(CNN) — President Donald Trump wielded his powers of clemency Tuesday for convicted white-collar criminals and the former Illinois governor accused of attempting to sell a US senate seat.
Trump announced midday he had commuted the prison sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat who has served eight years of a 14-year sentence for the pay-for-play charges. Trump had been weighing the move since at least since 2018.
“He served eight years in jail, a long time. He seems like a very nice person, don’t know him,” Trump told reporters at Joint Base Andrews, suggesting the television appeals of Blagojevich’s wife Patti helped cement his decision.
Trump also announced pardons for former New York police commissioner Bernie Kerik, convicted of tax fraud and lying to officials; Mike Milken, an investment banker known as the “Junk Bond King” who was convicted of felony charges that included securities fraud and conspiracy; and Eddie DeBartolo Jr., the former owner of the San Francisco 49ers who pleaded guilty in 1998 to failing to report a felony in a bribery case.
Aides say the steps he announced on Tuesday were long in the works.
Trump publicly hinted he would use his clemency powers for Blagojevich, a Democrat, in August. But he faced sharp blowback from some conservative members of Congress, including from Illinois, as well as from some White House advisers who said it would undercut a message of draining Washington’s swamp.
On Tuesday, Trump linked Blagojevich’s prosecution to a longtime foe, former FBI Director James Comey, a close friend of former US attorney in Illinois Patrick Fitzgerald, who led the prosecution against Blagojevich.
“It was a prosecution by the same people — Comey, Fitzpatrick — the same group,” Trump said, misstating the Illinois US attorney’s surname.
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