President Trump early Wednesday issued former White House senior adviser Steve Bannon a pardon.
Bannon was arrested on fraud charges last summer for allegedly being involved in a scheme that defrauded more than $1 million from Trump-supporting donors in a fundraising project called “We Build the Wall” that was related to the southern border wall.
He has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.
Bannon was among 73 people pardoned by President Trump during Trump’s final hours in office. Trump also commuted the prison sentences of 70 other individuals.
“Mr. Bannon has been an important leader in the conservative movement and is known for his political acumen,” the White House said in the statement announcing the pardons.
TRUMP PARDONS STEVE BANNON, LIL WAYNE, DOZENS OF OTHERS; ALSO COMMUTES SENTENCES
Trump first worked with Bannon, 67, a former executive chairman of conservative site Breitbart News, during his 2016 campaign when Bannon was hired as the campaign’s executive director and was credited by many with bringing more focus to Trump’s White House bid.
Steve Bannon speaks with reporters in New York City after pleading not guilty to charges that he ripped off donors to an online fundraising scheme to build a southern border wall, Aug. 20, 2020. (Associated Press)”>
Following Trump’s 2016 win, Bannon became White House chief strategist and senior counselor and was briefly given a seat on the National Security Council.
But he left within the first eight months of the administration after reported clashes with senior advisers such as Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law.
After his departure, Bannon began to criticize Trump in a series of TV interviews and through Breitbart.
Later that year, he told “60 Minutes” that Trump’s firing of then-FBI Director James Comey, which led to former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, was the “biggest mistake in modern political history.”
In 2018, Trump said of Bannon: “When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind. Steve was a staffer who worked for me after I had already won the nomination by defeating seventeen candidates, often described as the most talented field ever assembled in the Republican Party.”
Trump added Bannon didn’t represent his base and was only “in it for himself.”
Trump also referred to him as “Sloppy Steve” after quotes attributed to Bannon were reported in journalist Michael Wolff’s controversial book “Fire and Fury.”
In one explosive quote from the book, Wolff claimed Bannon called a meeting the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. held with a Russian lawyer before the election “treasonous.”
By 2020, however, Bannon was reportedly slowly coming back into Trump’s good graces and had started publicly defended him during his impeachment trial.
“He’ll be exonerated by the Senate in front of the American people and the world,” Bannon told FOX Business in December 2019.
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He added that Trump “didn’t do anything wrong.”
Bannon hosted a pro-Trump podcast during the 2020 campaign and briefly spoke to Trump last summer, the Washington Post reported.
The president distanced himself from Bannon following his arrest, calling the “We Build the Wall” effort “inappropriate,” but also said he “felt badly” for his former adviser.
Trump went back and forth for some time before deciding the pardon Bannon, the Post reported.