Feb 18, 2020
Transcript: Trump Speaks About Commuting Former Gov. Blagojevich’s Sentence, Pardoning Others
On Tuesday, February 18, 2020, Donald Trump went on a clemency spree of pardons and commutes. He commuted the 14-year prison sentence of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and pardoned former NYPD commissioner Bernie Kerik, among a long list of others. Read the full transcript of Trump’s statements to the press before boarding Air Force One.
Donald J Trump: (00:00)
Yes, we have commuted the sentence of Rod Blagojevich. He’s served eight years in jail. That’s a long time. And I watched his wife on television. I don’t know him very well. I’ve met him a couple of times. He was on for a short while of The Apprentice years ago, seemed like a very nice person. Don’t know him, but he served eight years in jail. There’s a long time to go. Many people disagree with the sentence. He’s a Democrat, he’s not a Republican.
Donald J Trump: (00:32)
It was a prosecution by the same people, Comey, Fitzpatrick, the same group. Very far from his children. They’re growing older. They’re going to high school now and they rarely get to see their father outside of an orange uniform. I saw that, and I did commute his sentence. So he’ll be able to go back home with his family after serving eight years in jail.
Donald J Trump: (00:56)
That was a tremendously powerful, ridiculous sentence in my opinion.
Reporter 1: (01:00)
Donald J Trump: (01:01)
And in the opinion of many others. Yes?
Reporter 1: (01:03)
Do you still have confidence in your Attorney General? First…
Donald J Trump: (01:05)
I have total confidence in my Attorney General.
Reporter 1: (01:07)
Do you agree with his statement that you should stop tweeting about Justice Department issues?
Donald J Trump: (01:12)
Well people like that. But everybody has the right to speak their mind. And I use social media. I guess I use it well because here I am. I’m here.
Reporter 1: (01:19)
Have you [crosstalk 00:01:20].
Donald J Trump: (01:20)
And I probably wouldn’t have gotten here without social media, because I certainly don’t get fair press. So I wouldn’t have gotten here without social media. And perhaps with all of the hoaxes, you had the impeachment hoax, you had the Mueller hoax, you had Russia, Russia, Russia, nonsense, all the scams. And if I didn’t have social media, I probably wouldn’t be here. So I’m very happy with social media.
Donald J Trump: (01:43)
But I think he’s doing an excellent job. He’s a strong guy. I never spoke to him about the Roger Stone situation. Roger Stone, just so you know, never worked. He didn’t work for my campaign. There might’ve been a time way early, long before I announced, where he was somehow involved a little bit. But he was not involved in our campaign at all. And I think it was a very, very rough thing that happened to Roger Stone.
Reporter 1: (02:08)
Donald J Trump: (02:08)
Because when you look at what happened with Comey after a 78 page horrific report, when you look at what happened to McCabe with a recommendation of prosecution, and you look at all of these other people, and then you look at what happened to General Flynn, a highly respected man. I’ve mean, his life has been destroyed. You look at a Roger Stone for a tweet and some other things. You take a look at what’s happening to these people. Somebody has to stick up for the people.
Donald J Trump: (02:37)
So my social media is very powerful. I guess Mark Zuckerberg just recently said Trump is number one in the world on social media, which is a very nice statement, I guess. Certainly it’s something you could be at least a little bit proud of. But it means I have a voice, so I’m able to fight the fake news.
Reporter 1: (02:56)
Have you [inaudible 00:02:57] to resign over your tweets, and then also he said that your comments on Twitter are making it impossible to do his job. Are you making his job impossible?
Donald J Trump: (03:03)
Well, but it allows me…
Donald J Trump: (03:05)
Yeah, I do make this job harder. I do agree with that. I think that’s true. He’s a very straight shooter. We have a great Attorney General and he’s working very hard. And he’s working against a lot of people that don’t want to see good things happen, in my opinion. That’s my opinion, not his opinion. That’s my opinion. You’ll have to ask what his opinion is.
Donald J Trump: (03:24)
But I will say this, social media, for me, has been very important. Because it gives me a voice. Because I don’t get that voice in the press and the media. I don’t get that voice. So I’m allowed to have a voice.
