President Donald Trump on Tuesday granted clemency to 11 individuals, using his presidential pardon power to political advantage in many highly politically sensitive cases.
The wave of seven pardons and four commutations, some of which Trump has been considering for years, came amid a post-impeachment flurry of presidential prerogative, from ridding his team of aides he deemed disloyal to flagrantly inserting himself into Justice Department matters.
The White House did not provide evidence of a detailed pardon process conducted through the Justice Department, and the President did not explain his decisions at length. But Trump called one of the sentences “ridiculous” and said he relied on recommendations from others to make the decisions.
“These are all people that you have to see the recommendations. I rely on recommendations, very importantly,” he told reporters at Andrews Air Force Base before departing for a western swing Tuesday afternoon.
The 11 individuals included convicted white-collar criminals and the former Illinois governor accused of attempting to sell a US senate seat.
Here are the individuals who received clemency:
Trump commuted the sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat and former contestant on “Celebrity Apprentice” who served eight years of a 14-year sentence for the pay-for-play charges. He was released from prison Tuesday.
“He served eight years in jail, a long time. He seems like a very nice person, don’t know him,” Trump said, calling his sentence “ridiculous” and suggesting the television appeals of Blagojevich’s wife Patti helped cement his decision.
Aides had worked to convince Trump against reducing Blagojevich’s sentence, believing it would play poorly. And Republican members of Congress lobbied Trump to drop the idea. But inside the White House, Jared Kushner championed efforts to pardon or commute the former governor’s sentence.
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.
Eddie DeBartolo Jr.
Trump granted clemency to former San Francisco 49ers team owner Eddie DeBartolo.
DeBartolo pleaded guilty in 1998 to failing to report a felony in a bribery case, which led to former Louisiana Gov. Edwin W. Edwards getting sent to federal prison.
DeBartolo did not serve jail time, but he agreed to pay up to $1 million in fines. He also relinquished ownership of the 49ers to his sister, Denise York.
Former 49ers wide receiver Jerry Rice told press at the White House Tuesday morning that Trump and a group advocating for DeBartolo discussed what the former 49ers owner had done on and off the field.
“I think with Eddie and what he has accomplished, what he has done on the football field, off the football field a lot of charity work so we talked about that,” Rice said. “We talked about just being great. You know, trying to be the greatest of all time. And you know, I take my hat off for Donald Trump and what he did.”
Trump granted a pardon to legendary 1980s junk bond king Michael Milken, who served 22 months of a 10year prison sentence for violating securities laws and has since become a prominent philanthropist.
Milken rose to prominence on Wall Street in the 1980s as the head of the high-yield bond department, also known as junk bonds, at the now defunct firm Drexel Burnham Lambert.
But Milken was accused of taking part in an insider trading scheme and eventually pleaded guilty to several counts of securities violations tied to a scandal with former stock trader Ivan Boesky. He also paid a $600 million fine and was banned from the securities industry.
Since his release from prison in 1993, Milken, now 73 and a survivor of prostate cancer, has become a major donor to charities funding cancer research. He also started up the Milken Institute, a leading nonprofit and nonpartisan economic research firm that holds a major conference every spring attended by many A-listers in the world of finance.
Trump told reporters Milken has “done an incredible job for the world with all his research on cancer” and that “he’s suffered greatly. He paid a big price.”
Trump pardoned former New York police commissioner Bernie Kerik, who once served three years in federal prison for charges including tax fraud and lying to officials.
Kerik was nominated as homeland security secretary by President George W. Bush but withdrew from consideration due to potential tax violations.
Kerik, a former business partner of Trump ally and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, helped with the case of Navy SEAL chief Edward “Eddie” Gallagher, who was convicted of bringing discredit to the armed services after posing next to a dead ISIS fighter’s body, which is against regulations. He was then demoted in rank – a decision Trump reversed in a move that angered military officials.
Kerik, who was once the commissioner of the New York City Department of Corrections, was also once a bodyguard and driver for Giuliani in 1993. He later served as a senior vice president at Giuliani Partners until 2004.
