US President Donald Trump speaks to the press before boarding Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, the US, February 18 2020. Picture: MANDEL NGAN / AFP
US President Donald Trump speaks to the press before boarding Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, the US, February 18 2020. Picture: MANDEL NGAN / AFP

Washington  — US President Donald Trump pardoned seven people on Tuesday including former junk bond king Michael Milken and commuted the sentence of Rod Blagojevich, the former 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.

Former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich in 2008. Picture: AMANDA RIVKIN / AFP
Former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich in 2008. Picture: AMANDA RIVKIN / AFP

Blagojevich 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 Trump. “He seems like a very nice person, though I don't know him,” Trump said, despite Blagojevich appearing as a contestant  in 2010 on the Celebrity Apprentice TV show, which Trump hosted, according to reports.

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 $1.1bn and served about two years in prison. He was permanently banned from trading by the Securities & Exchange Commission.

Since then he has headed the nonprofit Milken Institute, focusing on a wide range of research, including curing cancer, public health, ageing, California and financial markets. 

“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.”

Former New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik. Picture: SPENCER PLATT / GETTY IMAGES / AFP
Former New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik. Picture: SPENCER PLATT / GETTY IMAGES / AFP

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 September 11 2001 terrorist 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 former president George Bush. He was freed in May 2013.

Trump also pardoned Eddie DeBartolo, 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 licence 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 Democrat Bill Pascrell, a critic of Trump’s pardons.

Reuters