Coronavirus-infected Americans flown home against CDC’s advice

In the wee hours of a rainy Monday, more than a dozen buses sat on the tarmac at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport. Inside, 328 weary Americans wearing surgical masks and gloves waited anxiously to fly home after weeks in quarantine aboard the Diamond Princess, the luxury liner where the novel coronavirus had ­exploded into a shipwide epidemic.

But as the buses idled, U.S. officials wrestled with troubling news. New test results showed that 14 passengers were infected with the virus. The U.S. State Department had promised that no one with the infection would be allowed to board the planes.

A decision had to be made. Let them all fly? Or leave them behind in Japanese hospitals?

In Washington, where it was still Sunday afternoon, a fierce debate broke out: The State Department and a top Trump administration health official wanted to forge ahead. The infected passengers had no symptoms and could be segregated on the plane in a plastic-lined enclosure. But officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention disagreed, contending they could still spread the virus. The CDC believed the 14 should not be flown back with uninfected passengers.

“It was like the worst nightmare,” said a senior U.S. official involved in the decision, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations. “Quite frankly, the alternative could have been pulling grandma out in the pouring rain, and that would have been bad, too.”

The State Department won the argument. But unhappy CDC officials demanded to be left out of the news release that explained that infected people were being flown back to the United States — a move that would nearly double the number of known coronavirus cases in this country.

The tarmac decision was a pivotal moment for U.S. officials improvising their response to a crisis with few precedents and extraordinarily high stakes. Efforts to prevent the new pathogen from spreading have revealed the limits of the world’s readiness for an unprecedented public health emergency. In the worst-case scenario, covid-19, a flulike respiratory infection, could become a full-blown global pandemic.

Navigating the crisis has required delicate medical and political judgments. The decision to evacuate the Americans from the Diamond Princess came only after infections on the cruise ship spiked and passengers revealed their grim living conditions.

One lesson from that debacle is that cruise ships are like petri dishes.Thousands live in close quarters on a vessel never designed for quarantines. The crew continued to deliver food, and health workers moved throughout the ship. More than 600 of the 3,700 passengers and crew members have now tested positive for the virus and two older Japanese passengers have died.

With Japanese authorities isolating the passengers for weeks off the coast, the ship, operated by Princess Cruises, quickly developed the second-largest number of coronavirus cases on the planet outside of China — more than in Japan, Singapore, Thailand, the United States or all of Europe. Avoiding “another China” has been the goal of the World Health Organization for weeks, and then it happened anyway, in Yokohama harbor.

The treatment of the Diamond Princess passengers stands in stark contrast to what happened to those on another cruise ship, the Westerdam, who were greeted by the Cambodian prime minister with handshakes and flowers, and who later traveled widely. Only later did news come that one of the Westerdam passengers had tested positive for the virus.

That situation spurred fears that Westerdam passengers would spread the virus around the world. But no additional passengers have tested positive, and so far, no evidence has emerged they have widely seeded the virus.

The coronavirus (officially, SARS-CoV-2) is extremely contagious. Experts estimate that without protective measures, every infected person will spread it to an average of slightly more than two additional people. The disease has been fatal in roughly two out of 100 confirmed cases.

Travelers have already spread it to more than two dozen countries, where it has infected more than 75,000 people and killed more than 2,000.

[Washington Post]

New White House personnel chief tells Cabinet liaisons to target Never Trumpers

Johnny McEntee called in White House liaisons from cabinet agencies for an introductory meeting Thursday, in which he asked them to identify political appointees across the U.S. government who are believed to be anti-Trump, three sources familiar with the meeting tell Axios.

Behind the scenes: McEntee, a 29-year-old former body man to Trump who was fired in 2018 by then-Chief of Staff John Kelly but recently rehired — and promoted to head the presidential personnel office — foreshadowed sweeping personnel changes across government.

  • But McEntee suggested the most dramatic changes may have to wait until after the November election.
  • Trump has empowered McEntee — whom he considers an absolute loyalist — to purge the “bad people” and “Deep State.”
  • McEntee told staff that those identified as anti-Trump will no longer get promotions by shifting them around agencies.

