Blagojevich earned his infamy back in 2008 when he was caught essentially trying to sell Barack Obama’s Senate seat after the latter was elected president. He was eventually sentenced to 14 years in prison on federal corruption charges. In announcing his decision to commute Blagojevich’s sentence, Trump told reporters: “He served eight years in jail, a long time. He seems like a very nice person, don’t know him.”
Milken, for his part, played a key role in developing the “junk bonds” market that facilitated the rise of leveraged buyouts in the private equity world during the Eighties. In 1990, he pleaded guilty to six felony charges of securities fraud and conspiracy, and was hit with a $600 million fine, a lifetime ban from the securities industry and a 10-year prison sentence (he only served 22 months).
Since his release from prison, Milken has been angling for a presidential pardon, and, over the past few years, his cause reportedly garnered support from within the Trump administration. Ironically, one of the people advocating for Milken was Rudy Giuliani, who successfully investigated Milken in the Eighties when he was a federal prosecutor. It’s unclear if Milken’s pardon will lead to the lifting of his lifetime ban from the securities industry.
Along with Blagojevich and Milken, Trump announced a pardon for former New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik, who nearly became George W. Bush’s head of Homeland Security until he was hit with a flood of corruption charges. Kerik was eventually sentenced to four years in prison after pleading guilty to tax fraud and lying to White House officials. Trump also pardoned Edward DeBartolo Jr., the former owner of the San Francisco 49ers, who pleaded guilty in 1998 to concealing an extortion attempt that involved a riverboat casino and the influential former governor of Louisiana, Edwin Edwards.