David Safavian served nearly a year in prison for lying about his interactions with lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
The series of pardons President Trump issued Tuesday included one for David Safavian, a top official at the General Services Administration and Office of Management and Budget during the George W. Bush administration. Safavian served time in federal prison for lying about his dealings with lobbyist Jack Abramoff in a high-profile scandal.
After a five-year federal investigation that spanned two trials and one successful appeal, Safavian was convicted in late 2008 on four counts relating to a golf trip he took with Abramoff in 2002. The former head of federal procurement policy at OMB was found guilty of obstructing a GSA investigation, lying on a financial disclosure form and two counts of making false statements.
While serving as GSA’s chief of staff, Safavian was invited by Abramoff to attend a golf excursion to Scotland and London. He sought the advice of GSA’s general counsel about the propriety of going on the trip, attesting that Abramoff “did not have business with GSA.”
But Abramoff had lobbied Safavian for help in purchasing or developing two GSA properties. One of them was the Old Post Office building in Washington, which later became the Trump International Hotel.
In a statement announcing the pardon, the White House noted that Safavian had been active in criminal justice reform efforts after his incarceration. “Having served time in prison and completed the process of rejoining society with a felony conviction,” the statement said, “Mr. Safavian is uniquely positioned to identify problems with the criminal justice system and work to fix them.”
The White House also noted the District of Columbia had restored Safavian’s license to practice law, and that his pardon was “supported by several prominent individuals.”
Last year, Safavian co-wrote an op-ed in The Hill praising President Trump for signing the First Step Act, calling it “the most comprehensive criminal justice reform in recent history” and saying it would shift “federal prisons from merely warehousing prisoners to preparing them to be productive, law-abiding Americans when they are released.”
But, Safavian added, “President Trump might be surprised to be learn … that his administration’s deep state bureaucracies are doing all they can to slow-walk and sabotage the reforms.”