Trump’s final acts of clemency come after a scramble in recent days among criminal justice reform advocates and several White House officials to finalize the list and convince Trump to approve the actions. These pardons will undoubtedly be overshadowed by the slew of controversial ones Trump is also expected to issue in the same final batch on Tuesday.
During the President’s final hours in office, there is a frantic scramble happening behind the scenes on whether to grant former campaign strategist Steve Bannon a pardon as Trump finalizes the list with his attorneys and top aides. One concern is Bannon’s possible connection to the January 6 riot of Trump supporters at the US Capitol, according to a source familiar with the discussions.
Throughout the day, Trump has continued to contemplate pardons that aides believed were settled, including for his former strategist.
Trump has continued to go back and forth on it into Tuesday night, sources told CNN.
While outgoing Presidents typically issue a raft of 11th-hour pardons before leaving office, Trump has proven more willing to use his pardon power to brazenly reward political loyalty, the wealthy and well-connected and those who did not cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
According to three people familiar with the matter, the clemency actions will include white-collar criminals, high-profile rappers and others but — as of now — is not expected to include Trump himself.
After the riot, advisers encouraged Trump to forgo a self-pardon because it would appear like he was guilty of something, according to one person familiar with the conversations. Several of Trump’s closest advisers have also urged him not to grant clemency to anyone involved in the siege on the US Capitol, despite Trump’s initial stance that those involved had done nothing wrong.
But only Trump knows what he will do with his last bit of presidential power before he is officially out of office at noon on January 20.
“There’s no crazy pardons,” the source said, noting that White House counsel Pat Cipollone has been “direct and strong” in advising Trump against a self-pardon.
After weeks focusing on contesting the election and reeling from the fallout of the January 6 insurrection, Trump finally snapped back to attention on pardons in recent days, one source said.
“You couldn’t get the President to focus on this,” a source close to the process said of Trump in recent weeks. “And then this weekend, he didn’t have his Twitter, he didn’t have all these other distractions.”
Trump, who sank deeper into lame duck status in recent weeks, was reminded that his pardon power is one of the remaining undiminished aspects of his presidential power.
This source said Trump also resonated with cases in which individuals who went to trial got significantly more prison time than co-defendants who cooperated with law enforcement.
“I don’t think he likes when people get screwed just because they go to trial,” this source said.
While Jared Kushner has been closely involved in pardons throughout his time at the White House, this source said that Ivanka Trump became much more closely involved in the push for pardons in recent days.
Together, Kushner and Ivanka Trump worked with the White House counsel’s office and Department of Justice while also working to convince Trump to support a series of clemency actions in the vein of criminal justice reform.
After meetings this weekend, Trump met again with his daughter, son-in-law and other White House officials on Monday to finalize the list of clemency actions.