This week, President Donald Trump delivered yet another whirlwind abuse of his power with his commutation of the sentence of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, who’d been jailed on charges of corruption including over his attempt to sell Barack Obama’s old Senate seat to the highest bidder. The commutation meant that the former governor walked free this week without having to serve the remaining four years of his sentence. This week, he also pardoned the Trump-supporting former NYPD Commissioner Bernie Kerik, so-called “junk bond king” Michael Milken, and former NFL team owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. House Intel Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) promptly condemned Trump’s power grab.
‘There are 175,000 federal prisoners. Many are serving harsh sentences and deserve mercy. Yet, Trump uses pardons almost exclusively for: 1) Political supporters 2) Wealthy individuals 3) Contestants on his TV show And worse abuses are almost surely to come.’
There are 175,000 federal prisoners. Many are serving harsh sentences and deserve mercy.
Yet, Trump uses pardons almost exclusively for:
1) Political supporters
2) Wealthy individuals
3) Contestants on his TV show
And worse abuses are almost surely to come.
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) February 18, 2020
It’s true! When Blagojevich originally was indicted and awaiting trial, Trump actually had the then already former governor on an edition of his reality television show The Apprentice. Besides that gross personal connection, other Trump pardons feature similar elements. For example, he pardoned former Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who’d been convicted over his refusal to obey a court order to stop profiling Hispanic individuals in his jurisdiction.
Together, these pardons make the current president’s disregard for the rule of law abundantly clear. What’s the message supposed to be from that Arpaio pardon — that profiling Hispanic people is okay after all? What about Blagojevich? He was actually impeached by an almost unanimous vote in both chambers of the state legislature, but Trump has stepped in to try and overturn the consequences of his actions. He just doesn’t seem to care.
Check out Twitter’s response to Schiff below. To be clear, Trump did sign the First Step Act into law, which opened up opportunities for federal prisoners charged with nonviolent offenses to avoid punitive sentences — but it’s barely a first step. Federal prisons only house, as Schiff mentioned, well under 200,000 people, while a full 2.1 million are currently imprisoned in the U.S. elsewhere.