The backstory: Several administration officials have already been targeted in a post-impeachment blitz.

  • Barely 48 hours after Trump was acquitted in the Senate, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman — a key national security official who testified during the impeachment inquiry that Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was “improper” — was “escorted” out of his White House post.
  • U.S. ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, who also testified in the impeachment investigations, was fired the same afternoon.
  • Trump has also promoted or brought back several people he considers core loyalists — including McEntee, former White House communications director Hope Hicks, and U.S. Ambassador to Germany Ric Grenell.
  • McEntee’s job already is being tested with Trump’s decision to tap Grenell, a staunch loyalist who has never worked for an intelligence agency, as the Acting Director of National Intelligence. Trump has said it’s only a temporary move until he names a new permanent director.
  • But his efforts to put a Republican congressman in that job, thereby plucking him out of a Senate race with a complicated GOP primary, aren’t going smoothly.

[Axios]

Trump’s Colorado rally featured an extended meltdown over 30 seconds of critical Fox News coverage

President Donald Trump devoted an inordinate amount of time during his rally on Thursday in Colorado Springs to complaining about a Fox News segment that few of the attendees were likely to have seen, featuring commentary from a journalist most of them had probably never heard of.

The roughly 20-minute display was remarkably petty — and it wasn’t the only one of that sort Trump made in Colorado Springs. But it was also an illustration of the complete, blind loyalty that Trump expects from Fox News.

At issue was commentary made earlier in the day on Neil Cavuto’s show by A.B. Stoddard, who works as an associate editor at the political news and polling aggregation outlet RealClearPolitics. Stoddard panned Mike Bloomberg’s performance in Wednesday’s Democratic presidential debate, but did so by taking a shot at Trump.

“I think that Donald Trump had disastrous debate performances. Many answers were so cringeworthy you just couldn’t even believe he was still standing on the stage — and he’s president,” she said — the implication being that despite Bloomberg’s rough night, his campaign isn’t over yet, just like Trump’s wasn’t after his bad showings.

Even though he’s traveling in Nevada, Arizona, and California this week, Trump apparently saw Stoddard’s comments and lashed out at everyone involved — including former House Speaker Paul Ryan, who now serves on Fox Corporation’s board.

“Could somebody at @foxnews please explain to Trump hater A.B. Stoddard (zero talent!) and @TeamCavuto, that I won every one of my debates, from beginning to end,” the president tweeted. “Check the polls taken immediately after the debates. The debates got me elected. Must be Fox Board Member Paul Ryan!”

Trump was still seething hours later. Minutes into his rally in Colorado Springs, he brought up Fox News and denigrated Cavuto, saying “nobody likes him.” He falsely claimed Cavuto has “taken” the place of former Fox News afternoon host Shepard Smith (though he seemed unable to remember Smith’s name), then alluded to the segment with Stoddard (though he couldn’t seem to remember her name either) and said, “wait a minute — I won every debate. It’s true.”

“I said, ‘Nobody’s allowed to do that. You can’t do that.’ We’re at enough of a disadvantage with the fake news. You know, they make up 90 percent of the stories,” continued Trump, as his fans took the cue to start booing the assembled media.

But that wasn’t all. Trump spent much of the next 15 minutes harping on the segment and trying to debunk Stoddard’s claim about him not doing well in the debates by reading off random polls from 2016.

“Look at this — ‘Trump 70 percent,’ next one is 18 percent, next one is 7, 4, 3, 3, 3, 2, 1, 1, 1, 1,” Trump read off a sheet of paper, before tossing it away. “‘Trump didn’t do well in the debates!’ See — they’re fake news.”

“Here’s another one, Trump kicked ass.”

By the end of his rant, Trump was conflating various conspiracy theories, blending a number of them into a single incoherent attack on his perceived enemies.

“They want to take you out. They want to change the results. They got caught spying — let’s say it like it is, right? — they got caught spying on our election, fake news. Hey, fake news: take your cameras for a change, and show them the room, and show them behind you,” Trump said.

