Trump could soon commute Rod Blagojevich's sentence

Trump has long said he thinks Blagojevich, a onetime contestant on "The Celebrity Apprentice," was treated unfairly.
Image: Rod Blagojevich
Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich arriving at the federal courthouse in Chicago during his retrial in June 2011.Scott Olson / Getty Images file

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By Alex Johnson

President Donald Trump indicated Wednesday night that he could soon commute the sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich who is in federal prison for corruption that included trying to sell the Senate seat once held by former President Barack Obama.

Blagojevich, 62, has served about half of a 14-year sentence for widespread corruption as governor. Wiretaps recorded him as saying that he wanted to get something in return for the appointment of a successor to the Senate seat that Obama relinquished when he was elected president in 2008.

"I'm just not giving it up for nothing," he said on the tape. "I'm not going to do it. And I can always use it."

Trump has previously said that he has considered commuting the sentence for Blagojevich, who appeared on Trump's TV show "The Celebrity Apprentice" in 2010. Trump lauded Blagojevich's "tremendous courage and guts" before "firing" him in the season's fourth episode.

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Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One as he flew back to Washington from a trip to El Paso, Texas, on Wednesday night, Trump reiterated that he was strongly considering a commutation and indicated that an announcement could come soon.

Blagojevic formally requested a commutation last year.

Blagojevich, a Democrat, was arrested in December 2008, during his second term as governor, and charged with widespread corruption. He was swiftly impeached and convicted in the Legislature. He was removed from office the next month.

After a mistrial, Blagojevich was convicted at a retrial in 2011 on 17 of 20 federal corruption charges, including charges that related to Obama's Senate seat. He was sentenced to 14 years and is incarcerated in a low-security camp at the federal prison in Englewood, Colorado.

The Supreme Court denied his appeal in 2016.

In an interview with NBC Chicago last year, Blagojevich continued to insist that he was innocent.

"Do you realize I have twice been given a longer prison sentence than Al Capone?" he said, adding: "All I'm asking for is apply the law. And if you apply the right law, I didn't cross the line."

Trump raised the prospect of a commutation last year when he announced a pardon for conservative commentator Dinesh D'Souza, who had pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations in connection with illegal contributions to a Republican Senate candidate in 2012.

"I thought that he was treated unfairly," Trump said then of Blagojevich, suggesting that the former governor had received a longer-than-necessary sentence merely "for being stupid and saying things that every other politician, that many other politicians say."

"There was a lot of bravado," Trump said, but "plenty of other politicians have said a lot worse."

"He shouldn't have been put in jail," Trump said. "And he's a Democrat. He's not my party. But I thought that he was treated unfairly."