Tuesday, February 18, 2020

1600 Daily The White House • February 18, 2020 Sanctuaries for Whom?

1600 Daily
The White House • February 18, 2020

Sanctuaries for whom?

“My grandmother was very generous and educated,” Daria Ortiz said. “She’s a shining example of when people come legally to this country, work hard, and do the right thing and are law-abiding citizens.”

Maria Fuertes, Ortiz’s grandmother, was raped and murdered last month in Queens, New York. She was 92.

Police charged illegal immigrant and alleged repeat criminal offender Reeaz Khan with Maria’s murder. Khan, from Guyana, had been arrested previously for assault. New York City released him from jail despite a detainer request from U.S. immigration officials.

WATCH: Border Security is National Security!

Across the country, left-wing politicians use these so-called “sanctuary” policies to put dangerous, often violent criminals back on our streets. After all, “sanctuary cities” have nothing to do with protecting law-abiding immigrants: Their purpose is to stop the United States from deporting illegal aliens with criminal charges and convictions.

“The man that is responsible for this should have never had the opportunity to do this, had his multiple offenses not been ignored,” Ortiz said of her grandmother’s killer. “The system not only failed our family, but it failed our city.”

Ortiz joined President Trump at a White House event Friday to honor heroes from the U.S. Border Patrol. She thanked the Administration for acknowledging her family’s tragedy while so many others ignore the human cost of sanctuary cities.

“Not one more American life should be stolen by sanctuary cities,” President Trump told her. “That’s why we’re calling on Congress to pass legislation giving American victims the right to sue sanctuary cities and hold them accountable for the suffering and the damages that they’ve caused.”

President Trump: Politicians want sanctuary cities—our citizens do not.

­čô║ Acting DHS Secretary: President Trump is securing our border

­čÄČ President Trump gives the signal at Daytona 500!

The President and First Lady rode into the Daytona 500 in style on Sunday, taking a lap in the presidential state car before addressing the crowd.

“The tens of thousands of patriots here today have come for the fast cars and the world-class motor sports,” President Trump said, “but NASCAR fans never forget that no matter who wins the race, what matters most is God, family, and country.”

During the final lap, driver Ryan Newman’s car flipped over in a terrible accident. President Trump wrote on Twitter that he was praying for Ryan, calling him a “great and brave NASCAR driver.”

In photos: The President and First Lady take a lap in “The Beast”

WATCH: President Trump addresses the crowd

Photo of the Day

As the Thunderbirds fly overhead, President Donald J. Trump announces the start of the NASCAR Daytona 500 | February 16, 2020

Remarks by President Trump Before Air Force One Departure | Joint Base Andrews, MD

Office of the Press Secretary


Joint Base Andrews, Maryland


1:41 P.M. EST

     THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody.  It’s a little windy out here, so I’ll button up my coat.  You have a couple of more people who want to join you.

     Q    So we’re hearing you’re going to commute the sentence of Blagojevich?

     THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, we have commuted the sentence of Rod Blagojevich.  He served eight years in jail.  That’s a long time.  And I watched his wife on television.  I don’t know him very well.  I’ve met him a couple of times.  He was on, for a short while, on “The Apprentice,” years ago.  Seemed like a very nice person.  Don’t know him.

     But he served eight years in jail.  He has a long time to go.  Many people disagree with the sentence.  He’s a Democrat; he’s not a Republican.  It was a prosecution by the same people -- Comey, Fitzpatrick -- the same group.

     Very far from his children.  They’re growing older.  They’re going to high school now, and they rarely get to see their father outside of an orange uniform.  I saw that and I did commute his sentence.  So he’ll be able to go back home with his family after serving eight years in jail.  That was a tremendously powerful, ridiculous sentence, in my opinion --
     Q    Mr. President --

     THE PRESIDENT:  -- and in the opinion of many others.


     Q    Do you have confidence in your Attorney General?  First --

     THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah, I have total confidence in my Attorney General.

     Q    And do you agree with his statement that he -- that you should stop tweeting about Justice Department issues?

     THE PRESIDENT:  Well, people like that.  But, you know, everybody has the right to speak their mind.  And I use social media.  I guess I use it well, because here I am.  I'm here.  And I probably wouldn’t have gotten here without social media because I certainly don’t get fair press.

     So I wouldn’t have gotten here without social media and, perhaps, with all of the hoaxes.  You had the impeachment hoax, you had the Mueller hoax, you had the “Russia, Russia, Russia” nonsense.  All scams.  And if I didn’t have social media, I probably wouldn’t be here.  So I'm very happy with social media.

     But I think he's doing an excellent job.  He's a strong guy.  I never spoke to him about the Roger Stone situation.  Roger Stone, just so you know, never worked -- he didn’t work for my campaign.  There might've been a time -- way early, long before I announced -- where he was somehow involved a little bit.  But he was not involved in our campaign at all.  And I think it was a very, very rough thing that happened to Roger Stone.

     Because when you look what happened with Comey after a 78-page, horrific report, when you look at what happened to McCabe with a recommendation of prosecution, and you look at all of these other people, and then you look at what happened to General Flynn, a highly respected man -- look at -- I mean, his life has been destroyed.  If you're looking at Roger Stone for a tweet and some other things -- you take a look at what’s happening to these people.  Somebody has to stick up for the people.

     So, my social media is very powerful.  I guess, Mark Zuckerberg just recently said, "Trump is number one in the world" on social media, which is a very nice statement, I guess.  Certainly it's something you can be at least a little bit proud of.  But it means I have a voice so I'm able to fight the fake news.

     Q    Has the Attorney General threatened to resign over your tweets?  And then, also, he said that your comments on Twitter are making it "impossible" to do his job.  Are you making his job impossible?

     THE PRESIDENT:  Well, but it allows me -- yeah, I do make his job harder.  I do agree with that.  I think that’s true.  He's a very straight shooter.  We have a great Attorney General, and he's working very hard.  And he's working against a lot of people that don’t want to see good things happen, in my opinion.  That’s my opinion, not his opinion.  That’s my opinion.  You'll have to ask what his opinion is.

