US President Donald Trump has granted a pardon to his disgraced former aide Steve Bannon as part of a wave of pardons and commutations during his final hours in office.
The statement issued by the White House on Wednesday included a list of the names of 73 pardoned individuals and 70 others whose sentences were commuted.
The move coming shortly before Joe Biden is sworn in as the next president of the United States is “crazy”, said Democratic Representative Adam Schiff on Twitter.
“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,” he said.
“And if that all sounds crazy, that’s because it is.”
The White House said in Wednesday’s statement that “Bannon has been an important leader in the conservative movement and is known for his political acumen”.
US media earlier reported that the president made his last-minute decision after speaking to Bannon by phone.
Trump did not pardon himself, members of his family or lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who was at the forefront of unsuccessful efforts to get the results of the 2020 presidential election overturned.
Al Jazeera’s John Hendren, reporting from Washington DC, said “Trump was advised not to pardon himself or his family because the pardon comes with the suggestion of guilt”.
“When it comes to other prosecutions after this administration, the private lawsuits, that would put them in a bad spot,” he said.
“We have also been told that the president was advised against pardoning those who rioted and took over the Capitol on January 6.”
Trump was impeached by the Democratic-led House last week on charges of inciting the January 6 storming of the US Capitol by the president’s supporters.
He may face a Senate trial and could be barred from running for president again if convicted.
The pardon power, which comes from the US Constitution, is one of the broadest available to a president.
While pardons are typically given to people who have been prosecuted, pardons can cover conduct that has not yet resulted in legal proceedings.
A pardon is not reviewable by other branches of government and the president does not have to give a reason for issuing one. But the pardon power is not absolute; it only applies to federal crimes.
More than 140 individuals
As part of more than 140 pardons and commutations, Trump also pardoned Elliott Broidy, a former top fundraiser for Trump who pleaded guilty last year to violating foreign lobbying laws, and former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who was serving a 28-year prison term on corruption charges.
Rappers Lil Wayne and Kodak Black who were prosecuted on federal weapons offenses, were also granted pardons.
Bannon, who was a key adviser in Trump’s 2016 presidential run, was charged last year with swindling Trump supporters over an effort to raise private funds to build the president’s wall on the US-Mexico border. He has pleaded not guilty.
White House officials had advised Trump against pardoning Bannon. The two men have lately rekindled their relationship as Trump sought support for his unproven claims of voter fraud, an official familiar with the situation said.
Bannon can still be charged in state court in New York, where a pardon would not help him, said Daniel R Alonso, a former prosecutor now at the Buckley law firm.
Fraud prosecutions are frequently brought by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, Alonso said.
Bannon, 67, is the latest prominent political ally to receive clemency from Trump, who has often used the powers of the executive branch to reward loyalists and punish his enemies.
Trump previously pardoned former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn for lying to the FBI about his conversation with the former Russian ambassador, and he commuted the prison term for Roger Stone, who was convicted of lying to Congress during its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
In December, he also pardoned four Blackwater guards who had been convicted over a 2007 massacre in Iraq.