'So what?' Conrad Black isn't worried about those who say Trump's pardon was a 'back-scratching job'

'Some people criticize Santa Claus, some people find fault with everything,' he said Thursday

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Media mogul and former rival Rupert Murdoch was among the well-wishers who called Conrad Black after he received a pardon Wednesday from U.S. President Donald Trump that wiped away convictions for fraud and obstruction of justice dating back to 2007.

“I had a very nice phone call from Rupert Murdoch. I hadn’t spoken with him for many years. Most thoughtful of him to call,” Black said in an interview Thursday in the living room of his home in Toronto.

“He congratulated me and he said he’d congratulated the President for doing it.”

Calls have been coming in “from all over the place, from people I knew when I was a guest of the American people (in prison) and from people I went to Grade 2 with, and all stages since then,” said Black.

“And all but one or two were really very gracious, quite affecting many of them.”

Asked how he would respond to people who say he received the pardon because of Trump’s tendency to view only facts that suit him, or due to the past business dealings the two men had, or the flattering articles and book Black has written about Trump, Black said he wouldn’t respond directly to such critics because he doesn’t find their position “worthy of response.”

“Look, on anything like this you’re going to get people saying it’s a back-scratching job and he’s just rewarding me for writing nice things about him, but so what? Some people criticize Santa Claus, some people find fault with everything,” he said.

“The President and the very gracious message the White House issued last night was very clear in saying what the motives were, and that they were an analysis by his legal counsel and their legal team of the facts of the case, analyzing the particular materials submitted on my behalf by (lawyer) Alan Dershowitz and others.”

Black views the pardon as a total exoneration. “It’s a complete final decision of not guilty. That is finally a fully just verdict,” Black told The Canadian Press on Thursday.

I’m not going to go out of my way to try and settle scores

Black has insisted he had done nothing wrong since he was charged in 2005 with improperly diverting millions of dollars to himself and other executive of newspaper company Hollinger International. Still, he said Thursday that it was a “great relief” to be cleared of criminal wrongdoing by “the highest authority.”

“This president said to me it was a bad rap and that I never should have been charged with anything. That’s certainly something to celebrate,” he said.

“I celebrated in my relatively undemonstrative fashion with my wife,” he added, explaining that the revelry fell short of “drinking champagne from a firehose.”

He said he plans a trip to New York in the fall, something that would have been much more complicated when he had convictions registered in the United States. And although his business activities were curtailed by his ouster from his companies and regulatory rulings in Ontario and the United States, Black said he is not retired and didn’t rule out attempting to have the civil sanctions against him in Ontario overturned.

“I think I could have it overturned if I wanted to, but I really haven’t thought of it,” he said, adding that he refers to the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) as the “Office of Stupidity and Cowardice” for blocking an attempt to buy out shareholders of his Hollinger group of companies and privatize the publishing empire that owned the Daily Telegraph in London, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Jerusalem Post, and a chain of newspapers in Canada including the National Post, which he founded.

Conrad Black at his Toronto home on May 16, 2019. Peter J. Thompson/National Post

“I’m rebuilding my fortune, but in private companies and not much in this country,” Black said, declining to say what industry he is operating in, other than that it is no publishing. “It’s a real pleasure to do things in a way that’s not publicized and doesn’t engage any controversy at all,” he added.

He told the Canadian Press that he is contemplating seeking to have his Canadian citizenship restored, something he gave up before his legal issues in a well-publicized fight with then-Prime Minister Jean Chretien.

Black said he is not seeking to settle scores now that those issues have been wiped clean, but would consider doing so if the opportunity presented itself.

“I would if it became convenient to do it in a few cases but I’m not trying to angle into a position where I can exact revenge on anybody,” he said. “It would be a pleasure to do it if it was convenient to do it, but I’m not going to go out of my way to try and settle scores.”

— With a file from The Canadian Press

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