• U.S.
    Bloomberg

    Trump Releases Blagojevich From Prison, Pardons Financier Milken

    (Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump announced a set of clemencies and pardons on Tuesday, including for former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich who was convicted of public corruption and for financier Michael Milken who was convicted of securities fraud.The commutation of the 14-year prison sentence of Blagojevich brought a surprising end to one of the highest-profile public corruption cases of the 21st century.Trump’s closest confidants had urged him to pardon Milken, the 1980s “junk bond king” who has sought for decades to reverse his conviction.Trump also pardoned former New York City police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, who was sentenced to four years in prison for failure to pay taxes and lying to White House officials. The president earlier in the day pardoned Edward DeBartolo Jr., who owned the San Francisco 49ers football team for 23 years and pleaded guilty in 1998 to failing to report an alleged extortion attempt.It’s unusual for a president to announce so many controversial clemencies and pardons at once -- especially in an election year. Many of the pardons and clemencies were backed by conservatives. For instance, the White House said Milken’s pardon was supported by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and the president’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, whose office prosecuted Milken in the 1980s.Democratic CriticsTrump has relished the use of his clemency power, which is virtually unchecked by the Constitution. He has issued more than two dozen pardons and commutations since becoming president, many of which were awarded to political allies.The president sought to draw a connection between Blagojevich’s case and the federal investigation into alleged ties between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia. Trump calls that probe a “witch hunt.”Some Democrats were quick to criticize Trump’s move on Blagojevich.“Illinoisans have endured far too much corruption, and we must send a message to politicians that corrupt practices will no longer be tolerated,” Governor J.B. Pritzker said in a statement. “President Trump has abused his pardon power in inexplicable ways to reward his friends and condone corruption, and I deeply believe this pardon sends the wrong message at the wrong time.”Read More: Trump Pardons Former 49ers Team Owner Over 1998 Felony ChargeMilken served 22 months in prison before being released to a halfway house in January 1993.In announcing his pardon, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said the securities fraud conviction was based on “truly novel” charges that “had never been charged before as crimes.” She also pointed to his charitable work in the years following his conviction.Milken, 73, is worth $3.7 billion, according the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.Major Republican donors Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, as well as Fox Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch, also backed the move, according to the White House.Also among those who backed Milken’s pardon is Nelson Peltz, the chief executive officer and founding partner of Trian Fund Management LP, according to the White House. Peltz threw a fundraiser for Trump at his Florida home on Saturday that raised more than $10 million for the president’s re-election campaign.Trump’s pardon doesn’t reverse Milken’s lifetime ban on securities dealing, which would require a separate appeal to the Securities and Exchange Commission.‘Very Unfairly’Trump’s decision on Blagojevich comes almost two years after the Democratic ex-governor formally requested a commutation and sustained public appeals for mercy from his family.Trump has repeatedly criticized Blagojevich’s prison sentence and said he would consider using his clemency power to cut it short.The president told reporters in August he was “thinking very seriously about commuting his sentence” because Blagojevich was “treated very, very unfairly.” He tweeted the following day that many saw his prison sentence that “White House staff is continuing the review of this matter.”Blagojevich, 63, was convicted in 2011 of 17 charges for what federal prosecutors said was a sweeping corruption plot that included an attempt to sell former President Barack Obama’s vacated U.S. Senate seat. The governor was impeached and removed from office in January 2009, about one month after he was arrested by FBI agents at his home.Celebrity ApprenticeTrump and Blagojevich have some personal history. Before his conviction, the former governor appeared on “The Celebrity Apprentice,” a spinoff of the long-running reality television hosted by Trump.Blagojevich’s wife, Patti, has also made numerous appearances on Fox News to ask Trump to shorten her husband’s prison term. The president referred to her comments when speaking to reporters last summer about a possible commutation.