Who didn’t Trump pardon? From Julian Assange to Joe Exotic

President spends final hours absolving Steve Bannon and 142 others but big names miss the cut

Joe Sommerlad
Wednesday 20 January 2021 12:53 GMT
Related video: Trump's pardoning powers mocked by Conan O’Brien

Donald Trump’s final act as 45th president of the United States was to issue another ream of pardons, absolving allies of federal charges with the flourish of a pen.

Of the 143 people excused, the most famous name was surely his former chief strategist Steve Bannon, who is yet to even face trial after being charged with defrauding the president’s own supporters through a scheme to crowdfund the completion of his long-promised US-Mexico border wall, which Mr Trump had originally claimed America’s neighbour to the south would be paying for.

Also granted a reprieve on Tuesday night’s list were the rappers Lil Wayne and Kodak Black, Republican fundraiser Elliot Broidy, ex-Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and Death Row Records co-founder Michael “Harry-O” Harris.

But much of the speculation about who else he might forgive proved incorrect.

Here’s a look at the ones that got away. Or rather, didn’t get away.


There is no precedent for a US president to pardon himself but the Constitution does not explicitly prohibit it either, merely recognising the country’s leader’s authority to grant “reprieves and pardons for offences against the United States”.

That means that, had Mr Trump done so, it would have been up to the courts to decide whether the gesture was legally valid.

The twice-impeached president was presumably advised against it by his own counsel on the basis that it was likely to be humiliatingly overturned. But without such a protection in place and without the cloak of high office to shield him, he is certainly left vulnerable to prosecution.

District of Columbia attorney general Karl Racine let it be known during an interview with Ali Veshi on MSNBC on Sunday that Mr Trump could possibly be charged by city prosecutors with “a misdemeanor, a six-month-in-jail maximum” over his role in inciting the storming of the US Capitol Building two weeks ago.

“Let it be known that the office of attorney general has a potential charge that it may utilise,” Mr Racine said. “It's law in DC since 2011. It makes illegal the statements of individuals that clearly encourage, cajole, and otherwise, you know, get people motivated to commit violence.”

Others, notably ex-FBI director James Comey, have called on Joe Biden to use the same powers to pardon Mr Trump in the greater interest of healing the nation, just as Gerald Ford did Richard Nixon in 1974 after Watergate.

Mr Trump could also face legal problems over his damning 2 January call with Georgia’s secretary of state Brad Raffensperger in which he demanded the Republican official help him “find” the 11,760 votes he needed to overturn the election result in the swing state, which looks very much like a violation of federal law prohibiting election interference.

His children

No charges have yet been brought against Don Jr, Eric or Ivanka Trump but it was thought the president might make a pre-emptive move to shield his adult offspring from prosecution, all three having played a role in riling up the would-be insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol on 6 January.

Mr Trump’s sons addressed the “Save America Rally” crowd in fiery terms that day, with Don Jr warning Republicans preparing to certify the election results in the Senate, “We’re coming for you”, and Ivanka labelling the rioters “patriots” on Twitter before deleting the tweet.

Both are believed to have political ambitions of their own in future, with Ivanka tipped to launch a Republican Senate challenge in Florida.

Mr Trump had already pardoned Charles Kushner, her father-in-law, a real estate executive who was sentenced to two years in prison for tax evasion, witness tampering and illegal campaign donations.

Don Jr is also reportedly wanted for questioning by the aforementioned Mr Racine over the alleged misuse of 2017 inauguration funds.

Rudy Giuliani

The president’s personal attorney suffered humiliation after humiliation during the transition period as he led the legal challenge to overturn the election, from the Borat sting to the Four Seasons Total Landscaping debacle to the running hair dye, all in the process of losing more than 60 court cases based on conspiracy theories undermining the ballot.

Like the president and his eldest heir, Mr Giuliani could also face prosecution after he told the far-right mob who laid seige to the legislative complex he advocated “trial by combat” since all legal options had been exhausted to keep their idol in the White House.

Julian Assange

Elsewhere, the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange missed out on a pardon despite a last-minute plea from Baywatch icon Pamela Anderson on Tucker Carlson’s Fox show for the president to come to his aid.

Mr Assange's partner, Stella Morris, had previously said: “I urge the Department of Justice to drop the charges and the president of the United States to pardon Julian.”

The 49-year-old is wanted to face an 18-count indictment, alleging a plot to hack computers and a conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defence information.

Earlier this month, Mr Assange won his fight to avoid extradition from the UK to the US but was denied bail on mental health grounds due to the risk of suicide. The US government has formally lodged an appeal against the decision to block the extradition.

Joe Exotic

The flamboyant star of Netflx’s surprise lockdown hit documentary series Tiger King, Mr Exotic missed the cut despite widespread speculation to the contrary.

Known for his bleached mullet and penchant for firearms, Mr Exotic is serving a 22-year prison sentence for plotting to kill rival keeper Carol Baskin and for animal cruelty.

The disappointment will be particularly felt by private investigator Eric Love, who is leading his case and tempted fate by confidently telling Metro on Tuesday: “We’re going to be celebrating. We have good reason to believe it will come through. We’re confident enough we already have a limousine parked about half a mile from the prison. We are really in action mode right now.”

He added: “I’ve got make-up, wardrobe, the whole unit that will come up. The first thing Joe wants to do, he wants his hair done. He hasn’t had his hair done in two-and-a-half years. That’s the first order of business. Then we’ll probably go and get some pizzas, steak, maybe a McRib.”

On Twitter, Exotic’s fans were doubly sorry. “Looks like Trump is on Team Baskin after all,” one wrote.

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