The final 24 hours of the presidency of Donald J Trump were marked by a flurry of Presidential Pardons, and a few petty antics. The inauguration ceremony of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, by comparison, was stately and reassuring for a nation beset by uncertainty and chaos in recent months. 

Trump’s Problematic Pardons

As the end of Trump’s presidency neared, debates raged about who the former president would pardon. Although Trump floated the idea of pardoning himself and his children, ostensibly for their role in the January 6th attempted insurrection at the Capitol, aides prevailed in warning him away from that course of action.

However, Trump did go forward with many controversial pardons, some of which are potentially problematic. Trump pardoned many long-time associates and business contacts, mostly those who refused to turn over on him and reveal his dirty laundry in the 4 years during which Democrats and impeachment proponents tried to dig up Trump’s past as fuel against him. 

Some of Trump’s most controversial 11th-hour pardons include:

  • Stephen Bannon: Trump’s long-time pal and conservative leader was pardoned for a series of fraud charges. 
  • Elliot Broidy: GOP fundraiser who was pardoned for charges that he tried to lobby the US government into dropping charges from an embezzlement investigation. 
  • Randall “Duke” Cunningham: This former GOP California politician was sentenced to 8 years for accepting bribes while in public office.
  • Ed Henry: This former Alabama GOP state Representative was pardoned for a Medicare and Medicaid fraud scheme. 
  • Rick Renzi: GOP Arizona state rep who was convicted of racketeering, insurance fraud, money laundering, bribery, and extortion. 
  • Albert Pirro Jr: Ex-husband of Fox News Trump Surrogate Judge Jeanine Pirro, convicted of conspiracy and tax evasion.

These pardons add to others that Trump has extended over his term in office to paint a picture of pardons granted to business associates, fraudsters, and those who remained loyal to Trump himself. It was expected that Trump would use the presidential pardon to help those who helped him, but the extent to which he did so still raised eyebrows. Former adviser Michael Flynn and Blackwater mercenaries are among those controversial pardons prior to the latest batch. 

If it seems as though there’s a theme of quid-pro-quo for some of these pardons, critics tend to agree.

Trump’s Surprising Pardons

Kodak Black

Alongside pardons that suggest walking the line of abuse of the presidential pardon walk pardons that are perhaps more surprising. Among the list of those pardoned who are not business allies of Trump include, Per the BBC:

  • “Lil Wayne: whose real name is Dwayne Carter, pleaded guilty to a federal weapons charge last year and has been pardoned. He posted a photo of himself with Mr Trump during the election campaign praising the president’s work on criminal reform.
  • Kodak Black, real name Bill K Kapri, who was also charged with firearms offences, had his sentence of three years and 10 months commuted. The White House statement praised his philanthropic work.
  • Michael ‘Harry O’ Harris – co-founder of Death Row Records, who served 32 years for attempted murder and cocaine trafficking and whose case was championed by rapper Snoop Dogg. He was pardoned
  • Kwame Kilpatrick was sentenced in 2013 to 28 years in prison on charges of racketeering, bribery and extortion in relation to his period as Detroit mayor from 2002 to 2008. His sentence was commuted – the White House said this was ‘strongly supported by prominent members of the Detroit community.’
  • Ken Kurson, a friend of Mr Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner charged with cyberstalking during a divorce, was pardoned.”

In all, the former president issued nearly 150 pardons in his final 24 hours in the White House.

Q Followers Question Future as Hopes for 11th Hour Coup Dashed

While Trump was busy issuing pardons and making plans to leave the White House early today, his supporters and followers of the Q-Anon conspiracy theories were waiting and hoping. Message boards between supporters have rumbled in recent days with, “wait and see,” messages, promising that today, Trump would stay in power and Biden would end up arrested.

As the inauguration ceremony came and went, the boards lit up again. This time, supporters were expressing their dejection, disappointment, and confusion. Some supporters have even suggested that they feel so let down by the absence of a coup, they can no longer support the former president. Others express hope that something is still brewing. 

NBC reports, “While Biden took the oath, one top post on a QAnon forum read: ‘I don’t think this is supposed to happen” and wondered, ‘How long does it take the fed to run up the stairs and arrest him?’

Other users became immediately dejected, realizing their dreams of a bloody coup were not going to take place.

‘Anyone else feeling beyond let down?’ one top post on a popular QAnon forum read. ‘It’s like being a kid and seeing the big gift under the tree thinking it is exactly what you want only to open it and realize it was a lump of coal.’

One of the largest QAnon groups on Telegram closed comments to let everyone ‘take a breather,’ after Biden’s inauguration. When it reopened after charges of censorship, thousands of users commented, expressing a range of reactions: confusion and realization that QAnon was in fact a hoax, as well as renewed commitment to the conspiracy theory, despite its unreliability.

Ron Watkins, the former administrator for the message board and QAnon hub 8kun and a major force behind false conspiracy theories surrounding the election results, seemingly capitulated, posting a note to his more than 100,000 followers: ‘We gave it our all. Now we need to keep our chins up and go back to our lives as best we are able.’”

Can folks deeply entrenched in the alternate reality of Q, as Watkins suggested, come around? It’s hard to imagine the same violent would-be insurrectionists from January 6th coming to accord with the rest of the world simply because their grand plan failed. However, the overall message seems to be: they’re going to have to find a way to face reality. 

Stately Inauguration Provides Calming Backdrop to End of Chaotic Presidency

Joe Biden and Wife

As the chaos of the final day of Trump’s presidency came to a close, the swearing-in ceremony of Biden and Harris provided a stark contrast. At noon today, power officially transferred and Biden became the 46th President of the United States. The ceremony was stately, celebratory, and attended by some of Washington’s most powerful. Guests included former Presidents Barack Obama and George W Bush, along with former First Ladies Michelle Obama and Laura Bush. Although Former President Jimmy Carter could not attend, he received a shout-out during the ceremony. While former vice president Mike Pence did not turn up to Trump’s Washington farewell, he was conspicuously present at Biden’s inauguration, respecting the political norms that represent a peaceful transference of power.

Americans across social media expressed relief at seeing something so normal and traditional after four years of upended norms. Even those who did not vote for Biden seemed to agree that it was a breath of fresh air. Biden’s inauguration address directly offered comfort to those worried for their future because of his presidency. The 46th President of the US promised to represent all Americans, mentioning racial injustice and climate crisis several times. 

Many watching expressed joy at seeing Harris, the first vice president in American history, sworn into office. Even opponents of the former DA had to admit that the moment was historic and moving.

Amanda Gormon, a 22-year-old National Youth Poet Laureate and the youngest inaugural poet in history, wowed viewers with her powerful piece. Gormon’s poem reads, in part:

“we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one
We will rise from the gold-limbed hills of the west,
we will rise from the windswept northeast
where our forefathers first realized revolution
We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the midwestern states,
we will rise from the sunbaked south
We will rebuild, reconcile and recover.”

Although it remains to be seen what the Biden-Harris legacy will be, it is certainly to be a far cry from the Trump-Pence legacy. With the first day marked by peace, promises of unity, and olive branches a’plenty, the change in momentum is nearly breathtaking. Time will tell how successful Biden is at bringing a shattered country together, but as Trump stews in Florida, Biden is getting to work tonight. Trump did honor the norm of leaving a letter for his incoming successor, and it will be interesting to see what advice he offered. It could well be among the first steps towards healing these fractured but United states. 

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