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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

Updated 26 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Capitol review panel recommends more police, mobile fencing

Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

A panel appointed by Congress to review security measures at the Capitol is recommending several changes, including mobile fencing and a bigger Capitol police force, to safeguard the area after a riotous mob breached the building on Jan. 6.

Why it matters: Law enforcement officials have warned there could be new plots to attack the area and target lawmakers, including during a speech President Biden is expected to give to a joint session of Congress.

CDC says fully vaccinated people can take fewer precautions

Photo: Filip Filipovic/Getty Images

People who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can take fewer precautions in certain situations, including socializing indoors without masks when in the company of low-risk or other vaccinated individuals, according to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Monday.

Why it matters: Per the report, there's early evidence that suggests vaccinated people are less likely to have asymptomatic infection and are potentially less likely to transmit the virus to other people. At the time of its publication, the CDC said the guidance would apply to about 10% of Americans.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
2 hours ago - Economy & Business

Ripple CEO calls for clearer crypto regulations following SEC lawsuit

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse tells "Axios on HBO" that if his company loses a lawsuit brought by the SEC, it would put the U.S. cryptocurrency industry at a competitive disadvantage.

Why it matters: Garlinghouse's comments may seem self-serving, but his call for clearer crypto rules is consistent with longstanding entreaties from other industry players.