     But I will say this: Social media, for me, has been very important because it gives me a voice, because I don’t get that voice in the press.  In the media, I don’t get that voice.  So I'm allowed to have a voice.

     Q    Do you think he could still do his job with integrity, though?

     THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, yeah.

     Q    He says it’s making it hard for him to do his job with integrity.

     THE PRESIDENT:  He’s a very -- he’s a man with great integrity.  The Attorney General is a man with incredible integrity.

     Now, just so you understand, I chose not to be involved.  I’m allowed to be totally involved.  I’m actually, I guess, the chief law enforcement officer of the country, but I’ve chosen not to be involved.

     But he is a man of great integrity.  But I would be -- I could be involved if I wanted to be.

     Q    Are you also pardoning Bernie Kerik?

     THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.  I just pardoned Bernie Kerik --

     Q    Okay.

     THE PRESIDENT:  -- a man who had many recommendations from a lot of good people.

     You know, oftentimes -- pretty much all the time -- I really rely on the recommendations of people that know them.  We have Bernie Kerik.  We have Mike Milken, who’s gone around and done an incredible job for the world, with all of his research on cancer, and he’s done this and he suffered greatly.  He paid a big price; paid a very tough price.  But he’s done an incredible job.

     And -- yeah.  These are all people that you have to see the recommendations.  I rely on recommendations, very importantly.

     Q    Are you planning to pardon Roger Stone?

     THE PRESIDENT:  I haven’t given it any thought.  In the meantime, he’s going through a process.  But I think he’s been treated very unfairly.


     Q    You tweeted this morning about China and wanting U.S. companies to be able to --

     THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah.

     Q    -- sell jet parts.

     THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah.

     Q    Are you -- are you not concerned about national security on that?

     THE PRESIDENT:  I’m very concerned about national security.  Number one, I’m concerned about national security.  Nobody has done a better job with national security than me.  You take a look at what’s going on: We’ve done a great job on national security.  A lot of countries are a lot different now than they were when I started.

     But I will say that we’re not going to be sacrificing our companies, for all of the growth and everything else -- they’re ready, they’re exploding; they’re doing so well -- by using a fake term of national security.  It’s got to be real national security.  And I think people were getting carried away with it.

     So I want our companies to be treated -- I want our companies to be allowed to do business.  I mean, things are put on my desk that have nothing to do with national security, including with chipmakers and various others.  So we’re going to give it up.  And what will happen: They’ll make those chips in a different country or they’ll make them in China or someplace else.

     So, national security is very important.  I’ve been very tough on Huawei, but that doesn’t mean we have to be tough on everybody that does something.  We want to be able to sell all of this incredible technology.  We’re number one in the world.  We want to be able to sell to other countries.

     Q    Mr. President, do you trust the Taliban in this ceasefire?  And are you confident that a peace deal can be reached in Afghanistan?

     THE PRESIDENT:  We are doing something -- we’ve been in the war in Afghanistan now for 19 years.  We’ve substantially reduced the force, as you know.  We’re really acting more as a law enforcement agency than we are as a military, because we could win that very quickly and easily if I was willing to kill millions of people.  I’m not willing to do that.  I’m not willing to do that.  We’d win that so quickly your head would spin.  And I’m not talking about nuclear; I’m talking about very conventional.  But I’m not willing to kill millions of people.

     So we are negotiating with the Taliban.  We’ve been negotiating with them for a while.  We will see what happens.  There’s a chance of making a deal.  There’s a chance.

     I can’t believe -- so quiet, all of a sudden.

     Q    Senator Graham is traveling with --

     THE PRESIDENT:  I saw that Senator Murphy met with the Iranians.  Is that a fact?  I just saw that on the way over.  Is there anything that I should know?  Because that sounds like, to me, a violation of the Logan Act.

     Q    Can I ask about Venezuela, sir?

     THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah, what happened with that?  Did you read about Senator -- or hear about Senator Murphy met with the Iranians?

     Q    No.  Tell us about it.

     THE PRESIDENT:  Well, they ought to find out about it if it’s true.  I don’t know.  It just came out as I was leaving the car.

     Q    Can I ask about Venezuela, sir?  Do you think Guaid├│ is still the guy to get Maduro out of office?

     THE PRESIDENT:  Well, he’s the person that the country, right now, prefers, and that’s what I go with.  We’ll see what happens.  We put additional sanctions on -- very strong sanctions -- this morning on Venezuela.  We’ll see what happens.  We’re watching Venezuela very closely.

     Q    You were asked specifically about Roger Stone, but are you ruling out pardons for Stone, for your former campaign Chairman Paul Manafort, and for Michael Flynn, for example?

     THE PRESIDENT:  I’m not even thinking about that.  There’s a process that people are going through.  These are unrelated situations where people have done a great job with very, very strong recommendations.  But we haven’t thought about that yet.  Right now there’s a process.

     I think Roger Stone has been treated unfairly.  I think General Flynn has been treated very unfairly.  I think a lot of people have been treated very unfairly.  I think the Mueller scam is just exactly what it’s -- what a lot of people are calling, because it was started illegally.  It was started by abuse.  It was phony.  It was a fake dossier.  And they went in, and they went into the FISA courts and they forged papers, and they did a lot of bad things.  So the whole Mueller thing, to me, is a scam.

     Q    Do you think Roger Stone deserves any prison time?

     THE PRESIDENT:  You’re going to see what happens.  Let’s see what happens.

     Q    You spoke to President Erdo─čan the other day --

     THE PRESIDENT:  I think he’s treated very unfairly.

     Q    You spoke to President Erdo─čan of Turkey the other day --

     THE PRESIDENT:  I did.

     Q    Are you concerned about all-out war breaking out between Turkey and Syria?

     THE PRESIDENT:  I did.  I had a very good conversation with President Erdo─čan.  I respect him.  We have a very good relationship.  Yes, I agree, he’s a tough guy.  But we have a very good relationship.  I seem to do better with tough people.

     But the fact is that he’s fighting on Idlib.  He doesn’t want people to be killed by the thousands and hundreds of thousands, and he called me about that and other reasons.  But we spoke about Idlib, and we’re working together on seeing what can be done.

