By Spy Uganda Correspondent
Outgoing US President Donald Trump has granted a pardon to former adviser Steve Bannon in one of his final acts as US leader, the White House said in a press release on Wednesday.
According to the White House, Bannon’s pardon is part of Trump’s decision to grant pardons to 73 individuals, including former Google engineer Anthony Levandowski, who was sentenced to 18 months in prison in August 2020 for stealing self-driving car files from the company.
Trump also granted clemency to lawyer Paul Erickson, who was sentenced to a prison term for wire fraud and money laundering.
The 59-year-old used to date Russian national Maria Butina, who served a 1.5-year term in a US prison for acting as a foreign agent.
Trump’s move comes a few days after the media claimed POTUS was considering including Bannon in two waves of pardons before President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in on 20 January.
In August 2020, Bannon was arrested and found guilty of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering after raising donations from a non-profit organisation to fund building a wall across the US border with Mexico.
Aside from Bannon, the US Justice Department lodged wire fraud charges against three other individuals, including US Air Force veteran Brian Kolfage, Sarasota-based Andrew Badolato, and Acting Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration Timothy Shea. All of them face up to 20 years in prison should they be found guilty.
The Justice Department insisted that the “We Build the Wall” crowdfunding campaign, which seeks to raise money to build a wall on the US border with Mexico akin to the one being pursued by President Donald Trump, was a major scam that defrauded hundreds of thousands of people. According to the department, the four men used the $25 million raised for the cause in a manner that was “inconsistent with public representations”.
US President Donald Trump reacted to the news of his former aide’s arrest by stating that he had long stopped working with Bannon and distanced himself from the “We Build The Wall” project.
White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany said at the time that President Trump did not support the private wall project, believing that such things should be built by the government and not private companies or individuals. During his time at the White House and on Trump’s campaign, Bannon was reportedly one of the key proponents for building a wall on the border with Mexico, which Trump made one of the primary goals of his presidency.
Trump has already issued a wave of pardons to a slew of longtime associates, including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Charles Kushner, the father of his son-in-law, Jared, his ex-campaign adviser Roger Stone, and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.