The point Trump was trying to make was twofold: Polls indicate his debate performances were actually good (this is not true), and the highest-rated shows on Fox are ones that basically don’t allow hosts or guests to be critical of him.

But for someone who was unaware of the backstory, the president’s remarks must have sounded like nonsensical ramblings. Even for someone who was, the extended meltdown over a 30-second clip of commentary on a relatively obscure afternoon show was bizarre.

Trump fired acting DNI Maguire over alleged staff disloyalty

President Trump erupted at acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Joseph Maguire in a meeting last week over concerns about Maguire’s staff’s loyalty, The Washington Post reported on Thursday.

The reported incident occurred shortly before Trump announced on Wednesday Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell would take over from Maguire as the acting intelligence chief.

Trump decided against nominating Maguire for the post on a permanent basis after learning a member of his staff, Shelby Pierson, gave a classified briefing last Thursday to the House Intelligence Committee regarding election security, the newspaper reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

The specific contents of Pierson’s briefing are unknown, but Trump appeared to believe she had given information specifically to Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) that would be beneficial to Democrats if made public, the people familiar with the matter told the Post.

Trump was furious and held Maguire personally responsible when the two next met, the Post reported, resulting in a “dressing down” by the president and which served as “the catalyst” for Trump ultimately opting to appoint Grenell.

A committee official told the Post the briefing concerned “election security and foreign interference in the run-up to the 2020 election,” speaking on condition of anonymity.

“Members on both sides participated, including Ranking Member [Devin] Nunes [R-Calif.], and heard the exact same briefing from experts across the Intelligence Community,” the committee official said. “No special or separate briefing was provided to one side or to any single member, including the chairman.”

Pierson was initially appointed in 2019 by then-DNI Dan Coats, who departed the White House the same year, and had frequently disagreed with the president on the extent of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and the threat of future interference.

[The Hill]

Trump appoints unqualified loyalist Richard Grenell to oversee spy agencies

Donald Trump has appointed the US ambassador to Germany, a combative loyalist, to his administration’s most senior intelligence post, in his continuing effort to wield personal control over the spy agencies, according to multiple US reports.

By making Richard Grenell acting director of national intelligence (DNI), rather than nominating him for the permanent position, Trump has sidestepped the need for Senate confirmation, a loophole the president has increasingly exploited as he has moved to replace career officials with those chosen for their personal loyalty.

The move marks a radical break from past practice. Since the position was established in the wake of the 9/11 attacks to coordinate the 17 intelligence agencies, the office of the director of national intelligence has been viewed as non-partisan, and generally occupied by career professionals. The current acting DNI, Joseph Maguire, is a retired vice-admiral and former head of the National Counterterrorism Center.

Grenell does not have a background in intelligence or the armed services, but the White House statement confirming the appointment claimed Grenell had “years of experience” working with the intelligence community in other jobs, as special envoy to Serbia and Kosovo peace talks (a job he was given in October) and while he was spokesman at the US mission to the UN from 2001 to 2008.

“He is committed to a non-political, non-partisan approach as head of the intelligence community, on which our safety and security depend,” the statement said.

Until now Grenell has been best known as a Twitter warrior, lashing out at critics of the Trump administration with a ferocity that captured the president’s attention.

Grenell has also been an outspoken advocate of LGBT rights, and has made the issue part of his brief as ambassador.

According to some reports, he will remain ambassador to Berlin and special envoy for Serbia and Kosovo peace negotiations while overseeing the US intelligence agencies. Neither the state department nor the White House would comment on those reports on Thursday.

The president has been a bitter critic of the intelligence agencies, particularly when their assessments were at odds with his own – about Iran and North Korea, for example. He once derided agency chiefs as “passive and naive”. His denunciations became so acerbic that the agency chiefs have stopped giving public briefings to Congress over national security threats.

“The president has selected an individual without any intelligence experience to serve as the leader of the nation’s intelligence community in an acting capacity,” Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, said, noting that Grenell was the second acting director in the post since the resignation of the last Senate-confirmed DNI, Dan Coats, last summer.

