Trump declares himself 'chief law enforcement officer' as he issues numerous pardons

President Trump on Tuesday exercised his pardon power, granting clemency to or commuting the sentences of nearly a dozen people convicted of crimes, including former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and junk bond pioneer Michael Milken.

Trump also referred to himself as the nation's “chief law enforcement officer,” a title typically reserved for the attorney general.

On Tuesday morning, the White House announced Trump’s pardoning of former San Francisco 49ers owner Edward DeBartolo Jr. for his involvement in a 1998 corruption case against former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards. Ohio pastor Darrell Scott, a longtime Trump supporter, told the Associated Press that he submitted “a package” to the president advocating for DeBartolo’s pardon.

Speaking on the tarmac at Joint Base Andrews before boarding Air Force One en route to a fundraiser in Beverly Hills, Trump announced that he had commuted Blagojevich’s sentence. The former governor is serving a 14-year sentence on federal corruption charges.

Donald Trump
President Trump addresses the media before boarding Air Force One on Tuesday. (Evan Vucci/AP)

“He seems like a very nice person,” Trump told reporters. “I watched his wife on television.”

Patricia Blagojevich had appeared on numerous Fox News shows to appeal for her husband, who was once featured as a guest contestant on Trump’s reality show “The Apprentice.”

Blagojevich, a Democrat, was convicted for abusing his powers as governor by seeking campaign contributions in exchange for filling the Illinois Senate seat left open when Barack Obama became president.

For months Trump had been considering a pardon for the former Illinois governor, who the president said was treated “very, very unfairly.”

The president also told reporters that he had granted clemency to former NYPD commissioner Bernard Kerik for corruption and financier Michael Milken for regulatory crimes.

Kerik, who served more than three years in federal prison for tax fraud and for making false statements, appeared on Fox News Monday night. He was New York’s top cop under then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is now one of the president's attorneys.

Rod Blagojevich, Donald Trump and Bernard Kerik
From left, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, President Trump and former NYPD Commissioner Bernard Kerik. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Paul Beaty/AP, AP, Mike Segar/Reuters)

After Trump boarded Air Force One, the White House announced full pardons for four others — Ariel Friedler, Paul Pogue, David Safavian and Angela Stanton — and the granting of commutations to three more: Tynice Nichole Hall, Crystal Munoz and Judith Negron. Munoz and Hall were both convicted of drug-related crimes, while Negron went to prison for Medicare fraud.

In a statement, the White House noted that Sheldon Adelson and Tom Barrack, longtime backers of Trump’s campaign, were among those who advocated for clemency for Milken.

The granting of pardons and commutations comes two days before Trump ally Roger Stone is due to be sentenced for lying to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering in a case stemming from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

On Twitter earlier Tuesday, Trump called for all cases stemming from the Mueller probe to be “thrown out.”

Trump was asked by reporters about the public rebuke from Attorney General William Barr, who said in an interview last week that such tweets make his job “impossible.” The president said he agreed.

“I do make his job harder,” Trump said. “I do agree with that, I do. He’s working against a lot of people who don’t want to see good things happen, in my opinion.”

The president reiterated his claim that he has the right to intervene in the Stone case.

“I’m actually, I guess, the chief law enforcement officer of the country,” Trump said. “I could be involved if I wanted to.”

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