WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump on Tuesday commuted the sentence of a former Illinois governor jailed for corruption, as well as pardoning a New York City police chief imprisoned for tax fraud.
Pardons were also handed out to Edward DeBartolo Jr, a former owner of the San Francisco 49ers football team, and Michael Milken, a well-known financier who pleaded guilty in 1990 to securities and tax fraud.
The flurry of clemency actions — 11 in total — raised expectations that Trump is considering wielding his power in more controversial cases involving close former associates, including Republican consultant Roger Stone.
The most notorious of the current crop is Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat who was removed from his governor’s post in Illinois in 2009 and later convicted of essentially selling the senator’s seat that had been vacated when Barack Obama won the US presidency in 2008.
Trump, a Republican who has often campaigned on his claim to be fighting corruption in Washington, was vague about his reasoning for freeing Blagojevich, who was sentenced to 14 years.
“We have commuted the sentence of Rod Blagojevich. He served eight years in jail, a long time,” Trump told reporters. “He seems like a very nice person, don’t know him.”
He pardoned Bernard Kerik, who was NYPD commissioner at the time of the September 11, 2001 attacks. Kerik pleaded guilty in 2009 to tax fraud but had been released from prison in 2013.
Speculation has been building that Trump will issue pardons to his associates Roger Stone and Paul Manafort, both caught up in the wide-ranging investigation into Russia’s attempt to influence Trump’s 2016 election win.
Either one would stir more controversy than Tuesday’s cases and Trump gave only a hint when asked if he is planning to pardon Stone.
“I haven’t given it any thought,” he said. “But I think he’s being treated unfairly.”