“I watched his wife, on television, saying that the young girl’s father has been in jail for now seven years, and they’ve never seen him outside of an orange uniform,” Trump said. “His wife, I think, is fantastic.”While Blagojevich is a Democrat, his wife has framed clemency as a way for the president to exact revenge for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, which Trump has repeatedly decried as a “hoax.”Comey ConnectionFormer U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who prosecuted Blagojevich’s case, is friends with former FBI Director James Comey and served as his personal lawyer. Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia stemmed from a probe begun under Comey’s watch.“This same cast of characters that did this to my family are out there trying to do it to the president,” Patti Blagojevich told the Chicago Sun-Times in an April 2018 phone interview.Fitzgerald was also the special prosecutor who led the federal investigation into I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, whom Trump pardoned in 2018 for lying to federal agents probing the leak of a CIA officer’s identity. Libby was former Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff.The White House has fielded multiple requests for Blagojevich’s clemency, including from well-known Democrats like civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, who wrote a letter to Trump last summer.Fitzgerald and other former federal prosecutors who handled Blagojevich’s case issued a statement saying: “The former governor was convicted of very serious crimes. His prosecution serves as proof that elected officials who betray those they are elected to serve will be held to account.”Safavian, KerikBut House Republicans had urged him not to offer clemency to Blagojevich. A group of GOP lawmakers representing Illinois wrote Tuesday that they were “disappointed” by the president’s move, saying Blagojevich “is the face of public corruption in Illinois, and not once has he shown any remorse for his clear and documented record of egregious crimes that undermined the trust placed in him by voters.”Also Tuesday, Trump pardoned David Safavian, the former top procurement official in George W. Bush’s administration, who was sentenced to one year in prison for lying about his association with lobbyist Jack Abramoff and helping Abramoff obtain government business. Safavian was released in 2012.Grisham said Safavian “dedicated his life to criminal justice reform” since his release and supported the bipartisan First Step Act, which Trump signed into law. His pardon was backed by former White House official Mercedes Schlapp and her husband, Matt, as well as liberal activist Van Jones, who focuses on criminal justice issues.Kerik, who served as police commissioner under Giuliani, was originally given a sentence that was longer than federal guidelines called for because the judge said he was a top police official who committed crimes as part of a bid to head the federal Homeland Security Department.”‘Operatic’ Case“The guidelines don’t fully take into account the almost operatic proportions of this case,” the judge said. “When these tax laws were being violated, they were being violated not just by anyone. They were being violated by the police commissioner of New York City.”Kerik, pleaded guilty to eight counts, including having an unidentified company make $255,000 in renovations to an apartment he purchased in the Riverdale section of New York in exchange for doing business with the city.He also admitted to lying on a loan application, obstructing Internal Revenue Service laws, filing a false tax return, lying to the federal government and failing to report wages he paid to a nanny for his children.He was later charged separately in Washington with lying to the White House about the New York matter in 2004 while being considered for the top job at the U.S. Homeland Security Department. He pleaded guilty to crimes in both cases.In the case involving the former 49ers’ owner, DeBartolo never served prison time. The case began with allegations that he paid former Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards $400,000 for a riverboat casino license, according to the Associated Press.DeBartolo agreed to testify against Edwards, helping him avoid a prison sentence. Edwards was charged with racketeering and conspiracy related to the granting of casino licenses. DeBartolo received two years probation and was fined $1 million.(Updates with DeBartolo in final three paragraphs.)\--With assistance from Patricia Hurtado and Shruti Date Singh.To contact the reporters on this story: Jordan Fabian in Washington at jfabian6@bloomberg.net;Josh Wingrove in Washington at jwingrove4@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Alex Wayne at awayne3@bloomberg.net, Justin Blum, Bill FariesFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Celebrity
    HuffPost

