On Donald Trump’s last day as president, he announced 73 pardons and granted 70 other people clemency — a long-awaited list that people knew was coming, but could only speculate about who would be included. The pardons were a slew of last-minute moves Trump made the day before Biden’s inauguration, and while some of the names were unsurprising, the outgoing president still provided plenty of baffling people on his list.
Shockingly, Trump’s personal lawyer and main mouthpiece for the debunked claims of a fraudulent election, Rudy Giuliani, was not on the list, nor were any members of the Trump family. Also not on the list was Joe Maldonado aka Joe Exotic, whose team was so hopeful he would be granted a pardon that they had a limousine pickup truck waiting down the street from the prison. Plenty of others, however, did receive pardons.
One of the biggest mysteries was whether Trump would pardon Steve Bannon, his estranged former chief strategist. Bannon was indicted on fraud charges for allegedly scamming donors out of hundreds of thousands of dollars for his “We Build The Wall” campaign, which promised to build a wall along the southern border of the U.S. The wall was obviously never built, but the campaign raised $25 million nonetheless and Bannon was accused of taking $1 million for personal use. Trump ultimately did decide to pardon him. The White House said Bannon "has been an important leader in the conservative movement and is known for his political acumen” when they announced his pardon.
Another more eyebrow-raising pardon went to musician Lil Wayne. In recent months, the rapper had come out in support of Trump’s re-election campaign. Last year, Lil Wayne pleaded guilty to illegally carrying a handgun and ammunition on a private jet in 2019. Because he had a prior gun conviction, he was facing up to 10 years in prison for the crime. Trump pardoned another rapper, too — Kodak Black — who was scheduled to 46 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to a weapons charge in 2019.
Other notable names on the list included Paul Erickson, the former boyfriend of the Russian operative Maria Butina. Erickson was sentenced to 84 months in prison on wire fraud and money laundering charges related to a business deal in North Dakota oil fields. The White House explained Erickson’s pardon by claiming that “Mr. Erickson’s conviction was based off the Russian collusion hoax.”
While Trump has used his time in office to pardon liars and crooks, many of the names on the list of people who received clemency were serving life sentences for non-violent drug or fraud charges. They were people who had, in many cases, been seeking clemency for years and their names had been suggested to Trump by a group of criminal justice reform advocates that included Alice Marie Johnson. Johnson had been granted clemency by Trump in 2018, after her case had been championed by Kim Kardashian.
Ultimately, Trump's list of pardons were emblematic of the legacy he left behind: he supports the people who support him, and he's willing to overlook dangerous and damaging crimes to maintain that support. That's Trump's legacy — even down to the people he chose to pardon.