Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Donald Trump loves Wall Street shenanigans. Companies owned by him have declared bankruptcy six different times, and he was once sued alongside Mike Milken for participating in a scheme to artificially inflate junk-bond prices.

Driving the news: Trump pardoned Milken this week, with an official statement positively gushing over Milken's role in developing the wilder side of fixed-income capital markets.

  • The statement strongly implies that Milken — who was originally charged with 98 counts of racketeering, securities fraud, and other crimes — in fact committed no crimes at all.

Context: The pardon comes against a backdrop of aggressive Wall Street deregulation. Trump has defanged the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, loosened regulations on banks, and given free rein to non-bank entities like insurers, ratings agencies, and hedge funds.

  • Under Trump's regulatory and legal regime, it is very unlikely that Milken would have been charged with any crimes. Trump, after all, describes him as "one of America’s greatest financiers."
  • Many individuals close to Trump are credited in the statement with helping to obtain the pardon — including Rudy Giuliani, who led Milken's prosecution in the 1980s, and Rupert Murdoch, who used Milken's services to turbocharge the growth of News Corp.

Milken has been determined to engineer this pardon for decades, and he's finally found a president whose fondness for ultra-rich financiers makes that possible. Bloomberg's Max Abelson lists many of them, including Apollo Global Management co-founder Josh Harris, Carlyle’s David Rubenstein, and hedge fund manager John Paulson.

  • Think of the pardon as Milken calling in favors.
  • “When he walked out of prison, he was bent double under the weight of a Rolodex," said author and former banker Michael Thomas in a 2017 Bill Cohan profile of Milken. "He had a lot of due bills he could call on. He made people rich. He made them powerful."

The bottom line: Milken, convicted felon and junk-bond billionaire, is the perfect avatar for Wall Street in the age of Trump. His pardon sends a clear message: If you want to get rich through financial legerdemain, now's the time to do it.

Go deeper

California moves to phase out gasoline-powered cars

California Gov. Gavin Newsom. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

California Gov. Gavin Newsom is issuing an executive order that seeks to eliminate sales of new gasoline-powered cars in his state by 2035.

Why it matters: California is the largest auto market in the U.S., and transportation is the biggest source of carbon emissions in the state and nationwide.

CDC director says over 90% of Americans have not yet been exposed to coronavirus

CDC Director Robert Redfield said at a Senate hearing Wednesday that preliminary data shows that over 90% of Americans remain susceptible to COVID-19 — meaning they have not yet been exposed to the coronavirus.

Why it matters: The U.S. surpassed 200,000 coronavirus deaths this week — the most recorded in the world — and over 6.8 million Americans have contracted the virus so far.

Former Louisville officer indicted on wanton endangerment in Breonna Taylor case

A grand jury has indicted Brett Hankison, one of the Louisville police officers who entered Breonna Taylor's home in March, on three counts of wanton endangerment for firing shots blindly into neighboring apartments.

The state of play: None of the three officers involved in the botched drug raid will face charges related to the actual death of Taylor, such as homicide or manslaughter. The two other officers who fired shots, Jonathan Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove, were not charged at all. Hankison's bond was set at $15,000.

Get Axios AM in your inbox

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!