousands of Trump supporters who donated $25m to the "We Build the Wall" campaign, including diverting more than $1m from the online campaign which they allege he "used to cover hundreds of thousands of dollars in personal expenses".
Mr Bannon had pleaded not guilty to the charges and was awaiting trial before he was granted a pardon by the President.
The former White House strategist was also recently banned from Twitter after he called for the beheading of Dr Anthony Fauci, the Chief Medical Advisor to the President, and FBI Director Christopher Wray.
Announcing the pardon, the White House said Mr Bannon was "an important leader in the conservative movement and is known for his political acumen."
The decision to pardon his former chief strategist comes just hours before Mr Trump leaves the White House for the final time, with President-Elect Joe Biden set to be inaugerated later today.
The President also pardoned rapper Lil Wayne, who had recently pleaded guilty to possession of a loaded handgun and was facing ten years in prison. The US rapper had posted a picture with Mr Trump during the election supporting his work on criminal justice reform.
Other figures pardoned by the outgoing President include former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who is serving a 28-year prison term on corruption charges, and Ken Kurson, a friend of Mr Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, who was charged with cyberstalking during his divorce proceedings.
The granting of Presidential pardons and clemency is a common act of outgoing Presidents, but Mr Trump has made significant use of his powers throughout his term, offering the protections to many of his former associates and staff.
There was speculation that Mr Trump might issue pardons to himself, his family and his personal lawyer, Rudy Guiliani, but in the end he chose not to do so.
Mr Trump is still facing an impeachment trial in the US senate for "incitement to insurrection" following the violence in the Capitol earlier this month, which left five people dead.
Democrat Adam Schiff tweeted: "Steve Bannon is getting a pardon from Trump after defrauding Trump's own supporters into paying for a wall that Trump promised Mexico would pay for. And if that all sounds crazy, that's because it is. Thank God we have only 12 more hours of this den of thieves."