Hot off a tweet announcing his pardon of conservative filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza, President Donald Trump has now told reporters he’s considered commuting the sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and pardoning Martha Stewart.
The news suggests Trump could keep using his nearly unlimited pardon powers in high-profile cases, including those involving corruption and obstruction of justice — even as special counsel Robert Mueller continues to investigate whether Trump himself obstructed justice by firing FBI Director James Comey.
Blagojevich was convicted of numerous corruption charges in 2011 and is currently serving a 14-year sentence.
BREAKING: Trump says he's considering commuting sentence of ex-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, pardoning Martha Stewart.— The Associated Press (@AP) May 31, 2018
In 2011, a jury found Blagojevich guilty of the majority of 20 corruption charges, which included wire fraud, extortion, and bribery. Among these charges: Blagojevich’s attempts to trade or sell the Senate seat that had been vacated by President Barack Obama and leverage it for personal gain.
According to a report from the Los Angeles Times’s Eli Stokols, who is traveling with the president, Trump thinks Blagojevich’s punishment for corruption was too harsh. Bragging about getting something back for a Senate appointment, Trump said, according to Stokols, was “a stupid thing to say — but 18 years?”
Earlier this week, Blagojevich pleaded his case in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, arguing that “the Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation are abusing their power to criminalize the routine practices of politics and government” and that “when they can’t prove a crime, they create one.”
Stewart, meanwhile, faced charges of obstruction of justice in 2004 after she made false statements to federal investigators about a stock transaction. She ultimately served the minimum sentence of five months in federal prison and five months of home confinement.
Trump has made a string of controversial pardons, including to Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff Scooter Libby and former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
And Trump is well within his rights as president to engage in such actions, as Vox’s Dylan Matthews writes:
Here’s the thing: The presidential pardon power is basically unlimited. It can be used to obstruct justice, yes, and in that case, Congress would have the power to impeach and/or remove Trump if it so chooses. But it cannot undo Trump’s pardons, or limit them in any way, once they’ve been granted.