From ‘Junk Bond King’ To Abramoff Pal, Trump’s Pardon List Dredges Swamp

WASHINGTON - JUNE 20: Former Bush administration official David Safavian peers out the window of a Lexus SUV after leaving the US district courthouse where he was found guilty of covering up his dealings with lobbyi... WASHINGTON - JUNE 20: Former Bush administration official David Safavian peers out the window of a Lexus SUV after leaving the US district courthouse where he was found guilty of covering up his dealings with lobbyist Jack Abramoff June 20, 2006 in Washington, DC. Safavian, the former chief of staff at the General Services Administration, was convicted on four of five felony counts of lying and obstruction. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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February 18, 2020 5:02 p.m.
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Blago’s not the only one off the hook Tuesday.

In addition to former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s commutation, President Donald Trump used his pardon power on several less-than-savory characters, including an infamous ‘80s investor known as the “junk bond king.”

The king, Michael Milken, was convicted decades ago of securities fraud, and his allies have tried ever since to secure a presidential pardon.

Milken was fined $600 million and spent 22 months in prison for what Bloomberg News called “arguably the highest-profile insider trading case ever.”

Or, as the White House put it in a press release Tuesday, “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.”

Bloomberg News reported in 2018 that Milken had several prominent Trump allies and officials in his corner, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner. The White House’s list of prominent Milken allies ran several lines long and included the GOP megadonors Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, Trump inaugural committee chair Tom Barrack, Patriots Owner Robert Kraft, News Corp. founder Rupert Murdoch and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

The most striking name on the list has been a Milken ally for decades — the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York who prosecuted Milken’s case, Rudy Giuliani. The two later became friends.

David Safavian, another pardon recipient Tuesday, is quite a throwback. The former General Services Administration chief of staff was convicted in 2008 of obstructing justice and making false statements related to the disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff. He spent nearly a year in prison.

A former lobbying colleague of Abramoff’s, Safavian was working in George W. Bush’s budget office at the time of his arrest.

Abramoff took Safavian on a golf trip to Scotland and London at the same time Safavian was helping Abramoff with business he had with the GSA. Safavian lied to a GSA ethics officer, internal investigators, and an FBI agent investigating Abramoff.

The White House’s statement on Safavian made no mention of Abramoff, saying only that Safavian “was convicted of making false statements and of obstructing an investigation into a trip he took while he was a senior government official.” Mercedes Schlapp, former White House director of strategic communications and current Trump 2020 reelection spokesperson, is listed as supporting Safavian’s pardon, in addition to her husband Matt Schlapp, chair of the American Conservative Union. Safavian is general counsel at the Trumpy group.

The corrupt former New York police commissioner, Bernard Kerik, added the most prominent law enforcement name to Trump’s pardon list. In 2009, Kerik confessed to several counts related to a $255,000 home renovation, about which he subsequently lied to White House officials and New York City regulators. The renovation was performed by Interstate Industrial Corporation, a firm suspected of organized crime ties, The New York Times noted at the time. The company hoped Kerik would help it obtain a city license. Aside from the corruption charges, Kerik is best known for having led the NYPD on Sept. 11, 2001.

Preet Bharara, now an outspoken Trump critic and former U.S. Attorney for New York’s Southern District, prosecuted the case against former police chief.

Kerik’s range of wrongdoing is tough to fit in a cut-and-dry guilty plea. The Obama administration official Eric Columbus pointed to a 2005 comment from New York’s former parks commissioner, Henry Stern, who wrote of the police chief, “Officials have gotten into trouble for sexual misconduct, abusing their authority, personal bankruptcy, failure to file documents, waste of public funds, receiving substantial unrecorded gifts, and association with organized crime figures. It is rare for anyone to be under fire on all seven of the above issues.”

Rudy is, again, listed as a supporter of Kerik’s pardon in the White House press release. Kerik worked under the former Mayor, whose name appears alongside the Fox News personalities Geraldo Rivera (who supported Kerik 10 years ago at his sentencing) and Andrew Napolitano, the outgoing Long Island Rep. Peter King, Newsmax CEO and Trump confidante Christopher Ruddy, and, notably, the former Navy SEAL accused war criminal Trump pardoned last year, Eddie Gallagher.

The White House also trumpeted Kerik’s support from former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s lawyer Sidney Powell. Trump has not ruled out a pardon in Flynn’s case, where Powell has waged a scorched earth campaign accusing the feds of misconduct.

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