Kerik, who once served three years in federal prison for charges including tax fraud and lying to officials, was nominated as homeland security secretary by President George W. Bush but withdrew from consideration due to potential tax violations and a former household employee’s questionable immigration status.
“There are no words to express my appreciation and gratitude to President Trump,” Kerik tweeted in a statement.
A White House announcement on the pardon says that since the conviction, Kerik “has focused on improving the lives of others, including as a passionate advocate for criminal justice and prisoner reentry reform.”
Trump also announced he had commuted the prison sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat who has served eight years of a 14-year sentence for the pay-for-play charges. The President also issued pardons for Mike Milken, an investment banker known as the “Junk Bond King” who was convicted of felony charges that included securities fraud and conspiracy; and Eddie DeBartolo Jr., the former owner of the San Francisco 49ers who pleaded guilty in 1998 to failing to report a felony in a bribery case.
The wave of pardons and commutations, some of which Trump has been considering for years, came amid a post-impeachment flurry of presidential prerogative, from ridding his team of aides he deemed disloyal to flagrantly inserting himself into Justice Department matters.
Kerik, who was once the commissioner of the New York City Department of Corrections, was heavily involved in advising Navy SEAL chief Edward “Eddie” Gallagher during his military case.
Gallagher was convicted of bringing discredit to the armed services after posing next to a dead ISIS fighter’s body, which is against regulations. He was then demoted in rank — a decision Trump reversed in a move that angered military officials and led to the ousting of then-Navy Secretary Richard Spencer.
Kerik was also once a bodyguard and driver for former New York mayor and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani in 1993. He later served as a senior vice president at Giuliani Partners until 2004.
The President said Tuesday that he relies heavily on the recommendations of others to inform his clemency decisions, adding that Kerik is “a man who had many recommendations from a lot of very good people.”
According to the White House statement, the pardon was supported by Giuliani, Gallagher, New York Republican Rep. Peter King, presidential confidant and Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy, as well as Fox News personalities Judge Andrew Napolitano and Geraldo Rivera. The pardon was also supported by Sidney Powell, the attorney for former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
Kerik’s pardon was part of a list of 11 new clemency grants issued by Trump on Tuesday.