WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump is picking up the pace when it comes to clemency, commuting Wednesday the life sentence of Alice Marie Johnson after an appeal from reality show personality Kim Kardashian West. A few hours later she was freed.
Last week, Trump also dangled a commutation for imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. And now, the wife of Chicago’s George Papadopoulos has launched a media blitz to win a pardon before her husband is even sentenced for his role in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.
White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway told the Chicago Sun-Times on Wednesday that Trump will move on cases where he “feels” people have been treated “unfairly.”
“This president is now looking at cases, and if he could bring relief to, to folks who he feels have been, quote, treated unfairly … then he will take action,” Conway said.
Conway’s comments about Trump and clemency came at a reporters’ breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. The Sun-Times asked about Blagojevich, who has served more than six years of his 14-year sentence on federal corruption charges.
The conversation occurred a few hours before Trump commuted Johnson’s life sentence. Kardashian West took up Johnson’s freedom as a cause, visiting Trump in the Oval Office last week.
Earlier this spring, former Illinois First Lady Patti Blagojevich made her own appeals to the president on Fox News. And it seemed to have worked — Trump said last week he’s thinking about cutting Blagojevich’s sentence short.
Simona Mangiante Papadopoulos now appears to be ripping a page out of Patti Blagojevich’s playbook, taking her case to the Fox News Channel’s “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on Monday and CNN’s “The Lead” on Wednesday.
“I trust and hope and ask President Trump to pardon him,” she told Fox. “I hope he will.”
She told CNN’s Jake Tapper, “George is loyal to the truth. He has been through a lot. He is loyal to his country. He believed in Trump and I believe in Trump. Having access to full information and awareness right now to know he deserves a pardon.”
George Papadopoulos’ attorneys declined to comment Wednesday. He had not formally applied for clemency as of last week, according to the Office of the Pardon Attorney’s website.
Conway said “the president has received a steady stream of appeals. And as for Blagojevich, she said, “I think the president made very clear that he thought the sentence was too harsh.”
But when asked how Blagojevich caught Trump’s attention, Conway said, “I can’t reveal that. I won’t reveal that, actually.”
“I think the important part is, what does the president think of each, on a case by case basis, which ones grab his attention and which ones will eventually come to reach the larger question about pardons?”
“That’s the province of the president,” Conway said. “Any president they can do that.”
Trump also pardoned conservative author Dinesh D’Souza last week without being asked. He has also floated the idea of a pardon for Martha Stewart.
Seidel reported from Chicago
Transcript: Lynn Sweet and Kellyanne Conway on pardons
BREAKFAST WITH REPORTERS HOSTED BY THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR
WEDNESDAY JUNE 6, 2018
GUEST: Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway
How did the Blagojevich clemency get on the Trump radar? Could you discuss and explain? Tell me, tell us, about the president’s heightened interest in pardons now.
And then, a point of clarification.
A White House official told me that the cases of clemency that Trump is interested in will be routed through the White House counsel.
Is that to make recommendations or do due diligence? And how does this mesh with the role of the DOJ office of Pardon Attorney.?
If you could start out in the answer with specific Blagojevich stuff, I would appreciate it.
[00:00:53] Sure. Your are here on behalf of Chicago and the country, Lynn, so
I will just tell you that the president has received a steady stream of appeals ….
When I say appeal as a small “a,” meaning personal appeals to please, pardon this person or take a look at this case.
[00:01:16] And there are many files of people who are not known to the public and I think even to the White House press corps that might strike you as brand new information.
So he is looking, he is assessing many different individual cases.
[00:01:30] I only care about Blagojevich.
[00:01:30] Well, I care about all (of them).
[00:01:32] If you can address Blagojevich.
[00:01:34] Just so we’re clear, that was Lynn Sweet.
[00:01:34] …. We don’t have a lot of time.
[00:01:38] With Blagojevich, I think the president made very clear that he thought the sentence was too harsh.
[00:01:46] But how did it get on his radar?
[00:01:50] These get on the radar any number of ways. People make personal appeals.
But how did this one get on his radar?
[00:01:54] I can’t reveal that, I won’t reveal that actually.
But I think the important part is, what does the president think of each, on a case by case basis, which ones grab his attention and which ones will eventually come to reach the larger question about pardons that I know at least a couple of people in here written about it recently, extensively.
That’s the province of the president, any president they can do that.
I know again conventionally, which he is not, most presidents wait until they’re leaving to do an awful lot of them, as do governors, by the way.
You probably covered that one time but this president is now looking at cases and if he could bring relief to, to folks who he feels been quote “treated unfairly,” a term the president uses frequently to describe many different situations, then he will take action.
[00:02:47] But it isn’t; it is a measured process. There is a vetting process in place.
And don’t forget that he very recently pardoned Jack Johnson, the boxer who was treated very unfairly based on his race. And this is a president who – this is not the first president to review that file and had a personal small “a” appeal be made.
[00:03:09] But this is the president who took action. This president often sort of takes action where other presidents have failed.
I mean his word, keeps their promises like moving the embassy to Jerusalem.
[00:03:18] …Ok, Could you just address.. this vetting…
[00:03:20] It’s a pretty big deal.
[00:03:20] . I’m not disputing that I just want to stay focused.
So will this venting at the White House counsel’s office just be some due diligence to make sure that the facts are right? Or will they make a recommendation?
And how does this mesh with the DOJ Office of Pardon Attorney? The Blagojevich legal team filed their papers yesterday.
[00:03:39] Sure. So you’re going to have to ask them that.
But I will tell you that everybody who should be involved, is involved in the process.
[00:03:46] Is it vetting? Is it to get a recommendation or do due diligence?
[00:03:50] I think you have to ask them that question.
[00:03:50] Ok. Thank you.