Reporter 1: (03:40)
Do you think he could still do his job with integrity, though? He says it’s making it hard for him to do his job with integrity.
Reporter 2: (03:40)
Mr. President? [crosstalk 00:03:40].
Donald J Trump: (03:40)
Oh yeah, he’s a man with great integrity. The Attorney General is a man with incredible integrity. Just so you understand, I chose not to be involved. I’m allowed to be totally involved. I’m actually, I guess the Chief Law Enforcement Officer of the country. But I’ve chosen not to be involved. But he is a man of great integrity.
Reporter 1: (04:04)
You’re not hurting the…
Donald J Trump: (04:05)
But I would be, I couldn’t be involved if I wanted to be.
Reporter 1: (04:07)
You’re not hurting the ability…
Reporter 2: (04:08)
Are you also pardoning Bernie Kerik?
Donald J Trump: (04:10)
Yes, I just pardoned Bernie Kerik.
Reporter 2: (04:12)
Okay. [crosstalk 00:04:15].
Donald J Trump: (04:13)
A man who’s had many recommendations from a lot of good people. Oftentimes, pretty much all the time, I really rely on the recommendations of people that know them. We have Bernie Kerik, we have Mike Milken, who’s gone around and done an incredible job for the world with all of his research on cancer. And he’s done this, and he suffered greatly. He paid a big price, paid a very tough price, but he’s done an incredible job. And yeah, these are all people that you have to see the recommendations. I rely on recommendations. Very impressive.
Reporter 1: (04:50)
Roger Stone, are you planning to pardon Roger Stone?
Donald J Trump: (04:51)
I haven’t given it any thought. In the meantime, he’s going through a process. But I think he’s been treated very unfairly. Yes?
Reporter 3: (04:59)
[inaudible 00:04:59] This morning about about China and wanting US companies to be able to sell jet parts?
Donald J Trump: (05:03)
Reporter 3: (05:04)
Are you not concerned about national security on that?
Donald J Trump: (05:06)
I’m very concerned about national security. Number one, I’m concerned about national security. Nobody’s done a better job with national security than me. You take a look at what’s going on. We’ve done a great job on national security. A lot of countries are a lot different now than they were when I started.
Donald J Trump: (05:22)
But I will say that we’re not going to be sacrificing our companies for all of the growth and everything else that they’re ready. They’re exploding. They’re doing so well. By using a fake term of national security. It’s got to be real national security. And I think people were getting carried away with it.
Donald J Trump: (05:40)
So I want our companies to be treated… I want our companies to be allowed to do business. I mean, things are put on my desk that have nothing to do with national security, including with chip makers and various others. So we’re going to give it up. And what will happen? They’ll make those chips in a different country, or they’ll make them in China or someplace else. So national security is very important. I’ve been very tough on HUAWEI, but that doesn’t mean we have to be tough on everybody that does something. We want to be able to sell all of this incredible technology. We’re number one in the world. We want to be able to sell to other countries.
Speaker 5: (06:16)
Do you think you’re tough on HUAWEI?
Speaker 6: (06:18)
[crosstalk 00:06:18] Taliban and this cease fire, and are you confident that a peace deal can be reached [inaudible 00:06:22]?
Donald J Trump: (06:23)
We are doing something. We’ve been in the war in Afghanistan now for 19 years. We’ve substantially reduced the force as you know. We’re really acting more as a law enforcement agency than we are as a military. Because we could win that very quickly and easily if I was willing to kill millions of people. I’m not willing to do that. I’m not willing to do that. We’d win that so quickly your head would spin. And I’m not talking about nuclear, I’m talking about very conventional. But I’m not willing to kill millions of people.
Donald J Trump: (06:55)
So we are negotiating with the Taliban. We’ve been negotiating with them for a while. We will see what happens. It’s a chance of making a deal. There’s a chance.
Donald J Trump: (07:06)
I can’t believe it’s so quiet, all of the sudden.
Speaker 7: (07:08)
Donald J Trump: (07:09)
I saw that Senator Murphy met with the Iranians. Is that a fact? I just saw that other way over. Is there anything that I should know? Because that sounds like to me a violation of the Logan Act.
