Keeping with his tradition of using his power to help political allies, President Donald Trump has pardoned former adviser Stephen Bannon, who's awaiting trial in Manhattan on fraud charges tied to a border wall fundraising effort.
The pardon is unusual because Bannon has yet to stand trial. But it has a familiar ring for Trump because he granted it to a longtime ally who got into trouble with the law.
The president has pardoned former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and he commuted the sentence of longtime ally Roger Stone.
"Even Nixon didn’t pardon his cronies on the way out," said Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Washington-based Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics. "Amazingly, in his final 24 hours in office, Donald Trump found one more way to fail to live up to the ethical standard of Richard Nixon."
Bannon was one of four people accused last summer of defrauding hundreds of thousands of donors in the "We Build the Wall" GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign to finance one of Trump's signature goals. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan say the campaign raised more than $25 million.
Instead of using the money on construction as advertised, the campaign secretly routed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Bannon and three accomplices, according to federal prosecutors.
'Honey badger doesn't give':Steve Bannon fires back on border wall fraud charges
More than $350,000 was allegedly routed to Brian Kolfage, the campaign's founder, and Bannon received more than $1 million, prosecutors said. Kolfage, Bannon and two others were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering, each of which could carry up to 20 years in prison.
Ted Boutrous, a prominent First Amendment and appellate lawyer, slammed Bannon's pardon. "Trump pardoning a guy indicted by the Trump Justice Department for defrauding Trump supporters over the fake Trump wall is a fitting end to the Trump presidency," Boutrous tweeted.
After charges were announced in August, Trump said he felt "very badly" for his former adviser.
Pardon for money scheme:DOJ reviewing 'secret' pardon bribery scheme targeting White House officials. (USA Today)