Warner said that the acting appointments were an apparent “effort to sidestep the Senate’s constitutional authority to advise and consent on such critical national security positions, and flouting the clear intent of Congress when it established the office of the director of national intelligence in 2004”.

“This should frighten you,” the former National Security Agency lawyer Susan Hennessey said on Twitter. “Not just brazen politicization of intelligence, but also someone who is utterly incompetent in an important security role. The guardrails are gone.”

After Coats’s resignation in July, Trump attempted to replace him with an outspoken Republican partisan, the congressman John Ratcliffe, but Ratcliffe was forced to stand down in the face of bipartisan scepticism over his qualifications in the Senate and revelations that he had exaggerated his experience in his official biography.

[The Guardian]

Trump lashes out at Fox News coverage: ‘I won every one of my debates’

President Trump on Thursday lashed out after a segment on Fox News’s “Your World with Cavuto,” in which RealClearPolitics associate editor A.B. Stoddard compared former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s debate performance to “cringe-worthy” moments Trump has had on the debate stage.

“There were many bombs,” Stoddard, a former associate editor at The Hill, said on Fox News, while analyzing Bloomberg’s debate performance.

“I think he’s uncoachable. I think that Donald Trump had disastrous debate performances, many answers were so cringe-worthy you just couldn’t believe he was still standing on the stage, and he’s president so I don’t think debates kill off normal candidates who do not have a billionaire juggernaut machine,” Stoddard added.

Trump promptly took to Twitter to attack the commentator, as well as host Neil Cavuto, while taking a swipe at former Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who is now on the board of Fox News.

“Could somebody at @foxnews please explain to Trump hater A.B. Stoddard (zero talent!) and @TeamCavuto, that I won every one of my debates, from beginning to end. Check the polls taken immediately after the debates. The debates got me elected. Must be Fox Board Member Paul Ryan!” Trump tweeted.

Cavuto later responded on air to Trump’s tweet.

“He heard A.B. Stoddard and tweeted out this, that she’s a Trump hater and that ‘I won every’ debate the last go around. You can read that as well as I. But, just to point out, he did not. When you look at polls that came out from Fox, NBC, CNN, Politico, YouGov and a host of others, the initial read was that he had failed to do well in those debates. He ultimately won, but he didn’t poll well in those debates.”

Trump has focused many of his recent attacks on Bloomberg, often referring to him as “mini Mike” in tweet storms.

During Wednesday night’s debate, after Bloomberg said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) had no “chance whatsoever” of defeating Trump, the president responded on Twitter: “Mini, there’s even less chance, especially after watching your debate performance last night, of you winning the Democrat nomination…But I hope you do!”

[The Hill]

Trump Attacks Roger Stone Jury Forewoman

President Donald Trump spoke out for the first time since Roger Stone was sentenced to three years and four months in prison on Thursday by Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the D.C. District Court.

During a speech before former prisoners at a criminal justice event in Las Vegas, Trump fired shots at the jury forewoman in the Stone trial, stating, “The forewoman of the jury, the woman who was in charge of the jury, is totally tainted when you take a look.” He additionally labelled her as an “anti-Trump activist” and a “dominant person,” claiming, “she can get people to do whatever she wants.”

“How can you have a jury poll tainted so badly?” Trump asked. He later added, “But it happened to a lot of people and destroyed a lot of people’s lives.”

Trump ended his rant on the jury forewoman by promising viewers, “We are cleaning it out. We are cleaning the swamp, we are draining the swamp.”

He then transitioned to Stone, stating, “I want the process to play out. I think that is the best thing to do. Because I would love to see Roger exonerated. I would love to see it happen because I personally think that he was treated very unfairly.”

He did not say whether he would pardon his longtime friend and adviser.

[Mediaite]

Trump declares himself the ‘chief law-enforcement officer of the United States’

President Donald Trump falsely designated himself the “chief law-enforcement officer of the United States” while speaking with reporters on Tuesday.

Attorney General William Barr is the chief law-enforcement officer of the US.

The president also acknowledged that he makes Barr’s job more difficult, referring to Barr’s remark last week that Trump’s tweets make it “impossible” for him to do his job.