Speaker 8: (07:23)
Can I ask about Venezuela, sir?
Donald J Trump: (07:24)
What happened with that? Did you read about or hear about Senator Murphy met with the Iranians?
Speaker 8: (07:29)
Donald J Trump: (07:29)
Well they ought to find out about it if it’s true. I don’t know. It just came out as I was leaving the car.
Reporter 1: (07:35)
Mr. President, does Senator…
Speaker 8: (07:35)
As for Venezuela, sir, do you think Guaido is still the guy to get Maduro out of office?
Donald J Trump: (07:39)
Well, he’s the person that the country right now prefers, and that’s what I go with. We’ll see what happens. We put additional sanctions, very strong sanctions, this morning on Venezuela. We’ll see what happens. We’re watching Venezuela very closely.
Reporter 1: (07:53)
I know you were asked specifically about Roger Stone, but are you ruling out pardons for Stone, for your former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and for Michael Flynn, for example?
Donald J Trump: (08:00)
I’m not even thinking about that. There’s a process that people are going through. These are unrelated situations where people have done a great job with very, very strong recommendations. But we haven’t thought about that yet. Right now there’s a process.
Donald J Trump: (08:14)
I think Roger Stone’s been treated unfairly. I think General Flynn has been treated very unfairly. I think a lot of people have been treated very unfairly. I think the Muller scam is just exactly what a lot of people are calling, because it was started illegally. It was started by abuse. It was phony. It was a fake dossier. And they went in, and they went into the Pfizer courts, and they forged papers, and they did a lot of bad things. So the whole Muller thing to me is a scam.
Reporter 1: (08:45)
Do you think Roger Stone deserves any prison time?
Donald J Trump: (08:47)
You’re going to see what happens. Let’s see what happens.
Speaker 8: (08:50)
You spoke to President Erdoğan the one the other day.
Donald J Trump: (08:52)
I think he’s treated very unfairly.
Speaker 8: (08:53)
We spoke to President Erdoğan of Turkey the other day.
Donald J Trump: (08:56)
Speaker 8: (08:57)
Are you concerned about all-out war breaking out between Turkey and Syria?
Donald J Trump: (09:00)
I did. I had a very good conversation with President Erdoğan. I respect him. We a have a very good relationship. Yes, I agree he’s a tough guy, but we have a very good relationship. I seem to do better with tough people.
Donald J Trump: (09:13)
But the fact is that he’s a fighting on Idlib. He doesn’t want people to be killed by the thousands and hundreds of thousands. And he called me about that and other reasons. But we spoke about Idlib, and we’re working together on seeing what can be done.
Speaker 8: (09:29)
What’s the solution?
Donald J Trump: (09:30)
Well, it’s a very tough solution. You have a lot of warring going on right now. A lot of warring going on. But I’m dealing with President Erdoğan.
Speaker 9: (09:38)
I’m Ms. Suane, can you talk a little bit about these coming three days, and also why you wanted to fly back to Las Vegas every night to spend the night there?
Donald J Trump: (09:48)
Well, I don’t know exactly the schedule, because I don’t set the schedule.
Speaker 9: (09:51)
[crosstalk 00:09:51] fly every night and stay there.
Donald J Trump: (09:51)
Yeah, largely the schedule is set by the Secret Service. We do what they want us to. But we’re going to California. We’re going to Nevada. We’re going to Arizona. We’re going to different places. And I guess we’re coming back here, but I don’t set the schedule. I have nothing to do with it.
Reporter 3: (10:09)
President, as you saw, Michael Bloomberg made the it to the Democratic debate stage tomorrow night. Do you have any advice for him as he [inaudible 00:10:15] today?
Donald J Trump: (10:16)
No, he doesn’t need that kind of advice. He’s been doing it for a long time. It just seems unfair what’s happening to Bernie Sanders, to be honest with you. I watched it happen four years ago. And always be careful what you wish for, and I’m not wishing for anything. Whoever it is, I’ll be very happy.
Donald J Trump: (10:33)
But it seems that Bernie Sanders and that whole big section of the Democratic Party, or as I call it, the Democrat Party, which is really the correct name. It seems they’re being taken advantage of like they were four years ago to me.
