Imprisoned ex-Gov. Blagojevich says Democrats would have impeached Lincoln in apparent appeal to Trump

Trump has repeatedly expressed sympathy for Rod Blagojevich, who was sentenced to 14 years in prison after being convicted on federal corruption charges.
Image: Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich
Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich looks back at the crowd as he returns home with his wife, Patti, in Chicago after he was sentenced by Judge James Zagel to 14 years in prison for his convictions on 18 corruption counts, including trying to auction off President Barack Obama's old Senate seat on Dec. 7, 2011.Charles Rex Arbogast / AP, file

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By Allan Smith

Rod Blagojevich, the imprisoned former Democratic governor of Illinois, authored a New Year's Day column arguing that Democrats would have impeached President Abraham Lincoln in what appeared to be an appeal to President Donald Trump for clemency.

In the column, published by the conservative news outlet Newsmax, Blagojevich said he himself "had the unhappy experience of being impeached and removed from office," which provided him with an "interesting and unique perspective about impeachment as I sit here in prison."

Blagojevich was sentenced to 14 years in prison after he was infamously caught on tape trying to sell Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat in 2008.

"I've got this thing and it's f------ golden," Blagojevich was caught saying in a wiretapped phone call. "I'm just not giving it up for f-----' nothing."

Blagojevich was arrested in late 2008 for trying to profit from Obama's seat but refused to resign from office. The Illinois House of Representatives impeached him in early January of the following year and the state Senate unanimously voted to remove Blagojevich, who was a state representative and three-term congressman before being elected to two terms as governor, and ban him from ever holding public office in the state again.

Last month, the U.S. House adopted two articles of impeachment against Trump. The first charged the president with abusing his power by pressing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy — including on a July 25 phone call — to announce probes into former Vice President Joe Biden, his son Hunter and Democrats while withholding military aid to the country and an official White House visit for Zelenskiy. The second article charged Trump with obstructing Congress' investigation into his efforts.

In his column, Blagojevich decried what he called Democrats' "flimsy impeachment standard" and claimed they would have impeached Lincoln for his actions during the Civil War.

Blagojevich was convicted in 2010 in Chicago federal court on one of the 24 felony charges he faced — lying to the FBI — as jurors deadlocked on the other charges. During a 2011 retrial, he was convicted on corruption charges stemming from attempted shakedowns involving Obama's former seat, a racetrack and a children's hospital. He accepted responsibility for his actions at his sentencing hearing and received a lighter sentence than the 15-20 years prosecutors had sought.

Blagojevich has filed appeals of his conviction and had some charges vacated. He has served about half of his sentence so far. The former governor has maintained that his conviction was unfair and his wife, Patti Blagojevich, has made multiple appearances on Fox News to plead for Trump's help.

Trump has expressed openness to commuting the rest of Blagojevich's sentence, which he has said for years was unfair. Blagojevich was a contestant on Trump's reality show "The Celebrity Apprentice" in 2010. Trump said last year that the White House was "continuing the review" of whether to commute his sentence. The president also called one of Patti Blagojevich's 2018 Fox News interviews "required television watching."

"I am thinking about commuting his sentence," Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One in August. "He’s been in jail for seven years, over a phone call where nothing happens. But over a phone — where nothing happened. Over a phone call where — which, you know, he shouldn’t have said what he said, but it was braggadocio, you would say."