Under President Trump, cable television is rapidly becoming the government’s new pardons office.
On Thursday, former CIA officer John Kiriakou became the latest person to take to the talk-show circuit, making a direct appeal to the president to wipe clean his conviction for leaking the identity of a fellow CIA officer.
“I would be forever indebted to him for a pardon,” Kiriakou said during an interview on “Fox & Friends” on Fox News, a program that Trump often watches as part of his morning routine.
Kiriakou was charged in 2012 with leaking classified information about the CIA waterboarding of an al-Qaeda suspect at a secret site in Thailand. He argued Thursday that he was unfairly targeted by former CIA director John Brennan, who has since become a vocal critic of Trump’s actions related to the Russian investigation and other matters.
“He sees an injustice, and he corrects it,” Kiriakou said of Trump.
Traditionally, people seeking pardons apply through the Justice Department’s Office of the Pardon Attorney, which reviews thousands of cases and advances some to the White House for the president’s consideration.
But in recent weeks, Trump has short-circuited that process, granting clemency in cases that have come to his attention from political allies and celebrities.
The most recent was that of Alice Marie Johnson, a woman serving a life term for nonviolent drug offenses. Trump commuted her sentence on Wednesday after an appeal from reality television star and socialite Kim Kardashian West.
The new dynamic has created an incentive for pardon-seekers and their allies to appeal directly to the president over the tube.
After Trump floated the possibility of commuting the prison sentence of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, his wife, Patti Blagojevich, appeared on another Fox News show, “Justice with Judge Jeanine,” to plead her husband’s case.
“You know, our system of government has got a system of checks and balances for a reason,” she told the show’s host, Jeanine Pirro. “And sometimes, the courts and these prosecutors get it wrong whether maliciously or just by accident, and it takes a strong leader like President Trump to right those wrongs.”
Her husband is serving a 14-year sentence for convictions in 2010 related to trying to sell President Barack Obama’s Senate seat, among other campaign finance violations.
The wife of former Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos has also made TV appearances in which she has said Trump should pardon her husband, who pleaded guilty in October to lying to the FBI about Russia contacts during the campaign. Papadopoulos is awaiting sentencing on the felony charge.
“He believed in Trump, and I believe in Trump having access to information and awareness now to know that he deserves a pardon,” Simona Mangiante Papadopoulos said on CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper.”
“And of course, one of the reasons I want him to pardon is that I love him,” she added.