“I do make his job harder,” Trump told reporters. “I do agree with that.” He added that he has “total confidence” in the attorney general.

Barr made waves last week when he told ABC News in an exclusive interview that the president’s tweeting put him in a tough spot.

“I’m going to do what I think is right,” Barr said. “And you know … I cannot do my job here at the department with a constant background commentary that undercuts me.”

“I think it’s time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases,” Barr said, adding that they “make it impossible for me to do my job.”

Most recently, Barr and senior leadership overrode the sentencing recommendation that career prosecutors handling the federal case against Trump’s associate Roger Stone made to a court last week. The announcement came after Trump tweeted that the initial sentencing recommendation was “horrible” and “unfair” to Stone.

The next day, Trump congratulated Barr for deciding to overrule the prosecutors, all of whom withdrew from the case or resigned altogether after senior DOJ leadership rebuked their recommendation.

“Congratulations to Attorney General Bill Barr for taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perhaps should not have even been brought,” the president tweeted.

But Barr told ABC News that he had already decided to ask for a lesser sentence in Stone’s case before Trump tweeted.

The attorney general also said his main responsibility was to make sure the DOJ is free from political interference.

“And I have done that, and I will continue to do that,” Barr said.

Barr’s comments raised questions and prompted immediate skepticism, especially given that he has repeatedly capitulated to the president’s public demands since taking over as attorney general.

In addition to Stone, senior DOJ officials also intervened in the government’s case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn at Barr’s direction. And the attorney general recently appointed an outside prosecutor to review the charges against Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI after his lawyer repeatedly pressured Barr to overturn the case, claiming it was a “miscarriage of justice.”

Barr also announced that the DOJ was setting up an “intake process” to vet the information that Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani collects from Ukraine against former Vice President Joe Biden, one of Trump’s 2020 Democratic rivals.

The announcement was perplexing, given that Giuliani is under investigation by the US attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York over his efforts to get foreign dirt on Biden.

The DOJ said in a letter to Congress the US attorney for the Eastern District of New York was coordinating “several open matters” related to the Ukraine controversy and that the US attorney in Pittsburgh would vet new information from Ukraine that comes from the public, including Giuliani.

[Business Insider]

Trump Got Tons of Campaign Cash Before Handing Out Pardon

President Donald Trump on Tuesday granted clemency to 11 people, including several convicted felons who are either Fox News regulars or have been championed by the president’s favorite cable-news network. And in another case, the family of one pardon recipient dished out massive contributions to the president’s re-election campaign just months before Trump’s clemency spree.

Among those granted pardons or sentence commutations were former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was sentenced to 14 years in prison for attempting to sell former President Barack Obama’s Senate seat; former New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik, who was sentenced to four years in 2010 for tax fraud and lying to the feds; and Michael Milken, the “junk-bonds king” whose early-’90s insider-trading conviction made him a poster boy of white-collar crime.

Unsurprisingly, a key influence that led to Trump’s decision, particularly as it related to Blagojevich, was Fox News. The same could partly be said of the decision on Kerik, a frequent Fox News guest whose pardon was backed by several of the network’s stars; Milken, whose pardon was supported by Fox Business Network host and Trump loyalist Maria Bartiromo; and Angela Stanton, an occasional pro-Trump TV pundit whose pardon was pushed by frequent Fox News guest and evangelical leader Alveda King.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Trump made the Fox News connection abundantly clear, telling reporters that he decided to commute the rest of Blagojevich’s sentence because he’d seen the ex-governor’s wife Patti Blagojevich pleading her husband’s case on Fox.

“I watched his wife on television,” Trump declared, adding that he didn’t know the ex-governor “very well” despite Blagojevich’s appearances on The Celebrity Apprentice years ago.

In mid-2018, the president repeatedly asked close advisers to explore a Blagojevich pardon and, while doing so, emphatically referenced clips he’d seen on Fox, including a segment on informal Trump adviser Jeanine Pirro’s weekend show, according to two sources who independently discussed the matter with the president at the time.

