President Trump's list of felons to whom he granted clemency yesterday seems to have a common element. First, Rod Blagojevich, possibly the most corrupt governor Illinois has ever had, which is saying something in a state that sent 4 of its last 8 to prison, and who seems less than contrite about his crimes:
“I had a unique opportunity to represent Congress and be (Illinois’) governor for six years and fight for things I truly believe is good for people,” he said, adding “the fight” now was against the “people that did this to me” and to regain the public’s trust.
“That if I were to give in to the pressure and give in to the shakedown that was done to me, that I would be violating my oath of office to fight for the Constitution and fight for the rule of law and keep my promises to (the public),” he said. “ ’Cause I didn’t do the things they said I did. And they lied on me.”
And the president also pardoned Michael Milken, who has his own glorious history of malfeasance:
Lest history be entirely rewritten, it’s worth considering what Judge Kimba M. Wood told Mr. Milken at his sentencing on Nov. 21, 1990, on charges including conspiracy and fraud:
“When a man of your power in the financial world, at the head of the most important department of one of the most important investment banking houses in this country, repeatedly conspires to violate, and violates, securities and tax laws in order to achieve more power and wealth for himself and his wealthy clients, and commits financial crimes that are particularly hard to detect, a significant prison term is required in order to deter others.”
[I]t’s not hard to fathom why Mr. Milken’s saga would resonate with Mr. Trump.
Like the president, Mr. Milken studied business at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania but was largely shunned by New York’s elite.
Mr. Milken’s early clients were corporate raiders who, like Mr. Trump, were disdained by establishment firms like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. Mr. Milken and his junk-bond-fueled takeovers were seen as disruptive forces, threats to a complacent status quo on Wall Street and in corporate America, just as Mr. Trump has upended Washington.
And of course Mr. Milken underwent years of distracting investigations and related bad publicity.
NPR interviewed NYU law professor Rachel Barkow this morning, who summed it up nicely. (I'll edit this post later today to add her comments when the transcript comes out.)
I really hope whoever gets the Democratic nomination hammers the president on this stuff. The corruption! Such corruption! It's the one thing Donald Trump does best.