Good morning, Term Sheet readers.
With just hours to go until Joe Biden’s inauguration, President Donald Trump handed out a flurry of pardons, including ones to former White House strategist Stephen Bannon and other longtime political allies.
But some pardons came as a surprise: The White House announced the pardons of rappers Lil Wayne and Kodak Black.
Trump also granted clemency to Anthony Levandowski, the former Google engineer sentenced to 18 months in jail for stealing trade secrets from the tech giant’s self driving car unit. U.S. District Judge William Alsup at the time of the sentencing dubbed it the “biggest trade secret crime I have ever seen.”
Levandowski was a founding member of Google’s self-driving car project before it was known as Waymo. In 2016, the engineer left to found a self-driving car startup dubbed Otto, a business that was acquired just months later by Uber. But he was later found to have taken thousands of files from the project. Uber fired Levandowski in 2017 before settling its own lawsuit from Alphabet.
Levandowski pled guilty to stealing trade secrets and was forced to declare bankruptcy after a court in San Francisco said he would have to pay $179 million to Google.
Late Tuesday, the White House said that Levandowski’s “sentencing judge called him a ‘brilliant, groundbreaking engineer that our country needs. Mr. Levandowski has paid a significant price for his actions and plans to devote his talents to advance the public good.’”
The pardon was supported by a raft of notable Silicon Valley players, including venture capitalist Peter Thiel, Anduril founder Palmer Luckey, and former Walt Disney executive Michael Ovitz.
“My family and I are grateful for the opportunity to move forward, and thankful to the President and others who supported and advocated on my behalf,” Levandowski wrote on Twitter. Since Uber, Levandowski has gone on to co-found another self-driving startup, Pronto.
It’s hard to imagine Alphabet is pleased to hear the news, though. When asked for a statement, its self-driving car unit Waymo said it had no comment to add.
CAR BONANZA: Chasing after the next Tesla in the electric car space and the purported $7 trillion self-driving car economy, car startups are reaping in the dollars. Electric vehicle company Rivian raised $2.7 billion as it prepares to bring an SUV to market this summer. T. Rowe Price Associates led the round and was joined by investors including Fidelity, Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund, Coatue, and D1 Capital Partners. The round values the company at nearly $28 billion.
Self-driving car company Cruise meanwhile raised $2 billion, pushing its valuation $30 billion. The GM-backed business added Microsoft as a new investor as it prepares to start charging fares this year in San Francisco.