President Donald Trump announced on Tuesday that he has decided to commute the prison sentence of former Democratic Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, and has also chosen to pardon former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik.
Trump told reporters that he granted clemency for the ex-governor, calling his sentence “ridiculous.”
Blagojevich was convicted for attempting to sell Barack Obama’s vacant Senate seat when he was elected president. The former mayor was convicted in 2010 on corruption charges, and he was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison. Blagojevich has been serving his sentence for the past seven years in Littleton, Colorado. Trump has been contemplating a commutation for Blagojevich since 2018, but he hesitated due to fierce opposition.
In fact, last August, Trump posted this on his social media account showing his consideration of the former mayor. “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.
“Many people disagreed with the sentence,” Trump told reporters Tuesday. “He’s a Democrat, he’s not a Republican. It was a prosecution by the same people, [James] Comey, [Patrick Fitzgerald], the same group.”
Blagojevich was released from the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) Englewood in Colorado on Tuesday night.
In addition, Trump pardoned former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik. Chosen as a nominee for Secretary of Homeland Security by President George W. Bush, Kerik was sentenced in 2010 to four years in federal prison for tax fraud and lying to the White House, which he did while being vetted for the Homeland Security post in 2004. Although he has completed the sentence given to him, Trump’s symbolic pardon now totally clears the former New York City Police commissioner of any wrongdoing.
Kerik did show remorse for his actions and apologized for his mistakes though, and he was even hailed as a hero for his efforts in New York City after the September 11 attacks.
“I know I must be punished,” he said before being sentenced. “I only ask that you allow me to return to my wife and two little girls as soon as possible.” His daughters were 7 and 9 years old at the time.
Trump also indicated in his announcement that he pardoned financier Michael Milken, who pleaded guilty for violating U.S. securities laws. He also granted a full pardon to former San Francisco 49ers owner Edward DeBartolo Jr., who failed to report a bribe to the former governor of Louisiana during his guilty plea in 1998.