Trump Offers Clemency to Financier Milken, Blagojevich, Kerik
President Donald Trump announced a set of clemencies and pardons on Tuesday, including for former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich who was convicted of public corruption and for financier Michael Milken who was convicted of securities fraud.
The commutation of the 14-year prison sentence of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich brought a surprising end to one of the highest-profile public corruption cases of the 21st century.
Trump’s closest confidants had urged him to pardon Milken, the 1980s “junk bond king” who has unsuccessfully sought for decades to reverse his conviction.
Trump also pardoned former New York City police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, who was sentenced to four years in prison for failure to pay taxes and lying to White House officials. The president pardoned Edward DeBartolo Jr., who owned the San Francisco 49ers football team for 23 years and pleaded guilty in 1998 to failing to report an alleged extortion attempt.
Trump has relished the use of his clemency power, which is virtually unchecked by the Constitution. He has issued more than two dozen pardons and commutations since becoming president, many of which were awarded to political allies.
The president sought to draw a connection between Blagojevich’s case and the federal investigation into alleged ties between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia. Trump calls that probe a “witch hunt.”
Some Democrats were quick to criticize Trump’s move on Blagojevich.
“Illinoisans have endured far too much corruption, and we must send a message to politicians that corrupt practices will no longer be tolerated,” Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker said in a statement. “President Trump has abused his pardon power in inexplicable ways to reward his friends and condone corruption, and I deeply believe this pardon sends the wrong message at the wrong time.”
Trump’s decision on Blagojevich comes almost two years after the Democratic ex-governor formally requested a commutation and sustained public appeals for mercy from his family.
Trump has repeatedly criticized Blagojevich’s prison sentence and said he would consider using his clemency power to cut it short.
The president told reporters in August he was “thinking very seriously about commuting his sentence” because Blagojevich was “treated very, very unfairly.” He tweeted the following day that many saw his prison sentence that “White House staff is continuing the review of this matter.”
Blagojevich, 63, was convicted in 2011 of 17 charges for what federal prosecutors said was a sweeping corruption plot that included an attempt to sell former President Barack Obama’s vacated U.S. Senate seat. The governor was impeached and removed from office in January 2009, about one month after he was arrested by FBI agents at his home.
Trump and Blagojevich have some personal history. Before his conviction, the former governor appeared on “The Celebrity Apprentice,” a spinoff of the long-running reality television hosted by Trump.
Blagojevich’s wife, Patti, has also made numerous appearances on Fox News to ask Trump to shorten her husband’s prison term. The president referred to her comments when speaking to reporters last summer about a possible commutation.
“I watched his wife, on television, saying that the young girl’s father has been in jail for now seven years, and they’ve never seen him outside of an orange uniform,” Trump said. “His wife, I think, is fantastic.”
While Blagojevich is a Democrat, his wife has framed clemency as a way for the president to exact revenge for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, which Trump has repeatedly decried as a “hoax.”
Former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who prosecuted Blagojevich’s case, is friends with former FBI Director James Comey and served as his personal lawyer. Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia stemmed from a probe begun under Comey’s watch.
“This same cast of characters that did this to my family are out there trying to do it to the president,” Patti Blagojevich told the Chicago Sun-Times in an April 2018 phone interview.
Fitzgerald was also the special prosecutor who led the federal investigation into I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, whom Trump pardoned in 2018 for lying to federal agents probing the leak of a CIA officer’s identity. Libby was former Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff.
The White House has fielded multiple requests for Blagojevich’s clemency, including from well-known Democrats like civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, who wrote a letter to Trump last summer.
But House Republicans had urged him not to offer clemency to Blagojevich. A group of GOP lawmakers representing Illinois wrote in a July 2018 letter that such a move would “set a detrimental precedent and send a damaging message on your efforts to root out public corruption in our government.
Source: Read Full Article