According to liberal media-watchdog Media Matters for America, Patti Blagojevich took to Fox programming in April 2018 to push for her husband’s sentence to be reduced, making at least seven appearances on some of Trump’s favorite primetime shows such as Tucker Carlson Tonight and The Ingraham Angle.

The hosts, meanwhile, didn’t even bother with subtlety during the interviews. For instance, Tucker Carlson asked Mrs. Blagojevich what she would say “if you could speak to the president.” 

Kerik, meanwhile, has been a frequent guest of Fox News primetime programming for several years, generally offering on-air criticism of how Democrats handle New York City’s police department and criminal justice in general.

In what can generously be described as ironic, Kerik appeared the evening before his pardon on Tucker Carlson Tonight to rail against bail reform in New York while urging for harsher punishment for criminals, claiming crime was down when the police department increased arrests for “jumping turnstiles” and other low-level misdemeanors.

Kerik has also been used as a Trump-friendly critic of the so-called “deep state” on Fox News airwaves, at one point advocating for the arrest of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) for trying to carry out an “attempted coup” of Trump with the whistleblower complaint and impeachment inquiry.

According to the White House, Kerik’s pardon was supported by Fox News stars like Geraldo Rivera and Judge Andrew Napolitano. Additionally, the administration said, Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani—a frequent Fox News commentator and Kerik’s one-time boss—backed the decision.

Pirro, meanwhile, celebrated Kerik’s pardon and Blagojevich’s commutation on Twitter, personally thanking the president while declaring that “political prosecutions have no place in this country.”

The pro-Trump Fox News star, who brushed off Blagojevich’s crimes as “just practicing politics” in an April 2018 interview with Patti Blagojevich, has something of a sordid history with Kerik. Back in 2006, Pirro—who was then running as a Republican for New York attorney general—admitted she asked Kerik to bug her then-husband’s boat to see if he was having an affair after federal prosecutors began investigating whether she and Kerik illegally taped conversations.

While junk-bond king Michael Milken is not a Fox News regular by any measure, his pardon was backed by Bartiromo, yet another Fox star who has morphed into an unofficial mouthpiece of and adviser to President Trump. 

Additionally, Angela Stanton, who was pardoned for her role in a stolen luxury-vehicle ring, has appeared on Fox News as a pro-Trump commentator—much like her godmother Alveda King, who backed her pardon—often arguing that Democrats want more poor women of color to have abortions.

Appearances on Fox News and Fox Business—two of Trump’s favorite networks—are popular vessels for those seeking to make their cases for pardons or clemency directly to the president, a voracious consumer of TV and cable news.

The most prominent example was the sustained, successful on-air and behind-the-scenes campaign on Fox to lobby Trump to grant clemency to accused and convicted American war criminals. Fox & Friends Weekend host Pete Hegseth was a ringleader of that highly controversial effort.

“[Trump] knows how people play this game,” said one source close to the president. “He’s even told me before something to the effect of, ‘All these people keep getting themselves on Fox News begging me for a pardon,’ so he’s self-conscious about this stuff. But it doesn’t matter, it still has an effect on him.”

For those who didn’t receive the Fox News treatment, it appears that in at least one case, cold hard cash did the talking. Paul Pogue, a construction company owner who pleaded guilty to underpaying his taxes by $473,000 and received three years probation, was issued a full pardon and clemency by the president.

According to FEC filings, Pogue’s family has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars in direct contributions and in-kind air travel to the Trump Victory Committee. Beginning in August 2019, Ben Pogue—CEO of Pogue Construction and son of Paul Pogue—and his wife Ashleigh made over $200,000 in contributions to the campaign.

In August alone, Ben Pogue donated $85,000 to Trump Victory while Ashleigh Pogue contributed $50,000 that month. The following month, Ben Pogue made an in-kind air travel contribution of $75,404.40. The couple also made several large donations to the Republican National Committee and each donated $5,600 to Donald Trump for President Inc.

On the day of their first donation to the Trump campaign, Ashleigh posted an Instagram photo of her and her husband posing with Donald Trump Jr. and his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, at the Hamptons.

