Donald Trump expertly trolling America today with a series of pardons and commutations for some of the country's most infamous white collar criminals and political crooks, and of course they just happen to be white guys.
President Donald Trump announced a host of pardons and commutations on Tuesday, ranging from Rod Blagojevich, the former Illinois governor jailed on corruption charges, to Bernie Kerik, the former New York police commissioner.
"Yes, we have commuted the sentence of Rod Blagojevich. He served eight years in jail, a long time," Trump told reporters before boarding Air Force One en route to Los Angeles.
The commutation was one of a flurry of legal actions Trump took Tuesday, including pardons for Kerik, financier Michael Milken and former San Francisco 49ers owner Edward DeBartolo, Jr. And they came days before the scheduled sentencing of Roger Stone in federal court in D.C., amid widespread speculation about whether the president will pardon his former longtime aide.
Stone was at the center of last week's drama inside the Justice Department, with four career prosecutors quitting his case after Attorney General William Barr overruled their sentencing recommendation.
Stone's looming fate has drawn Trump's condemnation in recent weeks, with the president calling it a "miscarriage of justice!" on Twitter and excoriating the prosecutors and judge for their handling of the case. On Tuesday, he appeared to echo a Fox News contributor’s call for a new trial.
Trump's clemency moves furthered a pattern in which those seeking pardons have aggressively lobbied the president's allies and associates, jumping ahead of the formal process by which the White House usually reviews pardon requests. And Tuesday's announcement by the White House offered a few tantalizing hints as to who might be the next on the president's list.
Now Trump also pardoned or commuted the sentences of some less infamous people who have been pressing for one in the media through criminal justice reform:
Ariel Friedler hacked into his competitors’ computers. Paul Pogue filed false income tax statements. David Safavian is a Republican lawyer who was convicted of perjury in connection with the Abramoff corruption scandal. Angela Stanton “spent time in Georgia prisons for things like felony embezzlement, theft and fraud” but since her release in 2005 has become a best-selling author and the creator of Reclaim It Albany.
Tynice Nicole Hall was convicted of conspiracy and drug offenses involving powder and crack cocaine because her boyfriend sold drugs out of her house. Crystal Munoz was convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 1000 kilograms of marijuana. Judith Negron received a 35-year sentence as part of a Medicare fraud racket.
Hey, but he got all these names from
Unsurprisingly, a key influence that led to Trump’s decision, particularly as it related to Blagojevich, was Fox News. The same could partly be said of the decision on Kerik, a frequent Fox News guest whose pardon was backed by several of the network’s stars; Milken, whose pardon was supported by Fox Business Network host and Trump loyalist Maria Bartiromo; and Angela Stanton, an occasional pro-Trump TV pundit whose pardon was pushed by frequent Fox News guest and evangelical leader Alveda King.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Trump made the Fox News connection abundantly clear, telling reporters that he decided to commute the rest of Blagojevich’s sentence because he’d seen the ex-governor’s wife Patti Blagojevich pleading her husband’s case on Fox.
“I watched his wife on television,” Trump declared, adding that he didn’t know the ex-governor “very well” despite Blagojevich’s appearances on The Celebrity Apprentice years ago.
In mid-2018, the president repeatedly asked close advisers to explore a Blagojevich pardon and, while doing so, emphatically referenced clips he’d seen on Fox, including a segment on informal Trump adviser Jeanine Pirro’s weekend show, according to two sources who independently discussed the matter with the president at the time.
According to liberal media-watchdog Media Matters for America, Patti Blagojevich took to Fox programming in April 2018 to push for her husband’s sentence to be reduced, making at least seven appearances on some of Trump’s favorite primetime shows such as Tucker Carlson Tonight and The Ingraham Angle.
The hosts, meanwhile, didn’t even bother with subtlety during the interviews. For instance, Tucker Carlson asked Mrs. Blagojevich what she would say “if you could speak to the president.”
Of course, money talks too.
For those who didn’t receive the Fox News treatment, it appears that in at least one case, cold hard cash did the talking. Paul Pogue, a construction company owner who pleaded guilty to underpaying his taxes by $473,000 and received three years probation, was issued a full pardon and clemency by the president.
According to FEC filings, Pogue’s family has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars in direct contributions and in-kind air travel to the Trump Victory Committee. Beginning in August 2019, Ben Pogue—CEO of Pogue Construction and son of Paul Pogue—and his wife Ashleigh made over $200,000 in contributions to the campaign.
In August alone, Ben Pogue donated $85,000 to Trump Victory while Ashleigh Pogue contributed $50,000 that month. The following month, Ben Pogue made an in-kind air travel contribution of $75,404.40. The couple also made several large donations to the Republican National Committee and each donated $5,600 to Donald Trump for President Inc.
On the day of their first donation to the Trump campaign, Ashleigh posted an Instagram photo of her and her husband posing with Donald Trump Jr. and his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, at the Hamptons.
But the real message is a clear as a Nordic spring lake: pardons for those who Mueller put behind bars are now coming, and for everyone else, justice is for sale if the price is right.