President Donald Trump said Thursday that he is considering pardoning former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Trump made the announcement on Air Force One as he was en route to a meeting with the families of the Santa Fe high school shooting and a separate meeting with supporters at the National Republican Senate Committee lunch, CBS News reported.
But who is Blagojevich and why is he eligible for a presidential pardon?
According to his official Congressional biography, Blagojevich was born in Chicago in 1956 as the youngest of two children. His father, Radisa, was an immigrant who worked in steel mills after immigrating from Serbia. The elder Blagojevich was a Nazi prisoner during World War II before coming to America. His mother came from an immigrant family from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Biography reported.
As a child and then a young man, the future governor spoke fluent Serbo-Croation, was part of a fold music group where he wore traditional costumes and sang Serbian love songs. He said that his education was “mediocre” and claimed that a D in algebra was an inflated grade, Biography reported.
But Blagojevich was also a hard worker during his school years, taking jobs as a shoe shiner, pizza delivery person and a meat packer to help the family get by, Biography reported.
After he graduated from school, he attended University of Tampa before transferring to Northwestern University. He worked for the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline System as a dishwasher to pay for school, Biography reported.
He got his bachelor’s degree in 1979 from Northwestern and then went to Pepperdine University Law School to pursue his law degree, according to his official biography.
Classmates said that Blagojevich was socially conservative while in law school. He didn’t drink or go out with friends. He earned his Juris Doctor degree in 1983 and went right into private practice in Chicago.
Three years later, he left private practice to be the Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney, under the administration of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley. After two years, he returned to private practice.
In 1990, Blagojevich married his wife, Patricia, with whom he has two daughters.
In 1992, at the urging of his father-in-law, Blagojevich ran for Illinois State House of Representatives, beating out the incumbant.
In 1996, he ran for the Illinois 5th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives and went on to serve three terms as a congressman. During that time in office, he helped the Rev. Jesse Jackson secure the freedom of three U.S. prisoners of war in Yugoslavia in 1999, Biography reported.
In 2002, Blagojevich ran for governor of Illinois on a platform that framed him as idealistic, progressive and against corruption. He went on to win and become the first Democrat to be the governor of Illinois in 26 years, Biography reported.
But scandals started to follow him.
In 2005, Blagojevich shut down a landfill that had connections to his wife’s family. His father-in-law accused the governor of using him, Biography reported.
Later in 2005, Blagojevich was accused of giving contracts for fast-food locations on state-run properties to campaign donors. In 2006, he was investigated for accepting a $1,500 check from a friend whose wife later got a state job despite failing the state’s hiring exam.
Despite multiple investigations, Blagojevich was re-elected in 2006. But at the same time, his dealings came under investigation by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, Biography reported.
In 2008 he was arrested for trying to sell the Illinois senate seat originally held -- and left vacant -- by then President Barack Obama. In return for an appointment to the seat, Blagojevich said he wanted a job for his wife or himself, as well as campaign contributions, The New York Times reported.
In January 2009, Blagojevich was impeached and banned from public office in the state. He was also found guilty by the state Senate of abuse of power. In April 2009, a federal grand jury indicted him on criminal corruption charges.
In June 2011, Blagojevich was found guilty on 17 of 20 corruption charges and faced up to 300 years in prison, Biography reported.
On Thursday, after announcing a pardon for Dinesh D’Souza, Trump made a statement that he was contemplating issuing a pardon for Blagojevich.
“Rod Blagojevich -- 18 years in jail for being stupid and saying things that every other politician, you know that many other politicians say,” Trump said according to CBS News. “And if you look at what he said he said something to the effect like, ‘What do I get ... stupid thing to say. But he’s sort of saying ... he’s going to make a U.S. senator, which is a very big deal. And it was foolish ... 18 years now. I don’t know him other than that he was on ‘The Apprentice’ for a short period of time.”
Blagojevich appeared on the 2010 season of the “Celebrity Apprentice” alongside stars like Sinbad, Cyndi Lauper and Darryl Strawberry, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Blagojevich is currently serving the sixth year of his 14-year sentence in a Colorado prison, CNBC reported.
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