Trump’s Celebrity Celemency Show

Trump's Celebrity Celemency Show

Reality TV host, failed casino owner, litigious shady businessman, and impeachment-stained U.S. President Donald Trump has wielded his executive clemency powers to free rich celebrity felons from federal prison. While the power to grant pardons, commutations, and reprieves to federal prisoners is meant to address injustice or unfair sentences, Mr. Trump has used it to benefit people he knows — in real life, from Fox News, or through political donors, cronies, and celebrity pals.

All these former prisoners are rich white collar criminals except for a few folks championed by rich white people like realty TV star, social influencer, celebrity spouse, law student, and prisoner advocate Kim Kardashian West. In some cases a hefty contribution to the Trump campaign was a Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card. If you thought America’s rich, famous, and connected were beyond the reach of the law, you’re right – until next January, anyway.

Which convicts got sprung by Trump, and what were their crimes?

Rod Blagojevich – Tried to sell a U.S. Senate seat; shook down a children’s hospital CEO and racetrack owner for bribes. Disgraced former Illinois governor, he was a contestant on Donald Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice TV show. The Illinois GOP delegation protested his release from prison.

Eddie DeBartolo Jr. – Former owner of the San Franciso Forty Niners NFL team, he was convicted of bribing Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards to get a casino license.

Michael Milken – The “Junk Bond King” pleaded guilty to racketeering and securities fraud in concert with Ivan F. Boesky. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison, served 22 months, fined $600 million, and permanently barred from the securities industry. He’s still a billionaire.

Bernie Kerik – Disgraced former New York police commissioner, mobbed-up Bernie Kerik, served three years in federal prison for charges including tax fraud and lying to federal officials. Originally assigned to Mayor Rudy Giuliani as his driver and bodyguard, Rudy later elevated him to NYPD commissioner. After his stint as mayor, Mr. Giuliani made Mr. Kerik a founding partner in Giuliani Associates. In 2004 Bernie Kerik was proposed as DHS Secretary, and that’s when his, um, issues were uncovered. He pleaded guilty to 8 felonies and was sentenced to 4 years in prison. A frequent Fox News guest, Fox personalities Andrew Napolitano and Geraldo Rivera supported his pardon.

Ariel Friedler – Former CEO of higher-ed software firm Symplicity Corp., Mr. Friedler pleaded guilty to conspiracy computer hacking, gaining unauthorized access to competitor’s computer networks, a federal felony. His pardon was supported by former NJ governor Chris Christie, who is now Mr. Friedler’s lawyer.

Paul Pogue – Owner of a Texas construction firm, he pleaded guilty to tax fraud, was sentenced to three years probation and ordered to pay a $250,000 fine and more than $473,000 in restitution. His family has donated more than $200,000 to the president’s reelection campaign as recently as last fall. Mr. Pogue’s pardon was supported by former GOP senator Rick Santorum and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Paul Pogue was a member of the 2016 Santorum President Campaign finance committee and donated $10,000 to Ken Paxton’s defense fund in the latter’s ongoing securities fraud case. The Paxton defense fund is itself a subject of fraud investigation.

David Safavian – A GOP lobbyist who served as GSA Chief of Staff in the G.W.Bush administration, he was sentenced to a year in prison and 2 years on parole for obstruction and making false statements in connection with investigations into Jack Abramoff.

Angela StantonRealty TV personality, author, and Trump supporter, she served six months of home confinement for her involvement in a luxury vehicle theft ring in 2007.

Judith Negrón – Part-owner of a Miami mental health care company, Ms. Negrón was found guilty of money laundering and participating in a $200 million Medicare fraud scheme and served 8 years in federal prison. President Trump commuted the remaining 27 years of her 35 year sentence. Her clemency plea was supported by Alice Johnson, whose sentence Trump commuted in 2018 at the urging of Kim Kardashian West. Ms. Negrón actually served time with Ms. Johnson at a federal prison in Alabama.

Tynice Nichole Hall – Convicted of distributing, possessing, and manufacturing crack cocaine, and possession of firearms, she served almost 14 years in federal prison. President Trump commuted the remaining 21 years of her sentence. Ms. Hall’s clemency plea was supported by scandal-prone former acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker and Kardashian pal Alice Johnson, her Alabama prisonmate.

Crystal Munoz – Convicted in 2007 of conspiring to distribute more than 2,200 pounds of marijuana, she served 12 years in prison. President Trump commuted the remaining 8 years of her sentence. Trump toady Matt Whitaker, FreedomWorks President Adam Brandon, and prisonmate Alice Johnson supported this grant of clemency. So did the nonpartisan Texas A&M Criminal Defense Clinic, since Ms. Munoz’s involvement in the case seems to have been drawing a map. Of all Trump’s 11 interventions, this one actually appears to have merit.


“Trump’s clemency spree shows white-collar felons it’s more about who you know than what you did,” Washington Post

“The 11 Criminals Granted Clemency by Trump Had One Thing in Common: Connections,” Peter Baker, J. David Goodman, Michael Rothfeld and Elizabeth Williamson, New York Times

“Trump’s pardons demonstrate his belief that white-collar crime isn’t real crime,” Paul Brandus, MarketWatch

“Trump picks pardon requests from wealthy pals and GOP donors,” Michael Biesecker, Associated Press

“Trump pardons the swamp,” Axios

“Trump’s Fox News pardon pipeline: A comprehensive review,” Matt Gertz, Media Matters


“Donald Trump ‘offered Julian Assange a pardon if he denied Russia link to hack,'” Julian Borger and Owen Bowcott, The Guardian

“Presidential pardons a bad idea since 1787,” Noah Feldman, Bloomberg via Duluth News Tribune


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Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht,

Comments are welcome if they are on-topic, substantive, concise, and not boring or obscene. Comments may be edited for clarity and length.

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