Prior to the Pogues’ sudden significant donating spree to Trump and the Republicans, the couple was not seen as big campaign spenders, having donated a few thousand dollars for Paul Ryan’s congressional campaign in 2017 and $5,400 for former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum’s 2016 Republican presidential run.

Notably, one of the advocates for Pogue’s clemency: Santorum, who is now a CNN contributor.

[The Daily Beast]

Trump pardons Bernard Kerik

President Donald Trump on Tuesday pardoned Bernard Kerik, the former New York police commissioner who rose to national fame in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and was later sentenced to four years in prison after pleading guilty to felony charges including tax fraud and lying to White House officials.

The White House announced Tuesday that Trump had granted a full pardon to Kerik, as well as a commutation for disgraced former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

The White House said in a statement that since Kerik’s conviction, “he has focused on improving the lives of others, including as a passionate advocate for criminal justice and prisoner re-entry reform.”

“His 30 years of law enforcement service and tenure as Commissioner of the New York City Department of Correction have given him a unique understanding and perspective on criminal justice and prisoner re-entry reform, and he remains an invaluable contributor to these endeavors.”

Kerik was sentenced to four years in prison in 2010 after pleading guilty to eight felony charges for offenses including failure to pay taxes and lying to White House officials during a failed nomination to be Homeland Security secretary.

An Army veteran, Kerik once worked on Rudy Giuliani’s security detail when Giuliani was mayor. Giuliani made Kerik commissioner of the city’s Department of Correction, and in 2000 named him police commissioner. The pair worked side by side on Sept. 11, 2001.

The fall of Kerik’s career began when President George W. Bush nominated him to lead the Department of Homeland Security.

Kerik abruptly withdrew his name, citing questions raised about the immigration status of a former housekeeper and nanny.

Prosecutors would later say that Kerik gave “false and misleading statements” to White House officials while being vetted for that position.

The federal case centered on charges that he had received more than $250,000 in renovations for his Bronx apartment from a construction company suspected of having ties to organized crime and helping the company’s bids for city contracts.

Kerik admitted to contacting New York City regulators about the company, named Interstate. Prosecutors said Kerik did not report the value of the renovations on his federal tax returns and made false statements about the renovations and his relationship with Interstate to White House officials.

Judge Stephen Robinson of U.S. District Court in White Plains, New York, sentenced Kerik to four years, exceeding the sentencing guidelines of less than three years.

“I think it’s fair to say that with great power comes great responsibility and great consequences,” Judge Robinson said at the time. “I think the damage caused by Mr. Kerik is in some ways immeasurable.”

He was also sentenced to three years of supervised release and ordered to pay nearly $188,000 in restitution.

“It is a very sad day when the former commissioner of the greatest police department in the world is sentenced to prison for base criminal conduct,” Preet Bharara, then U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement at the time.

Prior to the federal case, Kerik pleaded guilty in New York State Supreme Court in 2006 for two misdemeanors related to the renovations and was fined but did not receive jail time.

He was released from federal prison in 2013 after serving three years.

Since Kerik’s release, he’s become an advocate for prison reform and a frequent presence and Trump advocate on Fox News.

Kerik has also worked as a strategist for Navy SEAL Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, who was accused of war crimes for the fatal stabbing of a wounded fighter of the Islamic State extremist group. In July, Gallagher was found not guilty by a military court of six of the seven charges against him, including murder and attempted murder.

Last week, a former associate of Kerik’s was arrested and charged with counts that include extortion, sex trafficking, forced labor and money laundering in connection with alleged crimes against students from Sarah Lawrence College, according to an unsealed indictment.

Lawrence Ray was the best man at Kerik’s wedding before the two had a falling out and Ray eventually served as a cooperating witness in an investigation against Kerik.

On Tuesday afternoon, Kerik thanked Trump in a statement.

“With the exception of the birth of my children, today is one of the greatest days in my life — being made a full and whole American citizen again,” he wrote. “Going to prison is like dying with your eyes open. Its aftermath of collateral consequences and the permanent loss of many of your civil and constitutional rights are personally devastating.”

“This pardon restores those rights, for which I will be eternally grateful,” he said.

[NBC News]

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