Judge Clears Steve Bannon of Federal Charges

Judge Clears Steve Bannon of Federal Charges

(HorizonPost.com) – One would think a presidential pardon and dismissal of federal charges would be a truly clean slate for Steve Bannon. But there might be more to the story.

Steve Bannon served in former President Donald Trump’s administration as the White House chief strategist until August 2017. He filled a similar role during Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. Bannon left his position because of tensions between himself and the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and other administration advisors, leaving behind a somewhat strained relationship with the POTUS.

We Build the Wall

After his departure, Bannon joined an effort to privately crowdfund a portion of the border wall construction between the United States and Mexico as President Trump envisioned. However, allegations arose claiming he siphoned off approximately $1 million of the donations as personal gain.

Presidential Pardon

He was arrested in August 2020 by inspectors from the United States Postal Service with assistance from the United States Coast Guard while he was on a yacht off the coast of Connecticut. During the ensuing months, the president clearly communicated that his relationship with Bannon was unequivocally broken.

Nonetheless, in the final hours of his presidency, Trump apparently took pity upon Bannon and issued a “full and unconditional pardon,” which Bannon accepted. Many people are unaware that presidential pardons only cover federal and not state offenses, and by accepting the pardon, the former advisor probably compromised his own freedom.

The Proper Course

U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres dismissed all federal charges against Bannon on Tuesday, May 25, over the protests of federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York in Manhattan who argued his indictment should stand despite the presidential pardon.

During her dismissal of his charges, which she called the “proper course” of action, she noted that it wasn’t the court’s habit to remove defendants from the docket without resolving the indictments against them. She also noted that accepting a pardon is tantamount to a guilty plea based on prior legal precedent.

The Law of Unintended Consequences

In 1915, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled in Burdick v. United States regarding pardons that “[issuing one] carries an imputation of guilt and acceptance of a confession of [the crime].” The judge who cleared Bannon of the charges noted this precedent in her ruling. In doing so, she may have handed the State of New York a gift in its case against Bannon.

Because of the SCOTUS ruling, the former advisor and his legal team may be hard-pressed to craft a defense if this case goes to trial. Accepting the pardon is essentially an open admission of guilt, and any judge would probably see this as a waiver of the defendant’s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

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