President Trump Grants Pardon to Conrad Black
WASHINGTON — President Trump on Wednesday granted a full pardon to Conrad M. Black, the former press baron and onetime society fixture who was found guilty of fraud and obstruction of justice in 2007.
The pardon of Mr. Black, a political ally and longtime associate of Mr. Trump’s, was the latest example of the president using one of the unilateral powers of his office to absolve a high-profile public figure whose case resonates with him personally, bucking the more traditional practice of sifting through thousands of pardon applications awaiting his review.
In 2017, Mr. Trump granted a pardon to Joe Arpaio, the former Arizona sheriff and another close political ally whose aggressive efforts to detain undocumented immigrants earned him a criminal contempt conviction.
Last year, the president pardoned Dinesh D’Souza, the conservative commentator convicted of campaign finance violations.
His pardon of Mr. Black, a personal friend and the author of pro-Trump opinion pieces as well as a flattering book, “Donald J. Trump: A President Like No Other,” is his first since the release of the special counsel’s report, which did not come to any conclusion on whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice. It comes as Mr. Trump has continued to vent publicly about being the target of what he views as an unjust “witch hunt.”
Mr. Black, who was born in Canada and is also known as Lord Black of Crossharbour, was charged with swindling his company, Hollinger International, of $60 million. He was sentenced to a prison term of six and a half years but was released after serving just over two years. After a federal judge ruled that Mr. Black had not served enough time, he returned for about a year.
In a statement, the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, noted that the Supreme Court “largely disagreed” with the prosecutors who put Mr. Black in jail, and “overturned almost all charges in the case.” She added, “He nevertheless spent 3.5 years in prison.”
Ms. Sanders described Mr. Black, who once owned The Chicago Sun-Times, The Jerusalem Post and The Daily Telegraph in London, as “an entrepreneur and scholar” who “has made tremendous contributions to business, as well as to political and historical thought.” She also cited support for Mr. Black from Henry A. Kissinger, the former secretary of state; Rush Limbaugh, the conservative radio host and a frequent golf partner of the president’s; and the musician Elton John.
Mr. Black, an outsize character in the vein of the president, has a long history with him. During Mr. Black’s 2007 trial, Mr. Trump was expected to be called as a witness to bolster Mr. Black’s defense. He was expected to fly to Chicago and testify that a lavish $62,000 surprise party Mr. Black threw for his wife at the restaurant La Grenouille in New York — the bulk of which he charged to his company — was a business event, not a social event.
He was expected to say that he was negotiating a possible joint venture with Mr. Black’s company to turn the headquarters of The Sun-Times into a hotel and residential tower.
But Mr. Black’s defense lawyers decided at the last minute not to have Mr. Trump testify.
A day before his pardon was announced, Mr. Black published an opinion piece in National Review titled “Smooth Sailing Ahead for Trump.” Mr. Trump was “the only serious businessman to hold the office,” Mr. Black wrote, asserting that Mr. Trump would have “a stronger argument for reelection next year than any president since Richard Nixon in 1972.”
On Tuesday night, Mr. Black posted an essay explaining that when the president called him last week, he believed it was a prank.
Mr. Black wrote that Mr. Trump addressed him as “the great Lord Black” and said he was pardoning him to “expunge the bad wrap you got.” He said that Mr. Trump and the White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, who was in the room with the president, agreed that he could say publicly that the pardon was being granted because Mr. Trump believed that his verdict was unjust.
“We’ve known each other a long time,” Mr. Trump said, according to Mr. Black. “But that wasn’t any part of the reason. Nor has any of the supportive things you’ve said and written about me.”