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Trump pardoning ex-strategist Bannon

By © The New York Times Co. and The Associated Press

President Donald Trump has granted clemency to Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist who was charged with defrauding political donors who supported building a border wall that Trump supported, White House officials said.

The president made the decision after a day of frantic efforts to sway his thinking, including from Bannon, who spoke to him by phone Tuesday.

The pardon was described as a preemptive move that would effectively wipe away the charges against Bannon, should he be convicted.

Bannon was indicted and arrested in August by federal prosecutors in Manhattan on charges related to the money raised to promote the construction of the wall long sought by Trump.

The pardon of Bannon was particularly remarkable because he had been charged with a crime but had yet to stand trial. An overwhelming majority of pardons and commutations granted by presidents have been for those who were convicted and sentenced.

The White House had planned to release the list of those granted clemency earlier Tuesday, but the debate over Bannon, who publicly encouraged Trump to fight the certification of the 2020 election results, was part of the delay, officials said.

Trump and Bannon spoke by phone as Bannon’s allies tried to apply pressure to make the pardon happen and his detractors pushed the president not to go ahead with it.

The last-minute clemency would follow separate waves of pardons over the last month for Trump associates convicted in the FBI’s Russia investigation as well as the father of his son-inlaw. It would underscores the president’s willingness, all the way through his four years at the White House, to flex his constitutional powers in ways that defy convention and explicitly aid his allies.

Trump is expected to offer pardons and commutations to as many as 100 people in the hours before he leaves office at noon Wednesday, according to two people briefed on the plans. The list is expected to include names unfamiliar to the American public — regular people who have spent years languishing in prison — as well as politically connected friends and allies.

Bannon has been charged with duping thousands of investors who believed their money would be used to fulfill Trump’s chief campaign promise to build a wall along the southern border. Instead, he allegedly diverted more than a million dollars, paying a salary to one campaign official and personal expenses for himself.

Trump has already pardoned a slew of longtime associates and supporters, including his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort; Charles Kushner, the father of his son-in-law; his longtime friend and adviser Roger Stone; and his former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

A voice of nationalist, outsider conservatism, Bannon — who served in the Navy and worked at Goldman Sachs and as a Hollywood producer before turning to politics — led the conservative Breitbart News before being tapped to serve as chief executive officer of Trump’s 2016 campaign in its critical final months.

Trump is set to leave Washington early Wednesday morning after a grand farewell event at nearby Joint Base Andrews.

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