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Trump Grants Clemency to 11 Convicted Criminals, Including Rod Blagojevich and Bernard Kerik

02-18-2020
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President Donald Trump speaks in the East Room of the White House. (Screenshot credit: The White House)

President Donald Trump granted clemency to several high-profile offenders on Tuesday. 

The well-known individuals include former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was convicted on corruption charges in 2011 related to trying to sell Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat and Bernie Kerik, the former NYPD commissioner imprisoned on felony charges and tax fraud.

Also Trump granted clemency to financier Michael Milken, who pleaded guilty for violating US securities laws. 

The president told reporters before boarding Air Force One that he had commuted the sentence of Blagojevich, noting he had seen Blagojevich's wife advocate for him on television and that the Democrat had appeared on "Celebrity Apprentice."

"He'll be able to go back to his family after serving eight years in jail, which was a powerful and ridiculous sentence in my opinion," Trump said.

Kerik was sentenced to 48 months in federal prison in 2009 after pleading guilty to charges of tax fraud and lying to White House officials, The Washington Post reports.

"There are no words to express my appreciation and gratitude to President Trump," Kerik said in a statement. "With the exception of the birth of my children, today is one of the greatest days in my life — being made a full and whole American citizen again."

Milken is known for his role in developing high-yield bonds in corporate finance. He pleaded guilty in 1990 to six felony counts, including securities fraud, mail fraud and aiding in the filing of a false tax return.

Altogether, Trump pardoned or commuted the sentences of 11 individuals.

A statement released by the White House said, "President Donald J. Trump signed Executive Grants of Clemency granting Full Pardons to the following individuals: Edward DeBartolo, Jr., Michael Milken, Ariel Friedler, Bernard Kerik, Paul Pogue, David Safavian, and Angela Stanton.  In addition, President Trump signed Executive Grants of Clemency granting commutations to Rod Blagojevich, Tynice Nichole Hall, Crystal Munoz, and Judith Negron."

Some say Trump's clemency to Blagojevich is without merit.

Prosecutors have refuted the idea long argued by Blagojevich that he was engaged in common political horse-trading and was a victim of an overzealous U.S. attorney, Patrick Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald said after Blagojevich's arrest that the governor had gone on "a political corruption crime spree" that would make Abraham Lincoln turn over in his grave.

The former governor had exhausted his last legal appeal. He was set to be released in 2024. 

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