Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich had the remainder of his 14-year prison term commuted by President Donald Trump on Tuesday.
Blagojevich has been in federal prison since March 15, 2012 after being convicted of 17 out of 20 charges by a federal jury. Those charges included 11 in relation to the senate seat which belonged to former president Barack Obama that was left vacant in 2008 which Blagojevich attempted to sell and the remaining six charges were in relation to fundraising shakedowns of executives from a children’s hospital and racetrack owner.
The commutation of Blagojevich had long been on the agenda for Trump and started even before he took office. When the former Illinois governor reported to prison in 2012, Trump tweeted out his support for the politician.
“It’s outrageous that Blagojevich goes to jail for 14 years when killers and sex offenders are out walking the streets,” the tweet read. “Is this justice… I don’t think so.”
Trump said in August of 2019 that he was “strongly considering” community Blagojevich’s prison sentence and it was placed under review. Trump also said that he thought Blagojevich was treated “unbelievably unfairly” after he the sentence was struck down. On Tuesday, Trump announced his decision before flying out of Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.
“We have commuted the sentence of Rod Blagojevich,” Trump said. “He served eight years in jail. That’s a long time and I watched his wife on television. I don’t know him very well, I met him a couple of times he was on for a short while on The Apprentice years ago, seemed like a very nice person, don’t know him.”
In the same interview, Trump also said that Blagojevich’s children were a large part in his decision to commute his sentence. He said the children “rarely get to see their father outside of an orange uniform” and that he wanted to give him the opportunity to see them grow up.
Blagojevich was one of 11 convicts that were granted clemency by Trump on Tuesday. Some of the biggest names include former New York police commissioner Bernie Kerk, who was convicted of tax fraud and lying to officials, Mike Milken, who was convicted of multiple felonies, including securities fraud and conspiracy and former owner of the San Francisco 49ers, Eddie DeBartolo Jr., who pleaded guilty in a failure to report a felony in a bribery case.
Following the announcement, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker released a statement pushing back on the President’s decision.
“Illinoisans have endured far too much corruption,” Pritzker said. “We must send a message to politicians that corrupt practices will no longer be tolerated. President Trump has abused his pardon power in inexplicable ways to reward his friends and condone corruption and I deeply believe this pardon sends the wrong message at the wrong time.”