Sanders Says Trump Pardons Are Part of a 'Broken and Racist Criminal Justice System' That Benefits 'Cheats' and 'Crooks'

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders tweeted about President Donald Trump's latest rounds of pardons and prison term commutations Tuesday, saying Trump's decisions are reflective of "a broken and racist criminal justice system."

Among those shown leniency by the president were former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich who was arrested in 2008 on corruption charges, for attempting to sell the empty senate seat of then-President-elect Barack Obama. Blagojevich was expected to be released from prison Tuesday.

Michael Milken, who served 22 months in prison for violating U.S. securities laws, and former owner of the San Francisco 49ers Edward DeBartolo Jr., who failed to report a felony in a bribery case in 1998, were among the high-profile names who received presidential pardons.

In total, seven people received pardons and four were granted sentence commutations.

According to a statement from the White House Tuesday, Trump chose who would be exonerated according to "the decisions these individuals have made following their convictions to work to improve their communities and our Nation."

Sanders, whose platform calls for an extensive reform of the U.S. prison system including an end to the War on Drugs, responded to the White House's announcement of pardons and commutations Tuesday.

"Today, Trump granted clemency to tax cheats, Wall Street crooks, billionaires, and corrupt government officials," Sanders tweeted. "Meanwhile thousands of poor and working-class kids sit in jail for nonviolent drug convictions. This is what a broken and racist criminal justice system looks like."

Today, Trump granted clemency to tax cheats, Wall Street crooks, billionaires, and corrupt government officials.

Meanwhile thousands of poor and working-class kids sit in jail for nonviolent drug convictions.

This is what a broken and racist criminal justice system looks like.

— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) February 18, 2020

Newsweek reached out to the White House for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

bernie sanders
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders called the U.S. criminal justice system "broken and racist" in a Tuesday tweet. Justin Sullivan/Getty

While the president's power to issue pardons is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, Trump has been the subject of criticism concerning his use of the legal system to allegedly aid his allies and punish his enemies.

After his acquittal of impeachment charges, Trump removed Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman from his position in the White House and fired Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland. Both individuals had testified against Trump during the impeachment hearings in 2019.

Attorney General William Barr has said that he disapproves of Trump's usage of Twitter to comment on cases being litigated by the Department of Justice.

"I think it's time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases," Barr said in a February interview.

"I have a problem with some of the tweets," Barr added. "As I said at my confirmation hearing, I think the essential role of the attorney general is to keep law enforcement sacrosanct to make sure there is no political interference in it."

Trump, however, has stated publicly that he has the legal right to ask Barr to make recommendations on his behalf in federal cases.

While speaking to reporters at Andrews Air Force Base Tuesday Trump said, "I'm actually, I guess, the chief law enforcement officer of the country, but I've chosen not to be involved. I could be involved if I wanted to be."