President Donald Trump commuted the sentence of Rod Blagojevich, the former Illinois governor and Celebrity Apprentice contestant, while giving pardons to such high-profile figures as former San Francisco 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr., junk bond king Michael Milken and former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik.
As he headed off on a trip to Los Angeles, where he will attend a fundraiser in Beverly Hills, Trump told reporters that he saw Blagojevich’s wife on TV appealing for a pardon or commutation.
“He served eight years in jail — that’s a long time,” Trump said. “I watched his wife on television. I don’t know him very well. He was on for a short while The Apprentice years ago. Seemed like a very nice person.”
Blagojevich was convicted of trying to “sell” the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama when he became president in 2009. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison in 2011. He was on NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice in 2010 after he was removed from office.
DeBartolo, a real estate developer, did not serve time in prison but pleaded guilty in a scheme to pay a former Louisiana governor, Edwin Edwards, hundreds of thousands of dollars to secure a gambling license. Such figures as Joe Montana, Jim Brown and Paul Anka had advocated for DeBartolo’s pardon. DeBartolo, notably, also owned a USFL franchise in the 1980s, as did Trump.
Kerik pleaded guilty to charges of tax fraud and making false statements and was sentenced to four years in prison in 2010.
Milken plead guilty to securities fraud in 1990 and served 22 months in prison. He since has been a prominent philanthropist and founder of the Milken Institute in Los Angeles.
The White House announced other grants of clemency on Tuesday, including Ariel Friedler, Paul Pogue, David Safavian, Angela Stanton, Tynice Nichole Hall, Crystal Munoz and Judith Negron.
The series of pardons and commutations led reporters to ask Trump whether he is considering a pardon for Roger Stone, his former associate who is due to be sentenced on Thursday. “I haven’t given it any thought … but I think he’s being treated unfairly,” Trump said.
Last week, Trump tweeted that prosecutors’ recommendation that Stone get seven to nine years in prison was a “miscarriage of justice.” The next day, the Justice Department revised its sentencing recommendation, stirring an outcry that Attorney General William Barr was doing to president’s bidding. The four prosecutors on the Stone case resigned, but Barr insisted that he already was looking to revise the sentencing recommendation before Trump tweeted.
Trump insisted that he is “allowed to be totally involved” in Justice Department decisions. “I’m actually, I guess, the chief law enforcement officer of the country, but I’ve chosen not to be involved.”