Trump Issues Clemency and Pardons to Blagojevich, 10 Others
“Today, Trump granted clemency to tax cheats, Wall Street crooks, billionaires, and corrupt government officials. Meanwhile thousands of poor and working-class kids sit in jail for nonviolent drug convictions. This is what a broken and racist criminal justice system looks like.”
President Donald Trump granted clemency and issued pardons Tuesday to a number of high-profile criminals. He also commuted the sentence of disgraced former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, Michael D. Shear and Maggie Haberman reported for The New York Times.
As is often the case with the presidential pardons power, friends and associates of many of the convicted individuals had engaged Trump in coordinated campaigns for years to secure freedom for the felons. In Blagojevich’s case, his wife has made numerous appearances on Fox News to appeal to to the president, capitalizing on the well-known fact that Trump regularly tunes into the cable network. Blagojevich himself even appeared on Trump’s TV show, “The Celebrity Apprentice,” prior to his detainment.
Blagojevich had already served 8 years of a 14-year prison sentence for attempting to sell the Senate seat left open when former President Barack Obama took office.
Trump was critical of both the sentence handed down to the former governor and the prosecution team, which consisted of former FBI Director James Comey and US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald. Trump’s own experience with Comey, who he blamed for the special counsel investigation, played a part in convincing him that Blagojevich was unfairly treated.
“That was a tremendously powerful, ridiculous sentence, in my opinion,” Trump said.
Trump used his presidential power to grant clemency to 10 other criminals, according to CNN:
- Eddie DeBartolo Jr.: DeBartolo is the former San Francisco 49ers owner. He paid a $1 million fine for failing to report bribery and gave up his ownership in the team to his sister.
- Michael Milken: Milken was a Wall Street icon as head of the junk bond department at the firm of Drexel Burnham Lambert. He paid a $600 million fine and was barred from the securities industry due to insider trading. Milken had served 22 months of a 10-year sentence.
- Paul Pogue: Pogue was found guilty of underpaying his taxes by 10% over a 3-year period.
- Angela Stanton: Stanton, an author, TV personality, and motivational speaker, served 6 months of house arrest for participating in a stolen vehicle scheme.
- David Safavian: Safavian was a Republican lawyer and lobbyist, and served in the George W. Bush administration. He served 1 year in prison for obstructing a federal investigation.
- Judith Negron: Negron served 8 years of a 35-year sentence for a $205 million Medicare fraud conviction and money laundering.
- Crystal Munoz: Munoz was imprisoned for 12 years for conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute marijuana.
- Tynice Nichole Hall: Hall was also convicted on drug charges, crack cocaine, and illegal possession of firearms. She had already served nearly 14 years.
- Ariel Friedler: Friedler was a software engineer who pled guilty to conspiracy to access a protected computer without authorisation.
- Bernie Kerik: Kerik is a former New York police commissioner who did 3 years in prison for tax fraud and lying to officials.
The bulk clemency issuances raised objections from Democrats, notably presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, D.-Vt. The method by which Trump chose to vet the pardoned individuals drew scrutiny as they were not recommended by the Justice Department. Instead, Trump said he followed “recommendations,” which the White House said came from “longtime friends, business executives, celebrities, campaign donors, sports figures, and political allies,” according to NYT.
“Today, Trump granted clemency to tax cheats, Wall Street crooks, billionaires, and corrupt government officials,” Sanders tweeted. “Meanwhile thousands of poor and working-class kids sit in jail for nonviolent drug convictions. This is what a broken and racist criminal justice system looks like.”
While Trump is within his right to issue pardons and grant clemency, critics have argued it is just another example of Trump’s abuse of power to interfere in the judicial process. Trump campaign donors, by the administration’s own words, influenced the president’s decisions.
At the same time, Trump punished officials who testified against him in his impeachment. Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, his twin brother who had no role in the impeachment, and EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland were all promptly fired after Trump’s acquittal by the Senate, Jeffery Martin wrote for Newsweek.
Trump has issued controversial pardons in the past. Most recently, he pardoned I. Lewis Libby Jr., a former Bush aide, and former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arapaio. The latter proved the president would not shy away from making politically-divisive pardons.
After this week’s round of presidential clemency, Trump was again questioned whether he had considered pardoning Roger Stone, a Republican political operative. Stone has yet to be sentenced for lying to federal investigators and witness tampering.
Trump reportedly has considered the idea, according to NYT, but went on record saying, “I haven’t given it any thought.”
Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D.-N.J., said “The pardoning of these disgraced figures should be treated as a mother national scandal by a lawless executive.”
Trump still has plenty of time remaining to issue more pardons, and if Tuesday’s announcements are any indication, one could be coming down the line to save Stone.