beg your pardon
February 19, 2020

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." Peter Weber

March 13, 2019

Michael Cohen has clarified a portion of his congressional testimony and pushed back on President Trump's claim that he lied under oath.

Cohen's lawyer, Michael Monico, said in a letter to the House Oversight Committee that when Cohen testified that "I have never asked for, nor would I accept, a pardon from Mr. Trump," this statement "could have been clearer regarding the time frame," although it's still "true" and Cohen "stands by" it, per The Washington Post's Robert Costa.

Monico said that Cohen's sentence was "written in the context of Mr. Cohen's decision in June 2018 to leave the Trump Joint Defense Agreement" and to start telling the truth, and that prior to that time, he did ask his attorney "to discuss with another Trump attorney possible pardon options" since President Trump had "dangled the possibility." However, Monico says that "nothing ever happened."

Cohen's lawyer also said that "at no time" did he ask Trump for one "personally." Trump had tweeted that his former attorney asked him for a pardon "directly," saying that "He lied!"

This was one of two statements Cohen made during his testimony that were called into question, with another being his claim that he did not want a job in the White House. Trump has accused Cohen of lying about this as well, and Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) have asked the Department of Justice to investigate Cohen for perjury for making this statement, which they called "demonstrably, materially, and intentionally false." Brendan Morrow

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