     Q    What’s the solution?

     THE PRESIDENT:  Well, it’s a very tough solution.  You have a lot of warring going on right now.  A lot of warring going on.  But I’m dealing with President Erdo─čan.

     Q    On this swing, can you talk a little bit about these coming three days, and also why you wanted to --

     THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah.

     Q    Wait.  Also why you wanted to fly back to Las Vegas every night to spend the night there?

     THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I don’t know exactly the schedule because I don’t set the schedule.

     Q    (Inaudible) flying to Vegas every night to stay there.

     THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah.  Largely, the schedule is set by the Secret Service.  We do what they want us to.

     But we’re going to California.  We’re going to Nevada.  We’re going to Arizona.  We’re going to different places.  And I guess we’re coming back here.  But I don’t set the schedule.  I have nothing to do with it.

     Q    Mr. President, you saw Michael Bloomberg made the Democratic debate stage tomorrow night.  Do you have any advice for him as he makes his first debate appearance?

     THE PRESIDENT:  No, he doesn’t need that kind of advice.  He’s been doing it for a long time.  It just seems unfair what’s happening to Bernie Sanders, to be honest with you.  I watched it happen four years ago.  And always be careful what you wish for, and I’m not wishing for anything.  Whoever it is, I’ll be very happy.

     But it seems that Bernie Sanders and that whole big section of the Democratic Party -- or, as I call it, the “Democrat Party,” which is really the correct name -- it seems they’re being taken advantage of like they were four years ago, to me.

     Q    But what’s your campaign strategy for being in Nevada while the Democrats are focusing on the caucuses there?

     THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I’ll be making a speech in Nevada, and that will be probably the day before, I guess, as they have it arranged.  That seems to be pretty effective.  We got more votes than any incumbent President in history, in Iowa and in New Hampshire, as you saw.

     And, in that case, I went just before -- the day before and I went the day before, in both cases: Iowa and New Hampshire.  So it seems to be effective.

     I’ll be going to South Carolina -- they’re working that out now -- probably the day before.  But, you know, look, we have a big voice and we might as well use it.

     Q    Mr. President, are you still satisfied with how President Xi is handling the coronavirus?

     THE PRESIDENT:  I think President Xi is working very hard.  As you know, I spoke with him recently.  He’s working really hard.  It’s a tough problem.  I think he’s going to do -- look, I’ve seen them build hospitals in a short period of time.  I really believe he wants to get that done, and he wants to get it done fast.  Yes, I think he’s doing it very professionally.

     We’re also working with him and helping him, as of the last few days, as you know.

     Q    Some people don’t seem to trust the data coming out of China.  Are you worried about that?

     THE PRESIDENT:  Look, I know this: President Xi loves the people of China, he loves his country, and he’s doing a very good job with a very, very tough situation.

     Q    Mr. President, Senator Graham is traveling with you.  Do you want to talk to him about the Judiciary Committee doing any investigations into the Bidens or others?

     THE PRESIDENT:  You know, if it comes up, yes.  But we’ll see what happens on that.  That’s really up to Senator Graham.  And he is traveling with me.

     Q    Do you think you’ll get a trade deal with India before your visit?

     THE PRESIDENT:  Well, we can have a trade deal with India, but I’m really saving the big deal for later on.  We’re doing a very big trade deal with India.  We’ll have it.  I don’t know if it’ll be done before the election, but we’ll have a very big deal with India.

     We’re not treated very well by India, but I happen to like Prime Minister Modi a lot.  And he told me we’ll have 7 million people between the airport and the event.  And the stadium, I understand, is sort of semi under construction, but it’s going to be the largest stadium in the world.  So it’s going to be very exciting.  But he says between the stadium and the airport, we’ll have about 7 million people.  So it’s going to be very exciting.  I hope you all enjoy it.

     Are you going?

     Q    Yes, sir.

     THE PRESIDENT:  Are you going, Steve?  I hope so.  Are you going, Jeff?

     Q    No, sir.  (Inaudible) is going.

     THE PRESIDENT:  I hope you’re going too.  All right?  Okay?  So I’ll see you maybe on the plane.

     How are you?

     Q    I’m good.  How are you?

     THE PRESIDENT:  Marriage is good?  Huh?

     Q    Yes, thank you.

     Q    One other thing: Is there a search underway for “Anonymous”?  Remember “Anonymous” is --

     THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah, there is.  It’s not so much a search.

     Q    Who do you think it is?

     THE PRESIDENT:  I -- I know who it is.  Yeah.

     Q    Who is it?

     THE PRESIDENT:  I can't tell you that.

     Q    Why not?

     Q    Why not?

     THE PRESIDENT:  But I know who it is.

     Q    Why not?

     THE PRESIDENT:  But we won’t -- we won’t get into it.  People know it’s -- people know it’s a fraud.  I know who it is and I know who some of the leakers are.  But some of the leakers don’t exist.  It’s made up by the press.  So, you know, they say, “Nine people have said” or “two people have said,” and those people don’t exist.

     But, no, I know all about “Anonymous.”  I know a lot about the leakers too.

     Q    Do you believe it’s a person who still works at the White House?

     THE PRESIDENT:  We know a lot.  In fact, when I want to get something out to the press, I tell certain people.  And it's amazing, it gets out there.  But, so far, I'm leaving it that way.

     I'll see you later.  Thank you.  See you on the plane. 

                                        END                1:55 P.M. EST

Statement from the Press Secretary Regarding Executive Grants of Clemency

Office of the Press Secretary

Statement from the Press Secretary Regarding Executive Grants of Clemency


Today, President Donald J. Trump signed Executive Grants of Clemency granting Full Pardons to the following individuals: Edward DeBartolo, Jr., Michael Milken, Ariel Friedler, Bernard Kerik, Paul Pogue, David Safavian, and Angela Stanton.  In addition, President Trump signed Executive Grants of Clemency granting commutations to Rod Blagojevich, Tynice Nichole Hall, Crystal Munoz, and Judith Negron.

