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Flurry Of Activity Comes Amid Trump's Final Hours In The Presidency


Six hours from now, Joe Biden will be the president of the United States and Donald Trump will be a private citizen living in Florida. On his way out, though, Trump is using the powers of his office. He issued last minute pardons to dozens of people, including former White House advisor Steve Bannon and prominent Republican donor Elliot Broidy. NPR's White House correspondent Tamara Keith has been following the final day of President Trump. Good morning, Tam.


KING: We expected the pardons. We just didn't know who it would be. So who do we have?

KEITH: Yeah. You know, there had been talk of President Trump pardoning himself or his adult children, but as of right now, that didn't happen. Still, he followed a pattern that he has throughout his presidency - rewarding friends, political allies and even celebrities with pardons. The big names, as you say, are Bannon, who was indicted for allegedly defrauding hundreds of thousands of people - Trump supporters - in an online campaign to raise funds for a border wall, then pocketing some of the money. He was one of the architects of President Trump's 2016 campaign, then fell out of favor and then worked his way - backed into the president's good graces, in part by publicly defending him during the first impeachment.

Elliot Broidy is a big Republican donor who had previously pled guilty to conspiring to violate foreign lobbying laws. There were also a handful of former Republican lawmakers and former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. As for the celebrities, Trump granted a pardon to rapper Lil Wayne, who pled guilty to weapons charges. He also endorsed Trump during the 2020 campaign. The rapper known as Kodak Black and Michael "Harry O" Harris, the co-founder of Death Row Records, both received commutations. In total, in the wee hours, there were 73 pardons and 70 commutations.

KING: OK. In addition to that, the president also revoked one of his own executive orders. This was something he signed when he first became president, and it was sort of a big part of his promise to Americans.

KEITH: Right. Four years ago, President Trump signed an executive order - an ethics order mandating all kinds of ethics requirements for people in his administration. It was part of his promise to drain the swamp. And at the time he signed it, he boasted that people working in his administration wouldn't be able to go into lobbying for five years after they left, and he said that was so much better than other presidents.

Well, overnight, he issued an executive order revoking the whole thing. So Trump administrations can - officials can go out and monetize their connections right now. And this, however, isn't entirely unprecedented. Former President Bill Clinton did the same thing, overturning his ethics order on the way out. And he was criticized for doing it, including by none other than Donald J. Trump, who in 2016 said Clinton was rigging the system on his way out. Now, Trump has done the same thing.

KING: People refilling the swamp, I guess. Normally, the president leaves and there's a polite patriotic handoff. President Trump isn't taking part in that. We've, in fact, barely seen him since January 6, when his supporters stormed the Capitol at his urging. So where is he sort of at right now?

KEITH: Now he's isolated, as you say. He's headed off to Florida - not going to the inauguration. Top Republican officials will not be attending the departure ceremony that Trump is throwing for himself today at Joint Base Andrews. The vice president, Kevin McCarthy, Mitch McConnell - they're all going to be at the inauguration. And yesterday, McConnell really rebuked President Trump on the floor of the Senate. Let's hear a bit of it.


MITCH MCCONNELL: The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful people.

KEITH: So that is seemingly a reference to both some GOP senators who objected to the election results, but also to Trump. And this matters because President Trump faces - former President Trump faces a trial in the Senate.

KING: Lastly, he released a farewell message yesterday. It was about 20 minutes. What stood out to you?

KEITH: You know, he mostly was reliving his glory days, trying to burnish his reputation and hinting that he'd like to stay in public life.

KING: OK, NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith. Thanks, Tam.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.