    Jack Black Drank A Pint Of Guinness And Inadvertently Sparked A ‘Photoshop Battle’

    The "Jumanji" star's frothy mustache in Dublin, Ireland, got the treatment on Reddit.

  • World
    Bloomberg

    China Bought Time With Quarantine; Russian Borders: Virus Update

    (Bloomberg) -- China’s strict quarantine likely bought the rest of the world several weeks to prepare for the virus, according to the World Health Organization. Hubei, the Chinese province at epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, said it plans to use recent purchases of medicines to look for unidentified patients.Russia said it would bar Chinese citizens from entering the country starting Feb. 20. China’s commerce ministry said it would take steps to blunt the impact of the virus.Earlier, China reported the lowest number of new cases since announcing a change in its method of detection last week. So far, 73,424 people have been infected and 1,873 have died around the world, the vast majority of them in Hubei.Key DevelopmentsChina death toll 1,868; mainland cases rise to 72,436Hubei reports 1,807 new cases; 93 more deathsApple’s cut revives questions about China over-relianceClick VRUS on the terminal for news and data on the novel coronavirus and here for maps and charts. For analysis of the impact from Bloomberg Economics, click here.China Measures Seem to Have Delayed Spread, WHO Says (2:50 p.m. NY)China’s aggressive quarantine tactics delayed the spread of the coronavirus from the outbreak’s center, said a top official at the World Health Organization. Officials in China's Hubei province locked down travel to and from the province, and later sharply restricted people’s ability to leave their homes.“Those measures on movement restriction have delayed the dissemination of the outbreak by two or three days within China, and two or three weeks outside China,” said Sylvie Briand, the WHO’s director of global infectious hazard preparedness. Briand said that estimate was based on modeling of the disease’s spread, and it will take time to know for certain.Russia Bans Chinese Citizens From Entry (1:05 p.m. NY)Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin signed an order temporarily banning Chinese citizens from entering Russia for tourism, personal reasons or work starting Thursday, Interfax reported, citing Deputy PM Tatyana Golikova’s office. The ban doesn’t apply to passengers continuing to a destination outside Russia.China Aims to Stabilize Trade, Promote Consumption (10:25 a.m. NY)China’s Commerce Ministry will take steps to help stabilize the nation’s foreign trade and prod consumption in a bid to reduce the impact of coronavirus outbreak on commercial activities, the ministry said in statement.Sanofi to Work on Coronavirus Vaccine (10 a.m. NY)French pharmaceutical company Sanofi jumped into the race to combat the fast-spreading coronavirus, betting that earlier work in pursuit of a SARS vaccine could accelerate its effort.Read the full story here.Hubei Will Search for People Who Bought Fever Drugs (7:24 a.m. NY)China’s Hubei province said it will use recent purchases of fever and cough medicines to sweep for unidentified coronavirus patients, a new step that leverages the government’s surveillance powers to try and stop the virus.The province has enacted a lockdown of tens of millions of people, opened new hospitals and isolation centers, mandated self-reported temperature checks, and conducted house-to-house searches for people showing symptoms. The measures have coincided with a drop in newly reported cases in Hubei, where the outbreak began and most infections and deaths have occurred.The government will investigate anyone who bought fever or cough medicines since Jan. 20, whether they were purchased from brick-and-mortar stores or online. It will also track down anyone who sought treatment for a fever since then. Anyone selling treatments for a cough or fever will have to check and register and report the patient’s identity, the provincial government said.China’s authorities have broad powers of surveillance, enabled by an almost totally mobile-based payment systems that are integrated into most aspects of everyday life. While they’ve helped control movement in the province and the city of Wuhan, creating a regional quarantine, citizens there have complained of harsh treatment and short supplies as the lockdown drags on.More Companies Warn on Virus Impact (7:24 a.m. NY)Walmart Inc.’s CFO said the virus could lower first-quarter earnings per share by a few cents. The retailer said it had closed “less than a handful” of stores in the country. Separately, Medtronic said it expected the outbreak to impact fourth-quarter results, but that this was hard to quantify.Earlier, Apple slumped after saying it wouldn’t be able to hit sales targets. The news drove down U.S. stock futures, as well as shares in European chipmakers and Asian suppliers.Xi Tells U.K.’s Johnson China Can Meet 2020 Goals (6:47 a.m. NY)China is confident in achieving economic development targets set for this year, President Xi Jinping told U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a phone call, according to China Central Television. China’s efforts to fight coronavirus are yielding significant results, Xi said.IHG CEO Calls Coronavirus ‘Short-Term Blip’ (6:28 a.m. NY)InterContinental Hotels Group shares reversed a decline after Chief Executive Officer Keith Barr said the outbreak was a “short-term blip” in the Chinese market.IHG opened six hotels in China in January and signed 11 hotels in February, Barr said on an earnings call. “Business is still moving ahead” and the “long-term fundamentals in China remain absolutely strong,” he said.Passengers Should Have Been Released Earlier: Netanyahu (6:10 a.m. NY)Passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship should have been dispersed as quickly as possible, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. There were 15 Israeli citizens on board -- three have been infected and the remainder are scheduled to be flown back to Israel on Thursday.Japan said on Tuesday another 88 people aboard the quarantined ship had been infected, bringing the total number of cases to 542 people. Earlier, Britain became the latest country to look at evacuating its nationals from the Diamond Princess, following Australia and South Korea.Japan expects to remove all passengers from the cruise ship by Friday.Fredriksen’s Bulk-Shipping Firm Warns on Profits (6:09 a.m. NY)Golden Ocean Group Ltd., one of the world’s biggest dry-bulk shipping companies, said the coronavirus outbreak will hurt profits and slashed its dividend to a third to protect its balance sheet. The warning illustrates the toll from the virus on the world’s second-biggest economy and the global ripple effects, including on demand for transport of goods in and out of China.German Investor Confidence Plunges (6:08 p.m. HK)Investor sentiment in Europe’s largest economy dropped on concerns the outbreak will disrupt trade. ZEW’s index of expectations for the next six months fell below even the most pessimistic estimate in a Bloomberg survey. The poll suggests confidence is fading that Germany can stem a manufacturing recession that has lasted more than a year.