Edward DeBartolo, Jr., is a successful businessman, real estate developer, and member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  During the 23 years that he owned the San Francisco 49ers, the team won an unprecedented 13 division titles and 5 Super Bowl Championships.  In 1998, he was convicted for failing to report a felony regarding payment demanded for a riverboat casino license, and he was sentenced to 2 years’ probation.  Mr. DeBartolo did not allow his conviction to define his life.  He remained a generous philanthropist and passionate supporter of numerous charitable causes, including charter schools like the Brooks DeBartolo Collegiate High School, and anti-gang violence initiatives.  His exceptional compassion and warmth define his character to this day.  Mr. DeBartolo treated players and coaches as part of his family.  Many prominent individuals from the National Football League have strongly advocated for this pardon, including Joe Montana, Jim Brown, Jerry Rice, Steve Young, Ronnie Lott, Charles Haley, Derrick Brooks, Fred Dean, Robert Kraft, Jerry Jones, and Roger Goodell.  They have been joined in their support by other notable figures and organizations, including Pastor Darrell Scott, Kareem Lanier, Paul Anka, and the Urban Revitalization Coalition.

Michael Milken, one of America’s greatest financiers, pioneered the use of high-yield bonds in corporate finance.  His innovative work greatly expanded access to capital for emerging companies.  By enabling smaller players to access the financing they needed to compete, Mr. Milken’s efforts helped create entire industries, such as wireless communications and cable television, and transformed others, like home building.  Mr. Milken’s work also democratized corporate finance by providing women and minorities access to capital that would have been unavailable to them otherwise.  In 1989, at the height of his finance career, Mr. Milken was charged in an indictment alleging that some of his innovative financing mechanisms were in fact criminal schemes.  The charges filed against Mr. Milken were truly novel.  In fact, one of the lead prosecutors later admitted that Mr. Milken had been charged with numerous technical offenses and regulatory violations that had never before been charged as crimes.  Though he initially vowed to fight the charges, Mr. Milken ultimately pled guilty in exchange for prosecutors dropping criminal charges against his younger brother.  As a result, Mr. Milken served 2 years in prison in the early 1990s.  Since his release, Mr. Milken has dedicated his life to philanthropy, continuing charitable work that he began before his indictment.  Over the years, Mr. Milken—either personally or through foundations he created—has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in critical funding to medical research, education, and disadvantaged children.  Mr. Milken’s philanthropy has been particularly influential in the fight against prostate cancer and has been credited with saving many lives.  This pardon has widespread and longstanding support, including from the following individuals: Dr. Miriam Adelson, Sheldon Adelson, David Bahnsen, Tom Barrack, Maria Bartiromo, Ron Burkle, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, William Ford, Josh Friedman, Rudy Guiliani, Josh Harris, Rabbi Marvin Hier, Ray Irani, Robert Kraft, Richard LeFrak, Randy Levine, Howard Lorber, Representative Kevin McCarthy, Larry Mizel, Arte Moreno, Rupert Murdoch, Sean Parker, John Paulson, Nelson Peltz, Steven Roth, David Rubenstein, Larry Ruvo, Marc Stern, Steven Tananbaum, Ted Virtue, Andrew von Eschenbach, Mark Weinberger, and Gary Winnick.

Ariel Friedler was a successful entrepreneur, and built a successful technology company that employed more than 150 people and served more than 41 million students, staff, employers, and government constituents worldwide.  In 2014, while serving as President and Chief Executive Officer of the company, Mr. Friedler pled guilty to conspiracy to access a protected computer without authorization and served 2 months in prison.  As a result of this incident, he was forced to sell the company that he had dedicated his life to building.  During the investigation, his time in prison, and after his release, Mr. Friedler expressed deep remorse for his actions.  Since his release, Mr. Friedler has volunteered his time and expertise to promoting veterans issues and helping former prisoners reenter and rejoin society.  In recognition of his rehabilitation, the State of Florida restored his license to practice law.  Among those who support this grant of clemency are former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Rabbi Katz of the Aleph Institute.

Bernard Kerik courageously led the New York Police Department’s heroic response to the horrific attacks of September 11, 2001, as Commissioner of the New York Police Department. He embodied the strength, courage, compassion, and spirit of the people of New York and this great Nation as he served alongside first responders at the World Trade Center in the aftermath of the attack.  In 2010, Mr. Kerik was sentenced to 4 years’ imprisonment for tax fraud and for making false statements.  Since his conviction, he has focused on improving the lives of others, including as a passionate advocate for criminal justice and prisoner reentry reform.  His 30 years of law enforcement service and tenure as Commissioner of the New York City Department of Correction have given him a unique understanding and perspective on criminal justice and prisoner reentry reform, and he remains an invaluable contributor to these endeavors.  Mr. Kerik is the recipient of countless awards for meritorious and heroic service, including a Presidential Commendation for Heroism from President Ronald Reagan. Among others, this pardon is supported by Rudy Giuliani, Judge Andrew Napolitano, Geraldo Rivera, Charlie Daniels, Chief Paul Cell, Judge Ray Reddin, Former Chief of the Passaic County Sheriff’s Department John Comparetto, Representative Peter King, Christopher Ruddy, Chief and Mrs. Eddie Gallagher, and Sidney Powell.

Paul Pogue was the owner of a successful construction company and made significant charitable contributions every year.  An audit by the Internal Revenue Service discovered that Mr. Pogue had underpaid his taxes over a 3-year period by approximately 10 percent.  Immediately upon learning of the tax deficiency, Mr. Pogue paid restitution, interest, and penalties.  To avoid the cost and burden of fighting the charges, which could have put at risk the jobs of the 150 people employed by his company, Mr. Pogue agreed to plead guilty and was sentenced to 3 years of probation.  Despite his conviction, Mr. Pogue never stopped his charitable work.  For more than 30 years, he has provided significant humanitarian aid to countries around the world, including Africa, India, and Mexico, all while continuing to help his fellow Americans in times of need.  Mr. Pogue is the founder of two non-profit organizations.  One constructs churches, clinics, schools, and orphanages in developing countries.  The other provides disaster relief to communities in need.  Following Hurricane Harvey, his charity provided critical support to Texans rebuilding their lives in the wake of the storm.  In addition, Mr. Pogue’s non-profit flies medical teams into disaster areas and flies people in need of medical treatment to doctors and hospitals.  Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, Mike Buster, Steve Dulin, Robert Morris, Jack Graham, and James Robison are among the many people who support this grant of clemency.

