President Donald Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One last week that he’s considering commuting former Democratic Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s sentence.
The move came two days after the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by Blagojevich in which he decried his conviction as being politically motivated.
“It is being perverted and abused by the people sworn to enforce and uphold it,” Blagojevich wrote. “Some in the Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation are abusing their power to criminalize the routine practices of politics and government … When they can’t prove a crime, they create one.”
The Better Government Association gave the article a “Pants on Fire” fact-check rating.
“18 years in jail for being stupid and saying things that every other politician, you know that many other politicians say,” Trump said last Thursday, according to a pool report. “Because what he did does not justify 18 years in a jail. If you read his statement, it was a foolish statement. There was a lot of bravado … Plenty of other politicians have said a lot worse. And it doesn’t, he shouldn’t have been put in jail.”
He was sentenced to 14 years in prison.
The former governor was cast as a crook in incumbent Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s new television ad in the Illinois governor’s race, Politico reported.
Blagojevich, who served as governor of Illinois from 2002 until he was convicted of a federal offense in 2010 after a series of corruption charges, was also a contestant on Trump’s reality television show, “Celebrity Apprentice” in 2010.
Born in Chicago on Dec. 10 1956, Blagojevich was the youngest of two. His father, a Serbian immigrant and steel worker, was a former Nazi prisoner during World War II, according to Biography.com.
In 2002, he campaigned against Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris and Chicago Public Schools Superintendent Paul Vallas to become the first democrat in 26 years to win governship in Illinois.
But by 2008, he had earned a 13 percent approval rating and the title of “Least Popular Governor in the Nation.”
That year, Blagojevich was arrested for trying to trade President-elect Barack Obama’s vacant senatorial seat for campaign contributions and a high-paying job for his wife, Patricia.
Federal agents also uncovered transcripts of phone conversations in which the governor threatened to interfere in the finances of a company that owns the Chicago Tribune unless the newspaper fired editorial board members criticizing him.
In January 2009, Blagojevich was thrown out of office and convicted at his impeachment trial. According to the Associated Press, the state Senate voted 59-0 to remove him. He missed the first day of the trial and instead spoke with media in New York, appearing on “Fox and Friends” shortly before the trial began and later, on “The View.”
The vote to impeach Blagojevich in the Illinois House was 114 to 1. Only Rep. Milton Patterson dissented.
He was found guilty of abusing his power and in 2009, Blagojevich was indicted on criminal corruption charges. Two years later, on June 27, 2011, he was found guilty on 17 of 20 corruption charges.
When he was arrested, Blagojevich told NBC in an interview broadcast, “I thought about Mandela, Dr. King, Gandhi and trying to put some perspective in all of this and that's what I'm doing now.”
Blagojevich began serving his 14-year prison sentence in 2012 and is scheduled to be released in 2024.
During an August 2016 sentence hearing, Blagojevich’s trial team highlighted the former governor’s “purported rehabilitation” in jail, according to the Chicago Tribune. In prison, Blagojevich teaches history and is a lead singer in the prison band, the Jailhouse Rockers. He also counsels inmates.
But U.S. District Judge James Zagel resentenced Blagojevich to the original 14-year prison term.
On Thursday, Trump also said he’s considering a pardon for Martha Stewart, who was convicted in 2004 of obstructing justice and lying to the government. He also tweeted about pardoning conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza, who pleaded guilty to campaign finance fraud.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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