Blagojevich was impeached after he was indicted on federal charges stemming from his effort to sell President-elect Obama’s Senate seat and shaking down a children’s hospital and the horseracing industry for campaign contributions
Trump has been dangling clemency for the disgraced former Illinois governor for more than a year
Trump earlier pardoned former 49ers owner Edward DeBartolo and commuted former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik and junk bond king Michael Milken
President Trump on Tuesday commuted the sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was sentenced to 14 years in prison for trying to sell Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat after Obama was elected president.
Blagojevich, who appeared on Trump’s reality television show, “Celebrity Apprentice,” while awaiting trial, has served eight years.
Blagojevich, a Democrat, was impeached and removed from office in 2009 by the Democrat-controlled Legislature, and subsequently was convicted on a wide array of corruption charges. He was caught on tape talking openly about pay-for-play involving Obama’s seat. He also was convicted of trying to shake down a children’s hospital and the horseracing industry for political contributions.
“I’ve got this thing, and it’s fucking golden. I’m just not giving it up for f—— nothing,” Blagojevich said in the taped phone call in relation to Obama’s Senate seat.
Trump announced the commutation before departing Washington for California, shortly after pardoning former San Francisco 49ers owner Edward DeBartolo Jr. He also commuted the sentences of former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik and financier Michael R. Milken. Kerik was convicted of tax fraud and lying to the government. Milken, who was known as the junk bond king, was convicted of securities fraud.
“Yes, we commuted the sentence of Rod Blagojevich,” Trump said before boarding Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews. “He served eight years in jail, a long time. He seems like a very nice person, don’t know him.”
Trump said he had been thinking about Blagojevich’s daughters in showing clemency to the disgraced Chicago politician.
“He’ll be able to go back home with his family after serving eight years in jail, that was a tremendously powerful, ridiculous sentence in my opinion,” adding, “I thought he was treated unbelievably unfairly.”
Trump has spoken about springing Blagojevich in the past, lamenting that drug dealers and killers have been sentenced to less time. Blagojevich in January wrote an op-ed on the Trump impeachment, ripping Democrats for the action, saying they probably would have impeached Abraham Lincoln. In a 2018 op-ed, Blagojevich lamented he was in prison for practicing politics.
Democrats in Illinois’ congressional delegation have expressed support for a commutation while Republicans have cautioned Trump against it.
“I’m very grateful to President Trump for what he has done for my brother and his family,” Blagojevich’s brother, Robert, told WBBM-AM, Chicago.
Patti Blagojevich, the former governor’s wife, has made regular appearances on Fox News and other cable outlets to urge clemency.
Blagojevich, who was convicted in 2011, had been scheduled for release from prison in 2024.
Blagojevich was first elected governor in 2002 and was reelected in 2006.