David Safavian has dedicated his life to criminal justice reform after serving nearly a year in prison.  Mr. Safavian was convicted of making false statements and of obstructing an investigation into a trip he took while he was a senior government official.  Having served time in prison and completed the process of rejoining society with a felony conviction, Mr. Safavian is uniquely positioned to identify problems with the criminal justice system and work to fix them.  Mr. Safavian is a fierce advocate for policy changes that improve public safety, protect families and victims, and reduce recidivism, including the First Step Act, which provides prisoners with a second chance through rehabilitative programs, fair sentencing, and smart confinement.  The District of Columbia restored his license to practice law, and his pardon is supported by several prominent individuals, including Van Jones, Matt Schlapp, Mercedes Schlapp, Doug Deason, Mark Holden, Topeka Sam, Dan Schneider, and Jessica Jackson.

Angela Stanton overcame a difficult childhood to become a champion for redemption and rehabilitation for all who strive for a better life.  In 2007, she served a 6-month home confinement sentence for her role in a stolen vehicle ring.  Today, Ms. Stanton is a national best-selling author, widely acclaimed television personality, and proponent of criminal justice reform. She works tirelessly to improve reentry outcomes for people returning to their communities upon release from prison, focusing on the critical role of families in the process.  This pardon is supported by Alveda King.

In light of the decisions these individuals have made following their convictions to work to improve their communities and our Nation, the President has determined that they are each deserving of full pardons.

In addition, the President is commuting the sentences of four individuals who have paid their debts to society and have worked to improve their lives and the lives of others while incarcerated. 

Rod Blagojevich was the Governor of Illinois from 2003 until 2009, when he was charged with, among other things, offering an appointment to the United States Senate in exchange for campaign contributions.  He was convicted of those charges and sentenced to 14 years in prison. Although the Seventh Circuit reversed some of his convictions related to the Senate appointment, it did not alter his 14-year sentence.  He has spent 8 years in prison.  People from across the political spectrum and from varied backgrounds have expressed support for shortening Mr. Blagojevich’s sentence, including Senator Dick Durbin, Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr., former Representative Bob Barr, Representatives Bobby Rush and Danny Davis, former Attorney General Eric Holder, and Bishop Byron Brazier.  Additionally, more than a hundred of Mr. Blagojevich’s fellow inmates have written letters in support of reducing his sentence.  During his confinement, Mr. Blagojevich has demonstrated exemplary character, devoting himself to improving the lives of his fellow prisoners.  He tutors and teaches GED classes, mentors prisoners regarding personal and professional development, and speaks to them about their civic duties.  Notwithstanding his lengthy sentence, Mr. Blagojevich also counsels inmates to believe in the justice system and to use their time in prison for self-improvement.  His message has been to “keep faith, overcome fear, and never give up.”

Tynice Nichole Hall is a 36-year-old mother who has served nearly 14 years of an 18-year sentence for allowing her apartment to be used to distribute drugs.  While in prison, Ms. Hall has completed a number of job-training programs and apprenticeships, as well as coursework towards a college degree.  In addition, Ms. Hall has taught prison educational programs to other inmates.  She has accepted responsibility for her past behavior and has worked hard to rehabilitate herself. Among those who support this grant of clemency are Clemency for All Non-Violent Drug Offenders Foundation, Alice Johnson, Dan Schneider, Matt Whitaker, Adam Brandon, Kevin Roberts, Brett Tolman, and John Hostettler.

Crystal Munoz has spent the past 12 years in prison as a result of a conviction for having played a small role in a marijuana smuggling ring.  During this time, she has mentored people working to better their lives, volunteered with a hospice program, and demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to rehabilitation.  The Texas A&M Criminal Defense Clinic, the Clemency for All Non-Violent Drug Offenders Foundation, Dan Schneider, Matt Whitaker, Adam Brandon, Kevin Roberts, Brett Tolman, John Hostettler, and Alice Johnson are among the many who support this grant of clemency.

Judith Negron is a 48-year-old wife and mother who was sentenced to 35 years in prison for her role as a minority-owner of a healthcare company engaged in a scheme to defraud the Federal Government.  Ms. Negron has served 8 years of her sentence and has spent this time working to improve her life and the lives of her fellow inmates.  Her prison warden and her counselor have written letters in support of clemency.  According to her warden, Ms. Negron “has always shown herself to be a model inmate who works extremely well with others and has established a good working relationship with staff and inmates.”  This grant of clemency is supported by the Clemency for All Non-Violent Drug Offenders Foundation, Dan Schneider, Matt Whitaker, Adam Brandon, Kevin Roberts, Brett Tolman, John Hostettler, and Alice Johnson, among others.

Background Press Call on Venezuelan Policy

Office of the Press Secretary


Via Teleconference

9:30 A.M. EST

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Hi.  Good morning, everybody.  Thanks for taking the time.  As the moderator indicated, we’ll have brief remarks by senior administration officials regarding the Treasury action on Venezuela.

     Following those remarks, we’ll do a short Q&A.  On today’s call, we have [senior administration officials].

With that, I’ll turn it over to [senior administration official].

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIALS:  Hey.  Thank you so much.  Today’s action is a demonstration of the President’s commitment to securing a democratic transition in Venezuela.

     In August of last year, after we initiated the full block of the Venezuelan government, we warned countries and entities that were doing business with the Maduro regime to cease those activities, because under the block, they would be sanctionable.

     At first, it seemed that a lot of entities believed that and had a brief hiatus.  Unfortunately, some entities have, in the past few months, reinitiated their activities with the Maduro regime and have began to skirt sanctions and help the Maduro regime skirt sanctions.

     Today’s activity and today’s designation and sanction goes towards the prime culprit of that, which is Rosneft Trading, which (inaudible)-based subsidiary of Rosneft, of the Russian-controlled oil company.  In that regards, the overwhelming amount of the Maduro regime’s oil that has been skirting sanctions and has been traded throughout the world has been done through Rosneft Trading.

