President Trump's list of pardons and grants of clemency make a lot of sense

On Tuesday, the White House named the individuals whom President Trump pardoned or to whom he had granted clemency.  People on both sides of the aisle were confused by the list, but they shouldn't have been.  Trump was making a point about government overreach in prosecutions, as well as reminding people about his First Step Act, which brings reformed (mostly minority) prisoners home.

Here's a short rundown of the pardons and clemency grants.


Eddie DeBartolo, Jr., former owner of the San Francisco 49ers, who was "convicted for failing to report a felony regarding payment demanded for a riverboat casino license," resulting in two years' probation.

Michael Milken, a brilliant financier whose innovations made capital available to people who ordinarily would never have benefitted from it.

In 1989, at the height of his finance career, Mr. Milken was charged in an indictment alleging that some of his innovative financing mechanisms were in fact criminal schemes.  The charges filed against Mr. Milken were truly novel.  In fact, one of the lead prosecutors later admitted that Mr. Milken had been charged with numerous technical offenses and regulatory violations that had never before been charged as crimes.  Though he initially vowed to fight the charges, Mr. Milken ultimately pled guilty in exchange for prosecutors dropping criminal charges against his younger brother.  As a result, Mr. Milken served 2 years in prison in the early 1990s.

Ariel Friedler, an entrepreneur who built a successful technology company and who "pled guilty to conspiracy to access a protected computer without authorization and served 2 months in prison."

Bernard Kerik, the commissioner of the New York Police Department during its response to the 9/11 attack.  "In 2010, Mr. Kerik was sentenced to 4 years' imprisonment for tax fraud and for making false statements."

Paul Pogue, the owner of a successful construction company:

An audit by the Internal Revenue Service discovered that Mr. Pogue had underpaid his taxes over a 3-year period by approximately 10 percent.  Immediately upon learning of the tax deficiency, Mr. Pogue paid restitution, interest, and penalties.  To avoid the cost and burden of fighting the charges, which could have put at risk the jobs of the 150 people employed by his company, Mr. Pogue agreed to plead guilty and was sentenced to 3 years of probation. 

David Safavian, who was "convicted of making false statements and of obstructing an investigation into a trip he took while he was a senior government official."

Angela Stanton, an African-American woman and Trump-supporter who, following a challenging childhood, was part of a stolen vehicle ring, which earned her six months of house arrest.

Commuted sentences

Rod Blagojevich, a model prisoner who was nine years into a 14-year sentence for a variety of political corruption charges.

Tynice Nichole Hall, a model prisoner who "served nearly 14 years of an 18-year sentence for allowing her apartment to be used to distribute drugs."

Crystal Munoz, a model prisoner who "spent the past 12 years in prison as a result of a conviction for having played a small role in a marijuana smuggling ring."

Judith Negron, a model prisoner and "a 48-year-old wife and mother who was sentenced to 35 years in prison for her role as a minority-owner of a healthcare company engaged in a scheme to defraud the Federal Government."

What's the thread tying all of these pardons and commutations together?  In fact, there are a few threads, and they're all important.

DeBartolo, Milken, Kerik, Pogue, and Safavian all fell into federal traps.  Each was entangled in the federal justice system because the government went after them for violating rules that relate solely to the government itself.  Their situations parallel what happened to Trump associates caught in Mueller's net.

In Milken's case, he gave up fighting an esoteric allegation only because prosecutors threatened his brother — which mirrors the way Mueller's team threatened Mike Flynn's son.

Trump reminds us that the government writes the laws and regulations, and then uses those laws against people whom the government wants to destroy, whether righteously (e.g., Al Capone, brought down on tax fraud) or not (e.g., the people Trump pardoned).  These pardons remind us that while Trump survived, many of his associates did not.

David Safavian reminds us that McCabe walked free.  Blagojevich reminds us that Trump not only doesn't prosecute people because of their ideology, but will also reach across party lines to grant clemency.

The pardons and commutations for lesser-known people emphasize Trump's outreach to black and Hispanic communities through his First Step Act.

Trump is a very sane genius. 

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