Trump granted a highly publicized pardon to Steve Bannon, his former chief strategist, who graduated from Harvard Business School with honors in 1983. Bannon has been charged by federal prosecutors with defrauding donors of more than $1 million in a scheme purportedly aimed at supporting Trump’s wall on the Mexican border.
He also gave a pardon Bob Zangrillo, a Miami-based developer and venture capitalist, who earned his MBA from Stanford in 1994. He was charged in the college admissions scandal for allegedly conspiring to bribe athletics officials at the University of Southern California to fraudulently designate his daughter as an athletic recruit. He also paid someone to take classes on his daughter’s behalf. The bogus grades were submitted as part of her college application. No other parents caught in what the Justice Department called Operation Varsity Blues received pardons, including two other Harvard MBA grads and one other Stanford MBA.
BANNON CONDEMNED BY HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL WOMEN
The pardons came on Tuesday when Trump granted clemency to 143 people, largely well-connected celebrities, corrupt politicians and nonviolent drug offenders.
Bannon was a highly controversial figure in Trump’s early White House. Early on, more than 650 women graduates or current students of Harvard Business School signed a letter condemning him. The women, representing 35 different class years at Harvard Business School, slammed Bannon, calling him a chief architect of the alt-right movement. The letter, sent to the editor of The New York Times, was apparently drafted by Lauren Rourke, who graduated from HBS with her MBA in 2015 and currently works as a consultant for New York office of The Bridgespan Group in New York, and Ali Huberlie, also a 2015 MBA grad who works as a consultant for the Boston office of Parthenon-EY.
Bannon became a provocateur during Trump’s 2016 campaign but lasted only seven months in the White House. Among other things, Bannon came up with such ideas as bringing Bill Clinton’s accusers to a debate after damaging audio emerged of Trump suggesting he could sexually assault women. Before working for Trump’s campaign, he had promoted many of the same ideas that Trump echoed via the conservative news site Breitbart.
Zangrillo had served as CEO of e-commerce software supplier InterWorld before founding private investment firm Dragon Global, through which he claims to have been an early investor in Facebook, Uber, and Twitter. He is known for lavish Gatsby-esque parties, many of them thrown at his Hollywood Hills mansion, which he put up for sale last year for $48 million.
ACCUSED OF BRIBING USC ATHLETIC OFFICIAL TO GET HIS DAUGHTER INTO USC
While Zangrillo’s daughter was initially rejected by USC, he then allegedly conspired with Singer on a new plan that would allow his daughter to transfer to USC as a rowing recruit. Although her previous application showed no indication of rowing prowess or accolades, her transfer application — submitted to USC on Feb. 1, 2018 — falsely stated that she rowed crew at a club 44 hours per week, 15 weeks out of the year.
According to court documents, the USC crew coach agreed to facilitate Zangrillo’s daughter’s acceptance, provided that KFW pay the crew program.
“Okay, I will take her,” the coach allegedly told the cooperating witness, as recorded in the affidavit. “You guys help us, we’ll help you.”
The documents reveal that a senior associate athletic director at USC ultimately did not advocate for Zangrillo’s daughter to admissions department as an athletics recruit, but instead placed her on a “VIP list for transfers.”
In total, Zangrillo wired $200,000 to KFW’s fraudulent charity accounts and also mailed a check of $50,000 to “USC Women’s Athletics.”