Were Trump's pardons an act of rebellion or simply standard procedure?

Donald Trump granted clemency to range of people, from rappers to financiers and lobbyists.

To some extent, it was not so much who he pardoned that had us raising our eyebrows, it was when he chose to issue his pardons, including to Albert J. Pirro, Jr., the ex-husband of Fox News host and longtime ally Jeanine Pirro.

His decision attracted the world's spotlight on the same day of his successor Joe Biden's inauguration - a presidential ceremony which Trump said he would not attend, going against tradition.

His 11th-hour pardons and commutations on the morning of the inauguration could be seen as the last kicks of a dying horse, exercising his last bit of power.However, the batch of 73 pardons and 70 commutations issued in the final hours of his presidency was expected, and for all 'intents and purposes', maintained what is a long-standing presidential tradition of exercising clemency powers at the last minute.

The vast majority of the pardons and commutations on Trump's list were handed out to individuals whose cases were championed by criminal justice reform advocates, including people serving lengthy sentences for low-level offences. His list also included his onetime political strategist, a former top fundraiser and two well-known rappers but not himself or his family.

One concern about the pardon was Bannon's possible connection to the January 6 riot of Trump supporters at the US Capitol, according to a source familiar with the discussions.

Over the course of 19 January, Trump had continued to contemplate pardons that aides believed were settled, including for his former strategist. The president continued to go back and forth on it into Tuesday night.

Other names included on that day were Elliott Broidy, a former top fundraiser for Trump's campaign who pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy.

Where do pardons originate from?

A president’s power to pardon originates from Article Two of the US Constitution which if granted allows a person to be relieved of some or all of the legal consequences of their criminal sentencing.

Who was on the list and what did they do?

Elliott Broidy

Broidy, a former Republican National Committee finance chair and one of Trump's top fundraisers, was pardoned. Broidy pleaded guilty in October to conspiring to violate foreign lobbying laws. Prosecutors said that the scheme aimed to have the Trump administration sink an investigation into the multi-billion-dollar looting of a Malaysian state investment fund.

Steve Bannon

Bannon, 67, was a key adviser in Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. He was charged last year og bilking Trump supporters over an effort to raise private funds to build the president’s wall on the US-Mexico border. He pleaded not guilty.

White House officials had advised Trump against pardoning Bannon, who left the Trump administration in late 2017. The two men have rekindled their relationship in recent months, as Trump sought support for his unproven claims of voter fraud.

Lil Wayne

Lil Wayne, 38, whose real name is Dwayne Michael Carter, pleaded guilty in federal court in December to illegally possessing a firearm and faced up to 10 years in prison. He was scheduled to be sentenced in March in Florida.

A year earlier, the Grammy winner was found with a loaded, gold-plated .45-caliber handgun in his baggage aboard a private plane that had landed at an executive airport near Miami. A previous felony conviction made it illegal for the rapper to have the weapon or ammunition. In October, Wayne tweeted a picture of himself with Trump following what he called a “great meeting” with the president.

Bill K. Kapri

Bill Kapri, who goes by the name Kodak Black, was sentenced to 46 months in prison on federal weapons charges in 2019 after admitting that he falsified information on federal forms to buy four firearms. The rapper obtained three guns: a 9mm handgun, a .380-caliber handgun and a semi-automatic Mini Draco weapon.

Albert J. Pirro, Jr.

Less than an hour before Biden was sworn in, Trump granted a full pardon to Albert J. Pirro, Jr. Pirro, Jr., the ex-husband of Fox News host and Trump ally Jeanine Pirro. He was convicted on conspiracy and tax evasion charges in 2000.

Sholam Weiss

Weiss was convicted of swindling $125m from National Heritage Life Insurance and its elderly policyholders. He fled the United States and was sentenced in absentia in 2000 to 845 years in prison, but he was eventually extradited from Austria. Weiss, 66, is at a US penitentiary in Pennsylvania, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Trump lawyers from his first impeachment, Alan Dershowitz and Jay Sekulow, sent letters to the White House in support of Weiss. His sentence has been commuted.

Last-minute confusion

Trump's final acts of clemency came after a scramble among criminal justice reform advocates and several White House officials to finalise the list and convince Trump to approve the actions.

Most of Trump's pardons were undoubtedly overshadowed by the slew of controversial ones he issued in his final batch on 19 January.

While outgoing presidents generally issue pardons before leaving office, Trump proved more willing to use his pardon power to shamelessly reward political loyalty, the wealthy and well-connected and those who did not cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

After the riot, advisers encouraged Trump to relinquish any plan of a self-pardon because it would appear like he was guilty of something, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Several of Trump's closest advisers also urged him not to grant clemency to anyone involved in the siege on the US Capitol, despite his initial stance that those involved had done nothing wrong.

How do Trump's pardons compare to other US presidents?

Franklin D Roosevelt

While his pardons were mostly controversial in some cases, Trump used his pardon powers sparingly compared to previous US presidents, according to data collated by the Pew Research Centre.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, the 32nd US president, used that power the most, accounting for 2,819 pardons and 488 commutations during his four terms in office between 1933-45.

The 28th US president, Woodrow Wilson, made 1,087 pardons and 1,366 commutations during his two terms between 1913-21 and Harry Truman, the 33rd US president, pardoned 1,913 and commuted 118 between 1945-53.

Barack Obama, granted clemency to 1,927 people by the end of his second term in the White House.Of that figure, 212 people were pardoned and 1,715 were commuted - setting the record for the highest number of commutations by a US president over the last century.

Meanwhile, George Bush Sr, the 41st president of the United States, only used his clemency power for 77 people during 1989-93.