Speaker 7: (10:47)
What’s the campaign strategy for being in Nevada while the Democrats are focusing on the caucuses there?
Donald J Trump: (10:52)
Well I’ll be making a speech in Nevada, and that will be probably the day before, I guess, as they have it arranged. It seems to be pretty effective. We got more votes than any incumbent president in history in Iowa and in New Hampshire as you saw. And in that case, I went just before the day before, and I went the day before in both cases, Iowa and New Hampshire. So it seems to be effective. I’ll be going to South Carolina, they’re working that out now, probably the day before. But you know, look, we have a big voice and we might as well use it.
Speaker 5: (11:29)
Mr. President, are you still satisfied with how President Xi is handling the coronavirus?
Donald J Trump: (11:34)
I think President Xi is working very hard. As you know, I spoke with him recently. He’s working really hard. It’s a tough problem. I think he’s going to do… Look, I’ve seen them build hospitals in a short period of time. I really believe he wants to get that done, and he wants to get it done fast. Yes, I think he’s doing it very professionally. We’re also working with him and helping him as of the last few days, as you know.
Speaker 5: (12:01)
Some people don’t seem to trust the data coming out of China. Are you worried about that?
Donald J Trump: (12:06)
Look, I know that President Xi loves the people of China. He loves his country, and he’s doing a very good job with a very, very tough situation.
Speaker 7: (12:20)
Mr. President, Senator Graham is traveling with you. Do you want to talk to him about the Judiciary Committee doing any investigations? [crosstalk 00:12:25].
Donald J Trump: (12:25)
If it comes up, yes, but we’ll see what happens with that. That’s really up to Senator Graham. And he is traveling with me.
Reporter 3: (12:31)
Do you think we’ll get a trade deal with India? [crosstalk 00:12:34].
Donald J Trump: (12:34)
Well, we can have a trade deal with India, but I’m really saving the big deal for later on. We’re doing a very big trade deal with India. We’ll have it. I don’t know if it’ll be done before the election, but we’ll have a very big deal with India. We’re not treated very well by India, but I happened to like Prime Minister Modi a lot. And he told me we’ll have 7 million people between the airport and the event. And the stadium, I understand, is sort of semi under construction, but it’s going to be the largest stadium in the world. So it’s going to be very exciting. But he says between the stadium and the airport, we’ll have about 7 million people. So it’s going to be very exciting. I hope you all enjoy it.
Donald J Trump: (13:13)
Are you going? Are you going Steve? I hope so. Are you going Jeff? I hope you’re going too. All right? Okay? So I’ll see you maybe in the plane? How are you?
Reporter 1: (13:24)
I’m good, how are you?
Donald J Trump: (13:25)
Marriage is good, huh?
Reporter 1: (13:27)
[crosstalk 00:13:27] .
Speaker 8: (13:27)
One other thing, is there a search underway for anonymous? Remember anonymous? [crosstalk 00:13:32].
Donald J Trump: (13:32)
Yeah, there is. That’s [inaudible 00:13:34].
Reporter 1: (13:32)
Who do you think it is?
Donald J Trump: (13:37)
I know who it is.
Reporter 1: (13:38)
Who is it?
Donald J Trump: (13:39)
Yeah, can’t tell you that.
Reporter 1: (13:40)
Why not? Why not? Why not?
Donald J Trump: (13:41)
But I know who it is.
Speaker 8: (13:42)
Donald J Trump: (13:43)
But we won’t get into it.
Reporter 1: (13:44)
What are you planning to do?
Donald J Trump: (13:46)
People know it’s a fraud.
Reporter 1: (13:47)
What are you planning…
Donald J Trump: (13:47)
I know who it is, and I know who some of the leakers are. But some of the leakers don’t exist. It’s made up by the press. So they say nine people have said, or two people have said, and those people don’t exist. But no, I know all about anonymous. I know a lot about the leakers too.
Reporter 1: (14:03)
Donald J Trump: (14:04)
We know a lot. In fact, when I want to get something out to the press, I tell certain people and it’s amazing. It gets out there. But so far I’m leaving it that way. I’ll see you later. Thank you. See you on the plane.
Reporter 3: (14:15)