Trump pardons former 'junk bond king' Michael Milken, commutes Rod Blagojevich sentence

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President Donald Trump on Tuesday said he had commuted the sentence of 63-year-old Rod Blagojevich, the former Democratic governor of Illinois convicted of corruption for trying to sell former President Barack Obama's vacated US Senate seat.
A 2007 photo shows Milken moderating a discussion at the 10th Milken Institute Global Conference. PHOTO: AFP
A 2011 photo shows Rod Blagojevich speaking to the media in Chicago, Illinois. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - President Donald Trump pardoned seven people on Tuesday (Feb 18) including former junk bond king Michael Milken and commuted the sentence of Rod Blagojevich, the ex-Illinois governor convicted of trying to peddle Barack Obama's vacated US Senate seat.

The people affected ranged from those charged with defrauding the federal government to drug and theft charges.

Blagojevich, a Democrat who appeared on Trump's Celebrity Apprentice reality television show while awaiting trial, began serving a 14-year sentence in 2012 after being convicted of wire fraud, extortion and soliciting bribes while governor.

"That was a tremendously powerful, ridiculous sentence,"said Republican Trump, a real estate developer who produced the show before running for president.

Blagojevich, 63, was removed from office in 2009 after prosecutors said he tried to sell or trade the US Senate seat Obama vacated after winning the 2008 presidential election.

Milken, once considered Wall Street's "junk bond king" was indicted in 1989 in an insider trading probe. After pleading guilty to securities violations, he paid US$1.1 billion and served about two years in prison.

Since then he has headed up the non-profit Milken Institute, focusing on a wide span of research, including curing cancer, public health, ageing, California and financial markets. Each year the titans of finance flock to the Milken Institute Global Conference, where fund managers and marketers woo prospective investors and philanthropies make pitches for funding.

"We have Mike Milken who's gone around and done an incredible job for the world with all of his research on cancer," Trump told reporters in Washington. "He paid a big price, paid a very tough price."

Trump also pardoned former New York Police Department Commissioner Bernard Kerik, who was sentenced in 2010 to four years in prison for tax fraud and for making false statements.

Kerik, an ally of former New York City Mayor and Trump lawyer Rudolph Giuliani, was a leader in the city's response to the Sept 11, 2001, attacks. His career unravelled when he tried to conceal apartment renovations paid for by a contractor that the city had blacklisted because of suspected ties to organised crime.

Kerik pleaded guilty to hiding the renovations from the tax-collecting Internal Revenue Service and lying to White House officials while being vetted to lead the Homeland Security Department under President George W. Bush. He was freed in May 2013.

Trump also pardoned Eddie DeBartolo Jr, the former owner of the San Francisco 49ers football team. He pleaded guilty in 1998 to failing to report a felony regarding payment demanded for a riverboat casino license in a bribery scheme.

Others pardoned include entrepreneur Ariel Friedler, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to access a protected computer; former contractor Paul Pogue, who was accused of tax fraud; David Safavian, the top US government procurement officer who lied about ties to lobbyist Jack Abramoff, himself convicted of bribery; and Angela Stanton, who was implicated in a 2007 stolen vehicle ring.

Trump also commuted the sentences of three women, two convicted on drug charges and one on charges of defrauding the federal government through her health-care company.

"The pardoning of these disgraced figures should be treated as another national scandal by a lawless executive," said Democratic Representative Bill Pascrell, a critic of Trump's pardons.

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