President Trump on Tuesday night pardoned former top campaign aide and White House strategist Steve Bannon, who was arrested for an alleged scam involving private donations to build a border wall with Mexico.
Reuters cited senior administration officials saying that Trump had pardoned Bannon. An official statement from the White House was expected early Wednesday morning.
Bannon, the nationalist firebrand who was formerly the executive chairman of Breitbart News, had been facing a May trial on fraud and money laundering charges in Manhattan federal court.
Bannon was accused of scamming $1 million from donors to the “We Build the Wall” GoFundMe campaign launched by US Air Force veteran Brian Kolfage, who lost three limbs during a 2004 bomb blast in Iraq.
He was busted in August aboard the “Lady May,” a $28 million yacht owned by Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui.
Bannon’s pardon was among a wave of last-minute clemencies the White House was expected to announce ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday and followed nearly 90 pardons and commutations previously granted by Trump since 2017.
In August 2016, Trump named Bannon chief executive of his first White House bid, largely supplanting campaign chairman Paul Manafort, a veteran Republican operative and lobbyist who Trump pardoned last month for two convictions tied to then-special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.
Following Trump’s stunning, upset victory over heavily favored Hillary Clinton, the president-elect rewarded Bannon with a plum job as his chief strategist and senior counselor in the White House.
Steve Bannon was the former chief strategist for President Trump and the executive chairman of Breitbart News.Eduardo Munoz Alvarez, File/AP
Trump also put Bannon on an equal footing with his first chief of staff, former Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus.
Trump even appointed Bannon to a coveted spot on the National Security Council’s Principals Committee, but he was ousted in April 2017 amid reported feuding with more-moderate presidential advisers led by Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Bannon’s White House tenure ended four months later, with reports saying Trump thought Bannon was grandstanding in interviews and also leaking to reporters.
In 2018, Trump blasted Bannon on Twitter as “Sloppy Steve” after he was quoted calling Ivanka Trump “dumb as a brick” and Donald Trump Jr. “treasonous” in Michael Wolff’s book “Fire and Fury.”
Trump also said Bannon “cried when he got fired and begged for his job.”
Despite the rift, Bannon publicly defended Trump on his “War Room” podcast, but his fiery rhetoric got him into hot water with leading social media platforms.
In November, Twitter banned Bannon’s @WarRoomPandemic account for “glorification of violence” during a podcast in which he suggested Trump start his second term by firing Dr. Anthony Fauci and FBI Director Christopher Wray — before saying he’d “actually like to go back to the old times of Tudor England.”
“I’d put the heads on pikes, right, at the two corners of the White House as a warning to federal bureaucrats,” he said.
Earlier this month, YouTube also banned his podcast after former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani appeared on the program following the Jan. 6 riot at the US Capitol and repeated unsubstantiated claims about fraud during last year’s presidential election.