Donald Trump has pardoned Rod Blagojevich and Edward DeBartolo Jr., once again showing a corrupt and damaging bias towards celebrity.
Donald Trump is a forgiving man – at least if you can persuade a celebrity to beg him to forgive you. As yesterday’s pardons of Rod Blagojevich, Edward DeBartolo Jr., and nine other convicts show, you can get away with anything so long as you have someone famous in your corner.
And it’s not only yesterday’s pardons. If nothing else, his attitude toward his clemency power proves that rather than “draining the swamp” of corruption, Trump is filling it to a tipping point.
Fresh from his impeachment acquittal, Donald Trump pardoned or commuted the prison sentences of 11 high-profile convicts yesterday.
He commuted the sentence of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat who served eight years of a 14-year sentence for extortion. Tellingly, Blagojevich had appeared on the Celebrity Apprentice in 2010.
Trump also pardoned Eddie DeBartolo Jr., the ex-owner of the San Francisco 49ers. He pleaded guilty in 1998 to failing to report that then-Louisiana governor Edwin Edwards had tried to extort money from him.
Various retired NFL players such as Jerry Rice and Charles Haley had met with Trump to plead DeBartolo’s case.
In other words, it pays to have friends in high places. It doesn’t pay to be a nobody.
If you’re an average Joe or Josephine, you’re a criminal when you commit a crime, plain and simple. You’re an evil person who absolutely deserves punishment.
But if you happen to be friends with a celebrity, you’re suddenly a misunderstood soul, a victim of circumstances. So don’t worry: Donald Trump will save you.
Naturally, this isn’t the first time Donald Trump has pardoned a criminal for receiving the seal of approval from a celebrity.
In 2018, Trump commuted the life sentence of Alice Marie Johnson, a woman the Justice Department claims was involved in a drug cartel. Such details aren’t important when you have Kim Kardashian on your side.
That same year, Donald Trump granted a full pardon to Jack Johnson, a victim of the Jim Crow era. Dead since 1946, Johnson had taken a woman across state lines for “immoral purposes,” thereby violating the controversial Mann Act.
A spurious charge, no doubt, but what sets Johnson apart from everyone else convicted under the Mann Act was that he had Sylvester Stallone and other celebrities “in his corner.”
It’s clear that Donald Trump likes presidential pardons that bring him maximum publicity. Or ones that favor right-wing causes or people. And when you combine conservative politics and celebrity, you’re sure to be a winner.
This is what “American author, filmmaker, and conspiracy theorist” Dinesh D’Souza discovered in 2018. D’Souza had pleaded guilty in 2014 to illegally using straw donors to fundraise for Republican Senate candidate Wendy Long in New York.
Of course, this is all irrelevant to Trump, particularly when celebrity and anti-Obama politics are involved.
The moral of this story is that, in America, being “famous” and “successful” is perhaps the greatest virtue of all. So great that it can cancel out otherwise immoral or criminal behavior.
Not being famous or successful – or having links to fame or success – is itself its own kind of crime.