The rapper Lil Wayne is among those reportedly expected to receive a pardon or clemency from Donald Trump on his last full day in office on Tuesday.
However, sources familiar with the matter who spoke to Reuters have suggested that neither the president himself, nor Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, or former aide Steve Bannon will be on the list, which may number up to 100. Neither will members of Trump’s family get pre-emptive pardons, reports suggest.
While the constitutional legality of a presidential self-pardon remains untested, aides have cautioned Trump that pardoning himself and members of his family may imply guilt that becomes a liability in future state or civil lawsuits against the Trump family and businesses.
It has also been suggested that a self-pardon could antagonise some Republican senators who will be voting during the second Trump impeachment trial, expected later this month.
Lil Wayne pleaded guilty last month to possessing a loaded, gold-plated handgun when his chartered jet landed in Miami in December 2019. He faces a sentence of up to 10 years in prison at a 28 January hearing in Miami.
The rapper appeared to support Trump during last year’s presidential campaign when he tweeted a photo of himself with the president and said he backed Trump’s criminal justice reform programme and economic plan for African Americans.
The New York Times reports that the list of pardons and commutations is expected to include the former New York assembly speaker Sheldon Silver, 76, who was convicted of corruption charges in 2015. After a lengthy legal process, Silver was sentenced in July 2020 to six-and-a-half years in prison and a $1m fine. He is held in the federal prison at Otisville, New York.
Also said to be under consideration for a pardon is Sholam Weiss. Weiss was sentenced to 835 years in prison in 2000 for crimes including racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering. It is frequently described as the longest sentence imposed in the US for a “white collar” crime.
Bannon, 66, who has pleaded not guilty to charges that he defrauded donors to “We Build the Wall”, an online fundraising campaign that raised $25m, is not expected to be on the list. Neither is Giuliani.
It is reported Giuliani has fallen out with the president over unpaid legal fees, and the lawyer has already recused himself from defending Trump in his upcoming Senate impeachment trial, since Giuliani was also involved in the rally on 6 January that preceded a pro-Trump mob ransacking the US Capitol.
He notoriously told the crowd “Let’s have trial by combat,” a remark he has since claimed was a reference to Game of Thrones.
Julian Assange, the Wikileaks founder, another name frequently mentioned in connection to a possible Trump pardon, was also not expected to be on the list.
The list of pardons has been prepared over the weekend in a series of meetings involving the White House counsel, Pat A Cipollone, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.
It is traditional for US presidents to issue pardons and clemency at the end of their term in office. Barack Obama commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning in 2017, George W Bush commuted the sentence of former staffer Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who had been found guilty of perjury, and Bill Clinton controversially pardoned Marc Rich in a move widely criticised as being corrupt after Rich’s ex-wife had made substantial donations to Clinton-related causes.