US President Donald Trump speaks at a news conference at the White House in Washington, DC, USA, 30 July 30 2020. EPA/YURI GRIPAS / POOL

dpa/GNA – Donald Trump pardoned his former chief strategist Steve Bannon as part of a last-minute clemency spree before he leaves office.

The White House announced that Trump was pardoning Bannon and 72 others early Wednesday, just hours before president-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony was set to begin.

Trump also commuted the sentences of 70 people.

Bannon was arrested in the summer and is accused of defrauding people who donated to a campaign to privately build a wall on the US border with Mexico.

He pleaded not guilty and was released on bail. A trial was planned for May.

“Prosecutors pursued Mr. Bannon with charges related to fraud stemming from his involvement in a political project,” the statement issued on behalf of Trump said.

“Mr. Bannon has been an important leader in the conservative movement and is known for his political acumen.”

Bannon joined Trump’s team in 2016 and took charge of the campaign.

The 67-year-old is credited with playing a significant role in Trump’s surprising success at the time. After winning the election, Bannon became Trump’s chief strategist, but only served seven months in the job.

In recent weeks he has already pardoned a slew of long-time associates and supporters, including his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort; Charles Kushner, the father of his son-in-law; his longtime friend and adviser Roger Stone; and his former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

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