On the eve of his departure from the White House, President Donald Trump flexed one of his signature powers for the final time.
He issued 143 pardons or sentence commutations for convicted criminals including rapper Lil' Wayne; former top strategist Steve Bannon, who is being prosecuted for fraud; former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, in prison for corruption; and Palm Beach, Florida, eye doctor Salomon Melgen, who is in prison after being convicted on dozens of counts of health care fraud.
The list includes a host of other figures, including white-collar criminals, politically-connected allies and friends and those who have endorsed him in the past — reflecting parallel dynamics during the Trump administration: both his support for criminal justice reform and his penchant for pardoning those close to him.
Trump did not pardon himself or any of his children, despite reports in recent weeks that he had been considering such an unusual move.
As is customary for a departing president, Trump had been expected for days to issue a final batch of pardons, likely including some of his most controversial choices.
The White House statement confirming the pardons and sentence commutations came after midnight on Wednesday, some eight hours before Trump left Washington, D.C.
Lil Wayne (né Dwayne Michael Carter Jr.) previously appeared to throw his support behind Trump's election campaign when he shared a photo of the two together on Twitter, writing that he supported the president's criminal justice reform plan.
In December, one year after authorities found drugs and a gold-plated handgun in his chartered jet, Lil Wayne pleaded guilty to possessing a loaded handgun as a formerly convicted felon. He faces up to 10 years in prison stemming from the charges.
Melgen was named as a co-conspirator in a since-dismissed corruption case against Democratic New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez and sentenced to 17 years for health care fraud in 2018.
Bannon, a right-wing media executive who helped run Trump's successful 2016 presidential campaign and was for a time a top White House strategist, was being prosecuted for allegations of fraud in connection with a fundraiser to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Reports suggested that Trump was receiving advice and recommendations on pardons from any remaining White House advisers and criminal justice reform groups as late as Tuesday afternoon.
The latest batch of pardons follow a slew of controversial commutations issued by Trump in December, which included the father of his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as well as former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and longtime loyalist Roger Stone.
Earlier in the day Tuesday, Trump released his final video message to to the American people, touting what he describes as his accomplishments while saying the movement he inspired is only beginning.
"I did not seek the easiest course, by far it was actually the most difficult," Trump said. "I took on the tough battles, the hardest fights, the most difficult choices, because that's what you elected me to do … Now, as I prepare to hand power over to a new administration at noon on Wednesday. I want you to know that the movement we started is only just beginning."
In the final weeks of his presidency, Trump reportedly discussed the possibility of issuing federal pardons to family members and close political allies such as his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, or his adult children.
ABC News reported that Trump and his allies had discussed the possibility of pardoning himself, though CNN reported that he was recently warned not to make that decision by legal advisers.
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