     We are also sanctioning Didier Casimiro, who is a board member of Rosneft and who is President of Rosneft trading, who has been the main European intermediary to help Maduro skirt sanctions in this regards and therefore sending a message that we will not stand idly by as foreign extra-continental or other entities help the Maduro regime maintain and sustain its repression.

     Again, Rosneft trading has been the overwhelming provider of trading in the Maduro regime (inaudible) and has provided the overwhelming amount of financial resources and hard currency that has been coming in through the Maduro regime.

     Therefore, this action shall have a significant impact on the Maduro regime.  None of these resources have been going to the Venezuelan people.  This is what the Maduro regime has been using to sustain its military forces, its repressive forces, to oppress the people of Venezuela.

     At the State of the Union, the President was unequivocal in his support for the people of Venezuela, for a transition to democracy in Venezuela.  And all actors that sustain and (inaudible) the Maduro regime -- namely, in this occasion, Rosneft Trading -- will face consequences for doing so.

     Again, whether it’s for Rosneft Trading in this regards, now, or for companies that deal with Rosneft Trading throughout the world, they are on notice that they are all susceptible to sanctions, that the United States will take steps to end their activities with the Maduro regime, and that this is the first of a series of actions that will take place unless they cease their activities in support of the Maduro regime.
     Again, this has an easy and quick fix: Stop doing business with the Maduro regime, allow a democratic transition to take place, and then it will be a free and open playing field for all to be able to deal with in commercial, normal terms.  But right now, what is taking place is unsustainable.

     The President was clear in his message at the State of the Union that we will continue to take measures.  This is another step in our maximum pressure campaign.  As we have stated in the past, we are probably at 50 or 60 percent of our maximum pressure campaign.  This is another major step forward towards achieving maximum pressure, but we will continue moving in one direction only: towards maximum pressure until there is a democratic transition.
     The other thing the President stated, which I’ll repeat, and is his Trump doctrine: for this to be the first fully democratic hemisphere in human history.  The President believes that.  He believes that our foreign policy begins in the Western Hemisphere, it begins with our neighbors, it begins in our zone of influence.  And we’ll continue to take measures and we’ll continue to recalibrate the U.S. government and all of our tools and all of our resources to ensure that we fulfill that goal of a free and fully democratic Western Hemisphere, and definitely not allow extra-continental actors or others to subvert democracy, to instill insecurity, and to destabilize our neighbors in the region.

     And with that, I’ll pass it over to Treasury for more details on the action.

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thanks.  And thank you all today for joining us.  Today the Treasury Department is taking action against, as my colleague noted, against the Russian-owned oil brokerage firm Rosneft Trading S.A. and its president, Didier Casimiro, for brokering the sale of Venezuelan crude oil globally on behalf of the illegitimate Maduro regime.

     While Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, PDVSA, and the Maduro regime are sanctioned by the United States, Rosneft Trading S.A. nevertheless propped up the Venezuelan oil sector and actively attempted to evade U.S. sanctions, extending a lifeline to the regime.

     Specifically, as recently as last month, Rosneft Trading S.A. facilitated a shipment of 2 million barrels of Venezuelan crude oil to West Africa.  In addition, in the fall of 2019, PDVSA’s planned oil shipments with Rosneft Trading S.A. involved 55 million barrels of crude oil liftings.

     Last summer, PDVSA supplied a shipment of 1 million barrels of Venezuelan crude oil, which was lifted on a vessel in Venezuela and destined for Asia.

     And Casimiro, using Rosneft Trading S.A., was critical in bolstering the Venezuelan oil sector.  He arranged meetings with PDVSA and Maduro regime officials to strengthen the partnership between Rosneft Trading and PDVSA.

     Now, the effects of today’s actions are that all property, and interests in property, of Rosneft Trading S.A. and Didier Casimiro that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons, and of any entities that are owned directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more, by them will be blocked and must be reported to OFAC.

     OFAC is also issuing a short-term general license today that authorizes U.S. persons to engage only in certain wind-down prohibited activities that are necessary to disentangle transactions involved Rosneft Trading S.A.  Those details can be found on Treasury’s website.

     The United States is determined to prevent the continued looting of Venezuela’s oil assets by the corrupt Maduro regime.  Those who collaborate with the regime do so knowing the consequences.  Our action stands as a warning to all who continue to transact with the illegitimate dictatorship in Caracas.

     And with that, I’d like to pass it over to my colleagues at the State Department.

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thanks.  I won’t take much time.  This is a reaction to the growing and increasingly central role of Rosneft in the affairs of Venezuela, particularly in the course of the last year, with Rosneft now handling -- Rosneft Trading now handling very much over half the oil coming out of Venezuela and actively evading sanctions, engaging in ruses, engaging in deception, engaging in ship-to-ship oil transfers in a direct effort to change the identity of the oil and hide it from purchasers.

     Those are the kinds of activities that a major international oil company should never engage in, and they are being sanctioned.

     Just one further comment: In the course of last year, as Venezuela underwent terrible humanitarian problems that it is suffering, what did Rosneft do?  It took a billion eight hundred million dollars in debt relief out of Venezuela.  That is, Rosneft’s debt, which was the debt of Venezuela to Rosneft -- which was once in the area of $5- or $6 billion -- is now down and closing in on zero.

     Last year, a billion eight hundred million dollars was funneled out, in addition to the extraordinary profits that we know Rosneft is taking out day by day and week by week, at a time when Venezuela really needs those funds for its own population.  I’ll leave it at that.

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Let me just make two points on the Russia component of this, is that we continue to make clear to Russia our concerns about their support to the former Maduro regime.  We encourage Russia to continue to work -- or that they should work together with the international community towards a more prosperous and democratic Venezuelan future.

     And then, lastly, I think that the actions today indicate that we will take steps, including sanctions, as required, to counter malign activity and aggression.

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Okay.  With that, Moderator, we can take a few questions.

     Q    Hi there.  It’s Josh Wingrove from Bloomberg.  Thank you for taking the time.  Sorry, to clarify the action: It’s sanctioning U.S.-held assets of Rosneft, the subsidiary, as well as the chair?  And can you speak to what impact you think this will have on oil markets?  Thank you.

