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Trump Pardons 'Junk Bond King,' Disgraced Former Illinois Governor, Others

Neer Varshney

President Donald Trump exercised the power of clemency to pardon seven convicted felons and commute the sentence of four others, the White House said in a statement on Tuesday.

What Happened

The individuals pardoned include financier Michael Milken, real estate developer Edward DeBartolo Jr., technology entrepreneur Ariel Friedler, former New York police commissioner Bernard Kerik, businessman Paul Pogue, a political appointee in George W. Bush administration David Safavian, and author Angela Stanton.

Sentences of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich and three others were commuted, with charges against the convicts ranged from financial and tax fraud to theft and indulging in illegal drug trade.

Among the better-known on the list, Milken gained fame as the “junk bond king” on Wall Street in the 1990s as he pled guilty for six counts of securities and tax violations and faced additional charges of insider trading and racketeering. President Trump’s close advisors, including treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin, had asked him to grant the clemency to Milken, Bloomberg reported in 2018.

The junk bond market saw one of its largest yearly profits in history in 1986, driven by Milken-led investment bank Drexel Burnam Lambert, as noted previously. “We look forward to many more years of pursuing our efforts in medical research, education and public health,” Milken said in a statement.

No Mercy

Blagojevich’s pardon also proved controversial with both Republican and Democratic lawmakers, as noted by Reuters.

The former Illinois governor was given a 14-year sentence back in 2012, three years after being removed from office on charges of corruption as he was said to have attempted to sell or trade Barack Obama’s vacated Senate seat when he became the president in 2008. Illinois House Republican leader Jim Durkin criticized President's decision. “I guess he is not concerned about the state of Illinois next November.”

“Blagojevich is the face of public corruption in Illinois, and not once has he shown any remorse for his clear and documented record of egregious crimes that undermined the trust placed in him by voters,” five Republican congressmen from the state said in a joint statement, according to Reuters.

Photo Credit: Public domain image via WIkimedia.

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