Lil Wayne, Steve Bannon among 143 more pardons Trump issues on final day in office

Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon exits the Manhattan Federal Court on August 20, 2020 in the Manhattan borough of New York City. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump pardoned 143 more people Tuesday, his final full day in office. The latest round of pardons includes rapper Lil Wayne and former Trump associate Steve Bannon.

Lil Wayne, whose real name is Dwayne Carter, pleaded guilty in 2020 in federal district court to illegally possessing a loaded, gold-plated .45-caliber handgun while traveling to Florida on a private jet in 2019. The contents of Carter’s bag also included small amounts of cocaine, ecstasy and oxycodone, according to the U.S. attorney.

Bannon, a former adviser to Trump and an architect of his 2016 campaign, was arrested on fraud charges over the summer. Bannon pleaded not guilty in federal court in Manhattan after being indicted with three others who were accused of defrauding donors to the online fundraising campaign known as "We Build the Wall" that raised $25 million.

Bannon, 66, was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, each of which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

Bannon was released on a $5 million bond.

Trump has now pardoned more than 100 people since he lost re-election. Pardons are common in the final stretch of presidency, with recipients largely dependent on the individual whims of the nation's chief executive. 

Trump’s approach to pardons has been heavily influenced by personal appeals from allies, shucking aside the conventions of the Obama administration when pardons were largely reserved for drug offenders not known to the general public. Trump instead bestowed clemency on high-profile contacts and associates who were key figures in an investigation that directly concerned him.

Trump’s legally troubled allies were not the only recipients of clemency. Others include people whose pleas for forgiveness were promoted by people supporting the president throughout his term in office, including conservative media personalities and Republican lawmakers. Trump has also shown a willingness to intervene on behalf of service members accused of war crimes.

Others granted clemency included a former county commissioner in Florida who was convicted of taking gifts from people doing business with the county and a community leader in Kentucky who was convicted of federal drug offenses.

As Trump continues to face legal challenges himself, Washington insiders were curious if he would attempt an unprecedented self-pardon, or perhaps issue preemptive pardons to other family members or senior aides.