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  [Senior administration official], do you want to clarify the sanctions?

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Sure.  So -- will do.  The sanction on Rosneft Trading S.A. and its chair, Didier Casimiro, not only goes after the U.S.-based assets but also stands as a prohibition worldwide.  Anyone engaging in activity with Rosneft Trading S.A. or with Didier Casimiro runs the risk of being sanctioned themselves.  So the impact is broader than just the U.S. person assets.
     As for the impact on energy -- the energy sector -- I’d like to throw it over to our State Department colleagues.

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  We’re confident that energy markets will remain stable.  There are -- global oil markets are adequately supplied, and so we think while this is a serious action, global markets will remain stable.

     Q    Thank you.  This is Jeff Schogol with Task & Purpose.  In addition to the sanctions, is the U.S. government planning any military or covert action to overthrow the Maduro regime?  If so, when?

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  This is [senior administration official].  So, honestly, we do not discuss internal deliberations. The President has made clear over and over again that all options are on the table.  We will continue to analyze all options.  As I stated previously, we are somewhere in 50 to 60 percent of our maximum pressure strategy and campaign towards Venezuela.  We hope to never have to get to 100 percent of maximum pressure because we hope that together, with countries throughout the world, Venezuela will have a democratic transition.

     But once again, we began a maximum pressure campaign with the full intention that we are willing to achieve maximum pressure, hoping that we never have to get to it.

     In regards to the last question, the Energy Department obviously was part of the interagency process in regards to the impact that this may have and this actually may have on oil markets.  And just to reiterate what our colleagues from the State Department said: They thought that the action, just based on global supply and other inputs, would be stable.

     Q    Hello.  Thanks for doing this.  This is Shabtai Gold at the German Press Agency.  I just wanted to ask, at the more general level, are you at all concerned that the repeated use of sanctions could actually weaken the U.S. position globally?  Thank you very much.

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Go ahead, [senior administration official].

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I’ll start off.  You know, we use sanctions, as the U.S. government, in a very deliberate fashion, always cognizant that we want to maintain the strength of the U.S. dollar globally.

     And that is why, in rolling out this action, I will point out that we also issued a 90-day wind-down general license and messaging to our allies in countries such as Germany to note that, while we are determined to stop benefits to the Maduro regime and to prevent all persons from engaging in activity with Casimiro and Rosneft Trading S.A., we’re also giving a short period of time, 90 days, to disentangle arrangements with that entity.

     And in that way, we will seek to calibrate the actions while maintaining the strength of our sanctions actions to stop the -- stop (inaudible) to the Maduro (inaudible).
     Q    Hi there.  It’s Ali Rogin with PBS NewsHour.  Thanks so much for doing this call.  This question is for [senior administration official].  I wanted to know if you could expand on what you mentioned as Russian actions to continue their activities and to change the appearance to conceal the identity of the oil that they’ve been trading in.  Can you expand upon how they’ve been doing that?

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yeah, so there are a variety of ways.  One is ship-to-ship transfer.  That is, a ship docks in Venezuela, takes on a tanker, full cargo of Venezuelan oil.  And then, thousands of miles away, the oil is transferred to another (inaudible) ship.  And then that ship proceeds, generally speaking, to Asia and sells the oil as if there had been no origin in Venezuela.  In other cases, ships have changed
their name.  In other cases, there’s simply been misrepresentation as to the origin of the oil.

     And all of this is done, you know, with a large network of people whose purpose it is to help the regime evade sanctions.  And the action today is in part aimed putting everyone on notice that that kind of evasion will not be tolerated.

     Q    Hi there.  This is Dave Lawler from Axios.  I have a question about the maximum pressure campaign or the move toward a maximum pressure campaign.  I’m wondering what the -- obviously, the end goal is the democratic elections in Venezuela.  I’m wondering how the pressure campaign gets you there.  Is it basically the idea that you put pressure on the inner circle, they abandon Maduro, and he goes?  Or do you think you can change behavior of the regime?  I’m just wondering about the mechanics of how you view this strategy working.  Thanks.

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I’ll start real quick.  This is [senior administration official].  I think we’ve seen increased evidence that as our pressure has increased from a variety of actors inside and outside, there has been pressure on the Maduro regime to seek -- to find a pathway either for his exit from the country, exit from the political scene, or a presidential election.  We’ve seen all sorts of variances.

     So we are confident that this increase of pressure will continue to lead in that direction.  The only thing that has prevented that has been entities like Rosneft Trading and the support of the Cuban regime that has given him a false sense of confidence.

     So we’re hoping as this continues and as the message is clear -- not only to Rosneft Trading, not only to Cuba, but to any other entity in the world that would seek to help Maduro skirt sanctions or move in any direction other than towards an exit politically, physically, or a presidential election -- that there is no option that they too will be susceptible to pressure from the United States.

     Q    Hi, this is Rafael Bernal from The Hill.  Thank you for having this.  You’ve talked about the Cuban regime and Rosneft as supporters of Maduro, but Rosneft’s actions would have been impossible without some level of acquiescence from Moscow, from the Putin government, the administration.  Do you have any plans to increase pressure on Russia?  And what concerns you most about Russian support for Maduro at this time?

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Look, the Secretary has been consistently clear: We’ve called out Russian presence -- that their presence in Venezuela is unwelcome by the Venezuelan people -- and that with this particular action we are putting them on notice and we will continue to both engage with them to make clear our concerns about their continued support for the failed regime, as well as to show them a pathway forward if they want to engage constructively to bring about a more democratic Venezuelan future.

     Q    Hi all.  (Inaudible) with McClatchy .  Thanks for doing this call.  I’m wondering if the President has spoken with Russian President Vladimir Putin about this move; if he’s previewed the steps for the Russian President, or if he plans to speak with him; and how involved he was in the decision to proceed with this.      

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  This is [senior administration official].  The President has spoken in the past to Russian President Putin about Venezuela, about the importance of a democratic transition in Venezuela and essentially how it’s unacceptable for any actors to be destabilizing not only Venezuela, but the rest of the region, through their actions.  This decision was cleared by the President himself.