The President said Kerik is “a man who had many recommendations from a lot of very good people.”
According to a White House statement, the pardon was supported by Giuliani, Gallagher, New York Republican Rep. Peter King, presidential confidant and Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy, as well as Fox News personalities Judge Andrew Napolitano and Geraldo Rivera. The pardon was also supported by Sidney Powell, the attorney for former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
Trump issued a pardon to Ariel Friedler, a software entrepreneur who pled guilty to conspiracy to access a protected computer without authorization and served two months in prison, according to a White House statement.
Friedler, the White House said, “was forced to sell the company that he had dedicated his life to building” and has “expressed deep remorse for his actions.”
Friedler now works to promote veterans issues and helps former prisoners reenter society, per the White House, which noted his clemency was supported by former New Jersey governor and top Trump ally Chris Christie.
Christie told NJ Advance Media that he spoke with Trump about Friedler’s case.
“I said, ‘Mr. President, he got treated wrong and you can help right it,’” Christie said.
Trump granted clemency to Paul Pogue, owner of a construction company and Republican political donor, who was sentenced to three years of probation for underpaying his taxes by approximately 10% over a three year period.
Pogue, according to the White House statement, has made “significant charitable contributions,” including disaster relief following Hurricane Harvey and other crises, as well as “significant humanitarian aid to countries around the world.”
The White House said Pogue’s clemency was supported by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and former Sen. Rick Santorum, among others.
Pogue has donated $85,000 to Trump Victory, a joint fundraising committee between the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee and nearly $150,000 to the Republican National Committee so far this election cycle, according to Federal Election Commission records.
Trump pardoned David Safavian, a former Republican lobbyist and lawyer, who served as an official in President George W. Bush’s administration.
Safavian was sentenced to one year in prison in 2009 for obstructing an investigation and making false statements in connection to a former lobbyist, Jack Abramoff, during his time at the General Services Administration.
Safavian is “uniquely positioned to identify problems with the criminal justice system and work to fix them,” the White House statement said.
His legal license was restored in Washington, the White House statement said.
The presidential pardon for Safavian was supported by CNN’s Van Jones, a criminal justice reform advocate, as well as American Conservative Union chairman and Trump ally Matt Schlapp, among others.
The President pardoned Angela Stanton, an author, television personality, and motivational speaker, for her involvement in a stolen vehicle ring in 2007, for which she served six months of home confinement.
Since then, Stanton has worked hard to help improve reentry outcomes, the White House statement said.
According to her website, her memoir details a “hustler’s life of crime” alongside Real Housewives of Atlanta’s Phaedra Parks.
Tynice Nichole Hall
Trump commuted the sentence of Tynice Nichole Hall, after she served almost 14 years for drug-related charges. Hall was convicted on charges to distribute, possess, and manufacture crack cocaine, as well as possession of firearms, per the Justice Department.
Since she was incarcerated in 2006, Hall took numerous job training programs and has continued to work toward her college degree, the White House statement said.
Her clemency was supported by former acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker and Alice Johnson, whose sentence Trump commuted in 2018 at the behest of Kim Kardashian West.
Trump commuted the sentence of Crystal Munoz, who served 12 years in prison for marijuana-related charges.
In 2008, Munoz was found guilty and sentenced to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana, according to court records.
She has spent much of her time in prison committed to her rehabilitation. Munoz mentored others and volunteered to help with a hospice program, according to the White House statement.
Munoz previously applied for clemency during the Obama administration.
The President commuted the 35-year prison sentence of Judith Negron for her role in a $205 million Medicare fraud scheme.
Negron, a minority-owner of a mental health care company in Miami, Florida, was found guilty in 2011 on multiple counts of health care fraud and money laundering.
She served eight years of her 35-year sentence. Johnson was also among those advocating for Negron’s commutation.
CNN’s Kevin Liptak, Kaitlan Collins, Maegan Vazquez, Paul La Monica, and Stephen Collinson contributed to this report.