As President Donald Trump mulls issuing a pardon and a commutation in two federally prosecuted cases, each one's ties to former FBI director James Comey have emerged.
Trump told reporters on Air Force One Thursday that he may commute the sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who is doing 14 years on a federal corruption conviction, and pardon Martha Stewart, who served five months in a federal prison for obstructing justice and related charges stemming from an illegal stock trade.
Comey, a frequent target of Trump's verbal attacks, was the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York when Stewart was arrested. He departed that role in late 2003 to become deputy attorney general, but he played a key role in the Stewart case before it went to trial.
Comey wrote about the Stewart case in his recent book, "A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership." Her indictment and subsequent conviction stemmed from her lying to investigators about insider stock trading and a cover-up effort.
"I told my staff to indict Martha Stewart and decided Karen Seymour should lead the case at trial," wrote Comey, who detailed his reasons for deciding to pursue the case. "Charging Martha Stewart was my first experience with getting a lot of hate and heat for a decision that had been carefully and thoughtfully made."
Blagojevich was impeached in 2009 and convicted in 2010 on charges that he tried to sell the Senate seat left vacant by former President Barack Obama.
As CNN noted, the U.S. attorney who steered Blagojevich's case was Patrick Fitzgerald — a friend of Comey's who is now serving on the former lawman's legal team.
The Chicago Tribune reported in 2010 that Fitzgerald may have stayed in his post as U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois longer than he originally planned to oversee the Blagojevich case. There was also talk in Chicago that Obama was considering nominating Fitzgerald to serve as FBI director — a job that ultimately went to Comey.
In 2003, Comey — at the time the deputy attorney general — appointed Fitzgerald the special counsel to investigate how Valerie Plame was outed as a CIA officer. That probe led to the arrest and conviction of Lewis "Scooter" Libby, former Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff.
Trump pardoned Libby in April.
It's also worth noting that Blagojevich appeared on Trump's "The Celebrity Apprentice" television show in 2010. Stewart starred in a spinoff of the television franchise — "The Apprentice: Martha Stewart" — after she was released from prison.
Trump fired Comey last spring, a move that has come under intense scrutiny because of the ongoing Department of Justice investigation into whether his campaign colluded with Russia. Trump has insisted his campaign did not work with the Russians to help defeat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.
Trump and other conservatives have been bashing Comey for months over his handling of the Clinton email case and the FBI's surveillance of people close to Trump before and after the election. Comey — and even some conservatives — insist what the FBI did regarding Trump campaign surveillance was legal.
Also on Thursday, Trump said he would issue a pardon to conservative commentator and filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza, who was sentenced to five years probation in 2014 for federal campaign law violations.
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