beg your pardon
President Trump issued seven pardons and four commutations on Tuesday, and most of the highest-profile acts of clemency have one thing in common: Fox News, Justin Baragona and Asawin Suebsaeng report at The Daily Beast. Trump himself said he commuted the sentence of forever Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) — jailed 14 years for trying to sell Barack Obama's Senate seat and extorting a children's hospital — because he "watched his wife" on Fox News.
"Junk Bond King" Michael Milken's pardon was championed by Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo, and former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik and convicted stolen car ring participant Angela Stanton both praised Trump themselves on Fox News and had their clemency pleas pushed by high-profile Fox News personalities close to Trump.
"For those who didn't receive the Fox News treatment, it appears that in at least one case, cold hard cash did the talking," Baragona and Suebsaeng report. "Paul Pogue, a construction company owner who pleaded guilty to underpaying his taxes by $473,000 and received three years probation, was issued a full pardon and clemency by the president" after his son, Ben Pogue, and Ben's wife, Ashleigh, contributed more than $200,000 to the Trump Victory Committee since last August, plus more to the Republican National Committee and Donald Trump for President Inc. One advocate for Pogue's pardon, CNN contributor and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), also received a rare $5,700 campaign contribution from Ben and Ashleigh Pogue in 2016.
CNN's Jake Tapper runs through some of the crimes Trump moved to erase by Blagojevich and Kerik, and noted the widespread perception that Trump is using these acts of clemency to tee up pardons of his own convicted friends and allies, Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, and Michael Flynn.
What Trump is really after with these pardons and commutations "is the normalization of corruption," Paul Waldman argues at The Washington Post. "Trump would never argue that Republicans are clean and Democrats are dirty; he wants to convince you that everyone is dirty. In fact, it's a key part of his re-election strategy."