WASHINGTON: US Presid­ent Donald Trump on Wednes­day pardoned 73 people, including his former aide Steve Bannon and the rapper Lil Wayne, just hours before he was due to leave office.

The list of those pardoned — as well as 70 people whose sentences were commuted — was likely to draw allegations of cronyism, at the end of a term during which the presid­ent promised to “drain the swa­­mp” of Washington politics.

However, neither Trump nor his relatives were listed, amid speculation he could use the legally dubious tactic of a preemptive pardon to fend off future charges.

Bannon — who was Trump’s campaign manager during the 2016 election, before becoming a senior adviser to the president — left the White House acrimoniously in 2017, Trump later giving him the derogatory moniker “Sloppy Steve.” Last year he was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, over funds raised to build the Mexico border wall, a flagship Trump policy.

But Wednesday’s statement, announcing his pardon, read: “Mr 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.

Former Trump fundraiser Elliott Broidy was similarly pardoned, after pleading guil­­­ty last year to conspiring to violate foreign lobbying laws.

And the rapper Lil Wayne, who faced 10 years in jail after pleading guilty to possession of a firearm and ammunition by a convicted felon last month, also made the list.

The star, listed as Dwayne Michael Carter Jr., had shown “generosity through commitment to charities, including donations to hospitals and a host of foodbanks,” the release added.

Published in Dawn, January 21st, 2021

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