“Economic development is rather fragile at the moment,” ZEW President Achim Wambach said in a statement. The outlook for export-intensive sectors has deteriorated “particularly sharply” as a result of the epidemic that originated in China, he said.Earlier on Tuesday, South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in called for “extraordinary” steps to minimize the virus’s impact and said it was an emergency for the country’s economy.Virus May Curb China Oil and Gas Use But Not Emissions (5:33 p.m. HK)A government stimulus package being planned to combat the economic impact of the viral outbreak will probably focus on increasing investment in infrastructure, which will likely boost usage of coal, BloombergNEF said in a report. The dirtiest fossil fuel continues to be the main source of power in China despite efforts in the past decade to clean up the sector by favoring new renewable generation.Brent futures fell 1.8% to trade below $57 a barrel in London.Apple Slumps on Sales Warning (5:12 p.m. HK)Apple shares fell 4.2% in pre-market trading after the technology giant said it doesn’t expect to meet revenue guidance for the March quarter, citing the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.The news also hit U.S. futures as well as technology stocks in Europe and Asia.Hong Kong Jobless Rate Was Rising Before Virus Hit (5:02 p.m. HK)The jobless rate rose in January for a fourth straight month, reaching its highest level since 2016 as Hong Kong’s businesses struggle from the political unrest and also from the disruption starting late in the month caused by the coronavirus outbreak.The city’s jobless rate rose to 3.4% for the November to January period, the same as the median forecast in a survey of economists. The string of increases was the longest since 2009, in the aftermath of the global financial crisis. The data does not reflect the full impact of shutdowns from the coronavirus outbreak.HK to Extend Virus Monitoring, Lab Tests (4:54 p.m. HK)Hong Kong health authorities will extend novel coronavirus surveillance to include testing outpatients and those at emergency wards, Under Secretary for Food and Health Chui Tak-yi said at a briefing.China Outbreak May Peak in Some Areas in Feb.: Expert (4:41 p.m. HK)Zhong Nanshan, a respiratory disease expert advising the Chinese government, expects the coronavirus outbreak to peak by mid to late February in southern China, Xinhua reported. The forecast is based on mathematical models and governments’ control measures.IMF Cuts Nigerian Growth Forecast (4:15 p.m. HK)The International Monetary Fund cut its estimate for Nigerian economic growth, as oil prices slump amid the coronavirus outbreak. The forecast for Africa’s top crude producer was lowered to 2% from 2.5%, the lender said in a statement on Monday.SAT Tests Scrapped For Chinese Students (3:43 p.m. HK)The College Board, which organizes the standardized Scholastic Assessment Test, or SAT, for admission to colleges in the U.S., canceled the March 14 test for all registered students traveling from China to other locations for the exam.The test will be administered in Hong Kong, Macau and Singapore, but not in mainland China.Singapore Budgets Millions to Counter Virus (3:09 p.m. HK)Singaporean authorities are setting aside an additional S$800 million ($575 million) in the city-state’s budget to support efforts to fight and contain the virus, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat told Parliament.Earlier this month, Singapore Airlines and subsidiary SilkAir announced a temporary reduction in flight services across their global network, owing to weak demand as a result of the outbreak.Shanghai Schools to Remain Suspended (3 p.m. HK)Colleges and schools in China’s financial hub will remain suspended in March due to the outbreak and online teaching will be provided, the city’s government said. It said it would decide when to reopen campuses based on the development of the epidemic.Philippines to Allow Workers to Return to Hong Kong, Macau (3 p.m. HK)The Southeast Asian nation will allow its citizens employed in Hong Kong and Macau to return to their jobs, partially lifting a travel ban imposed weeks ago to prevent the virus’s spread.The government will exempt those working in the two cities from the ban “subject to certain formalities,” Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Brigido Dulay tweeted. It comes after the government lifted a days-old travel ban on Taiwan on Feb. 14.New Doctor Fatality (2:03 p.m. HK)State-run CCTV reported the death of neurosurgery expert Liu Zhiming, director of Wuhan Wuchang Hospital, underscoring the risks of the virus for medical workers on its front lines. It comes after the death earlier this month of Li Wenliang, a city doctor who was sanctioned for attempting to bring the virus to light early on -- and whose death sparked a rare outpouring of public anger in the country.More than 1,700 medical workers have been infected by the coronavirus, according to China’s National Health Commission, most of them in Wuhan. At least six have died.\--With assistance from Shinhye Kang, Dominic Lau, Drew Armstrong, Isabel Reynolds, Anand Krishnamoorthy, Natalie Lung, Peter Elstrom, Sam Kim, Derek Wallbank and Crystal Chui.To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Karen Leigh in Hong Kong at kleigh4@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Rachel Chang at wchang98@bloomberg.net, ;Adveith Nair at anair29@bloomberg.net, ;Drew Armstrong at darmstrong17@bloomberg.net, Karen Leigh, Mark SchoifetFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • World
    Reuters

    Climate protesters dig up Cambridge college's lawn

    Extinction Rebellion climate protesters dug up the lawn of Trinity College, Cambridge on Monday, as part of a week-long series of demonstrations in Britain's ancient university town. The activists dug up the grass in front of the 16th-century "Great Gate", digging channels in the turf with shovels and pitchforks and planting Extinction Rebellion flags.