Lieu: Trump shouldn’t commute sentences ‘based on which celebrities have access’

Lieu: Trump shouldn’t commute sentences ‘based on which celebrities have access’
© Greg Nash

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) admonished President TrumpDonald John TrumpRepublicans aim to avoid war with White House over impeachment strategy New York Times editorial board calls for Trump's impeachment Trump rips Michigan Rep. Dingell after Fox News appearance: 'Really pathetic!' MORE on Wednesday for seemingly favoring celebrities — and those with celebrity advocates — in his decisions about granting clemency. 

"The president has perverted the pardon process and now it seems like he’s pardoning people based on their celebrity status or because a celebrity talked to him," Lieu said on CNN. 

Lieu's comments came hours after Trump commuted the sentence of Alice Marie Johnson, a 63-year-old woman who has been serving out a life sentence for a nonviolent drug offense and money laundering charges.

Reality TV star Kim Kardashian West met with Trump last week to advocate for clemency for Johnson.

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Commuting Johnson's sentence only shortens her prison term, and, unlike a pardon, does not wipe out her criminal conviction.

Lieu said Trump only decided to commute Johnson's sentence because Kardashian West had advocated on her behalf.

"In this case, it’s pretty clear that the only reason Trump pardoned Ms. Johnson is because Kim Kardashian talked to Donald Trump about this case," Lieu said.

"That shouldn’t be how it works," he continued. "It shouldn’t be based on which celebrities have access to the president or the wealthy or who has connections. It should be based on a process."

Johnson did not apply for clemency through the Justice Department's normal channels. 

Since taking office, Trump has granted clemency in seven high-profile cases, including Johnson, The Washington Post reported last month.

Many of those cases involve political allies. Last week, the president pardoned conservative commentator Dinesh D'Souza, who pleaded guilty in 2014 to violating campaign finance laws. D'Souza has been an outspoken supporter of Trump's policies and has drawn fire on numerous occasions for racist and inflammatory posts on social media.

Last year, Trump pardoned former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a staunch political ally and immigration hard-liner, who was convicted of criminal contempt for ignoring a judge's order to stop racially profiling Latinos.

Shortly after announcing D'Souza's pardon, Trump said he was considering a pardon for television personality Martha Stewart and commuting the sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D). Blagojevich was convicted on numerous corruption charges, including trying to sell former President Obama's Senate seat after entering the White House in 2008.

Both Stewart and Blagojevich have ties to Trump's reality TV show, "The Apprentice."