Trump commutes sentence of ex-Gov. Blagojevich, pardons Kerik

President Trump issued a spree of clemency decisions Tuesday for high-profile figures — most notably commuting the sentence of former Democratic Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was convicted for attempting to sell Barack Obama’s vacant Senate seat when he was elected president.

Trump confirmed to reporters that he’s granted clemency for the ex-governor, calling his sentence “ridiculous.”

“He’ll be able to go back home with his family after serving eight years in jail,” Trump said.

Trump also said he’s granted clemency to financier Michael Milken, who pleaded guilty for violating U.S. securities laws.

Further, Trump confirmed he has pardoned former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, who was sentenced on tax fraud charges in 2010. It comes on the same day the White House announced Trump was granting a full pardon to former San Francisco 49ers owner Edward DeBartolo Jr., who was convicted of failing to report a bribe to the former governor of Louisiana when he pleaded guilty in 1998.

Blagojevich was convicted in 2010 on corruption charges and sentenced to 14 years in federal prison, a sentence he has been serving at a federal prison in Littleton, Colo. Trump was considering a commutation for Blagojevich last year, but plans were put on hold amid worries over pushback.

“Many people disagreed with the sentence,” Trump told reporters on Tuesday, before turning to two individuals he’s bashed during his time in office. “He’s a Democrat, he’s not a Republican It was a prosecution by the same people, [James] Comey, [Patrick Fitzgerald], the same group.”

Trump also expressed sympathy for the former Illinois governor’s children.

“Very far from his children,” Trump said. “They rarely get to see their father outside of an orange uniform. I saw that and I did commute his sentence.”

The president also sounded off on the harshness of Blagojevich’s sentence.

“That was a tremendously powerful, ridiculous sentence in my opinion,” Trump said.

Blagojevich, who hails from a state with a long history of pay-to-play schemes, was one of four out of seven consecutive Illinois governors to be sent to prison. His immediate predecessor, George Ryan, was convicted of racketeering for his actions a governor and secretary of state.

He convicted of political corruption just months after he appeared on Trump’s reality TV show, “Celebrity Apprentice.”

The 63-year-old Democrat exhausted his last appellate option in 2018  and had seemed destined to remain behind bars until his projected 2024 release date. His wife, Patti, went on a media blitz in 2018 to encourage Trump to step in, praising the president and likening the investigation of her husband to special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election — a probe Trump long characterized as a “witch hunt.”

Blagojevich was originally convicted on 18 counts, including lying to the FBI, wire fraud for trying to trade an appointment to the Obama seat for contributions, and for the attempted extortion of a children’s hospital executive. The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago in 2015 tossed five of 18 convictions, including ones in which he offered to appoint someone to a high-paying job in the Senate.

Blagojevich became the brunt of jokes for foul-mouthed rants on wiretaps released after his Dec. 9, 2008, arrest while still governor. On the most notorious recording, he gushes about profiting by naming someone to the seat Obama vacated to become president: “I’ve got this thing and it’s f—— golden. And I’m just not giving it up for f—— nothing.”

Trump tweeted about Blagojevich in August, noting that the White House’s staff was looking into whether or not a commutation for Blagojevich was possible.

“Rod Blagojevich, the former Governor of Illinois, was sentenced to 14 years in prison. He has served 7 years. Many people have asked that I study the possibility of commuting his sentence in that it was a very severe one. White House staff is continuing the review of this matter,” the president said.

Blagojevich, who is the seventh person Trump has commuted during his presidency, was also impeached as the governor of Illinois over his conduct.

Kerik was previously President George W. Bush’s nominee for Secretary of Homeland Security but was later sentenced to four years in federal prison, a sentence he has since completed.

Fox News’ Louis Casiano, Ronn Blitzer and Michael Tobin, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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