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I would just add that Secretary Pompeo met with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov on Saturday in Munich and they did discuss this.  And Ambassador Sullivan, in Moscow, met with the Russian Finance Minister Siluanov to discuss this yesterday.

     Q    Thanks for doing this.  This is Franco Ordo├▒ez with NPR.  In the past, Rosneft has not been in breach of U.S. sanctions because it takes part in debt servicing agreements after lending Caracas money.  Can you -- how is this different?  And can you also explain what actual impact will this have on Rosneft Trading -- like concrete?  I mean, what type of business (inaudible) U.S. entities -- I mean, just beyond this symbolic measure?  I mean, what kind of pain will this actually produce on Rosneft Trading?

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Well -- this is [senior administration official].  I think the impact -- to the extent Rosneft Trading S.A. is engaging in activity outside of the United States, most banks, whether they are U.S.-based or not, look to the OFAC list to guide their risk level, risk appetite.  So we would expect to see the financial sector backing away from Rosneft Trading S.A.

     In addition, as stated before, the designation of Rosneft Trading and of Didier Casimiro means that anyone outside the United States engaging in any action, any activity with them, whether it involves Venezuelan crude or non-Venezuelan activity, runs the risk of being sanctioned themselves.

     And so we’ve seen that the impact of such designations, of such sanctions actions, go far beyond just the U.S.-based business of these entities.

     Q    Hi.  Thank you for doing this.  This is a question for [senior administration official].  This is (inaudible) from (inaudible), Spanish newspaper.  Does this mean that, in the future, you may actually go ahead and sanction other companies that may be trading in Venezuela, like (inaudible)?  You’ve said many times they should be aware that this is a possibility.  So I wanted to know if maybe the next step would be European companies, especially with (inaudible).  Thank you. 
     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Let me be absolutely clear: Any entity throughout the world that conducts business with the Maduro regime, pursuant to our August executive order, is subject to sanctions by the United States.  And as this action has shown towards probably the gravest violator of that sanction, Rosneft Trading, that we will pursue anyone else who does so.

     So, therefore, it’s very simple.  It’s very simple: Do not engage in such transactions with the Maduro regime.  Once there’s a democratic transition, it'll be a whole new world in Venezuela where the Venezuelan people will get to choose its partners in an open democracy with transparency and normal commercial relationships.

     But at this time, while Maduro continues to assert democracy in Venezuela, if you conduct business with them, you will be subject to United States sanctions.

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Obviously, we are taking a further step here.  And as my colleague said, this is a campaign and there will be additional steps (inaudible).

So we will be having conversations with third parties, with companies that do business in Venezuela.  And many of such companies have always said to us that they will seek to avoid U.S. sanctions.  So we'll be discussing what these sanctions mean and urging them to conclude their activities in Venezuela before they actually run into U.S. sanctions directly.

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  And just one thing -- we've got time for one more question and then the speakers have to adjourn.

     Q    Hi, my name is Kathleen Stubbs.  I'm a reporter from the Asahi Shimbun.  Thank you for doing the call.  I wanted to know: How will the U.S. make sure it's not getting itself too deep by putting this kind of sanction based on other countries that might be involved in Rosneft, such as Russia?

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Let me just -- let me be clear about something in regards to Rosneft Trading here.  So it's not only the United States, but the region, the entire Western Hemisphere -- at least the democracies of the Western Hemisphere, whether through the Lima Group, which is the conglomerate of countries -- the large conglomerate of countries in the Western Hemisphere in favor of democracy in Venezuela -- our allies in the region have expressed concern, statement after statement, about Rosneft's activities in Venezuela, about Russia's general activities in Venezuela.

     So, frankly, this isn’t even good -- the reputational risk that Rosneft and Russia has taken by doubling down on the Maduro regime is having a huge consequence for them throughout the hemisphere when they are seen as culprits, as accessories to the repression to the death squads, to the actions that are taken by the Maduro regime.  We would urge a reconsideration of those actions.

     I'm sure the rest of the Western Hemisphere and our allies throughout the region, the Lima Group and others, would also see a very favorable (inaudible) for Russia, Rosneft, and others to change their behavior, and rather than support the Maduro regime (inaudible), helping it skirt sanctions, that push all for a democratic transition there.

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Okay.  With that, we will go ahead and conclude today's call.  I'd like to remind everyone this call is embargoed until 10:30 a.m. and that all speakers named are -- it's for attribution to a “senior administration official” for reporting purposes.  That is it from us.  Thank you everyone for joining today.

                             END                9:59 A.M. EST

West Wing Reads WATCH: Trump Takes Track to Open Daytona 500

West Wing Reads

WATCH: Trump Takes Track to Open Daytona 500

“President Trump took to the track to open the Daytona 500 race Sunday,” making “about a quarter of a lap before pulling aside,” Rebecca Klar reports for The Hill.

“‘My fellow race fans, the Daytona 500 is a legendary display,’ he said after emerging to applause from the crowd. Trump thanked the ‘tens of thousands of patriots’ gathered at the Daytona International Speedway for the race, which he called ‘pure American glory.’”

Click here to read more.

WATCHPresident Trump’s motorcade takes the track!
“Ivanka Trump Sunday cemented her position as the global spokesperson for women's economic empowerment, telling a Middle East summit that efforts she and international banks have championed over the past two years could lead to a $7 trillion boost in world GDP,” Paul Bedard writes in the Washington Examiner
“Daria Ortiz’s voice cracked when speaking at a White House event Friday, as she described how New York City’s ‘sanctuary city’ status let her family—and the rest of the city’s residents—down. Her 92-year-old grandmother, Maria Fuertes, a legal immigrant from the Dominican Republic, was sexually assaulted and killed last month, and police have charged illegal immigrant and alleged repeat criminal offender Reeaz Khan, 21,” Fred Lucas reports for The Daily Signal.
President Trump campaigned in 2016 on a promise to fix global trade. “Phase one of the new trade deal with China will put an end to years of unfair Chinese trade practices,” while the NAFTA-replacing USMCA will “create over 176,000 new American jobs and promote fairer wages,” Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick writes in the Dallas Morning News