Trump floats Martha Stewart pardon, Rod Blagojevich commutation
President Donald Trump told reporters Thursday that he is considering pardoning Martha Stewart and commuting former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s sentence.
Trump floated the idea of pardoning or commuting the sentences of the two former “Apprentice” series stars hours after he pardoned the conservative author and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza. Last week, Trump also pardoned the deceased boxer Jack Johnson.
Trump is weighing the Stewart pardon as his attorney Rudy Giuliani has taken to comparing the dilemma Trump faces about whether he should testify before the special counsel Robert Mueller to Stewart’s prosecution. Stewart, who was investigated for insider trading, was convicted of conspiracy, obstruction and making false statements to investigators — the latter of which Giuliani has seized on as a reason for why Trump should not sit for an interview.
“Martha Stewart never would have gone to jail if she hadn’t lied during her testimony,” Giuliani said on CNN earlier this month. “Lying … isn’t black and white.”
Trump’s pardons have raised questions about whether Trump is issuing pardons to send a message to his political allies and former aides who are under investigation by Mueller, a suggestion the White House has repeatedly rejected.
CNN’s chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin noted that those individuals under investigation “watch the news, too.”
“They can watch and hope and keep fighting that this could be a message to Paul Manafort, this could be a message to Michael Cohen that, ‘Hang in there and the cavalry will come sooner or later,’ ” Toobin said.
Trump told reporters Thursday aboard Air Force One that Stewart was “to a certain extent … harshly and unfairly treated.”
“And she used to be my biggest fan in the world … before I became a politician,” Trump said. Stewart told CNN in 2016 she was going to vote for Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Trump, in his remarks Thursday, spoke extensively about Blagojevich’s prosecution and lamented the 14-year sentence he received — which Trump incorrectly referred to as 18 years — after he was convicted on 18 felony corruption charges.
“Eighteen years is, I think, really unfair,” Trump said, arguing Blagojevich, a Democrat, was convicted “for being stupid and saying things that every other politician, you know that many other politicians say.”
“I am seriously thinking about — not pardoning — but I am seriously thinking of a curtailment of Blagojevich,” Trump said.
Both Blagojevich and Stewart’s convictions have ties to James Comey, the FBI director Trump fired last year whose testimony could be crucial to any obstruction of justice charges Mueller may consider bringing against Trump.
Comey, as the US attorney in Manhattan, built the case against Stewart ahead of her 2003 indictment. And Blagojevich was arrested during US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s tenure in Chicago in 2008. Fitzgerald is currently a member of Comey’s legal team and was appointed by Comey to investigate the Valerie Plame affair in 2003.
Trump’s comments about Blagojevich come three days after the disgraced Illinois governor published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal arguing that “the rule of law is under assault in America” and is being “perverted and abused” by some FBI and Justice Department officials — comments that closely mirrored Trump’s recent rhetoric about the Mueller investigation, FBI and Justice Department officials.
“So today from prison, I am warning all candidates and elected officials to watch out,” Blagojevich wrote. “Politically motivated prosecutors can now interfere with and undo free and fair elections.”