Rod Blagojevich

A Look at All the Times Trump Came Close to Commuting Blagojevich's Sentence

Trump has come close to making the move several times in his presidency, but continually pushed the decision back

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President Donald Trump commuted former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's sentence Tuesday after several "almosts."

Trump has come close to making the move multiple times in his presidency, but continually pushed the decision back.

In August, the president said he was "very strongly" considering the move.

It wasn't the first time Trump floated the idea of freeing Blagojevich from prison, and it wouldn't be the last. In October, he surfaced the idea again, polling donors about the move during a visit to Chicago.

So why did he bring it up again... and again? Per Trump's remarks, it appears as though the strategy of the ex-governor's wife might have played a role.

"He served eight years in jail, there's a long time to go, many people disagree with the sentence, he's a democrat, he's not a republican, it was a prosecution by the same people Comey, Fitzpatrick- the same group," he said.

Blagojevich's wife Patti has appeared on FOX News - a television network Trump has openly said he's likely to watch - several times to make her case as to why her husband should be released from prison. She has also been active on Twitter, the preferred social media platform of the president.

Her chief appeal has been to make the claim that Trump and Rod Blagojevich have been subjected to the same treatment by federal investigators, which Trump has himself called on Twitter "presidential harassment."

Ex-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich appeared on “The Celebrity Apprentice” in 2010 but didn’t make it to the winner’s circle. Watch as now-President Donald Trump delivered the bad news to Blagojevich.

Blagojevich was sentenced to 14 years in prison in December 2011, following his conviction on 18 counts of corruption in two trials earlier in the year and the year before. Prosecutors said Blagojevich attempted to use his public office for personal gain, including, among other allegations, an attempt to sell an open U.S. Senate seat - vacated by newly-elected President Barack Obama - to the highest bidder.

"[Blagojevich has] been in jail for seven years, over a phone call where nothing happens," Trump said.

Trump was referring to Blagojevich's now-infamous 2008 call, secretly recorded on FBI wiretap and played during his trial, in which Blagojevich called Obama's old Senate seat "[expletive] golden," saying he was "not just giving it up for [expletive] nothing."

Before Rod Blagojevich entered prison more than seven years ago, NBC 5’s Phil Rogers interviewed the former Illinois governor over lunch near the prison.

"Over a phone call where — which, you know, he shouldn’t have said what he said, but it was braggadocio, you would say," Trump said of that call. "I would think that there have been many politicians — I’m not one of them, by the way (inaudible) — but that have said a lot worse over telephones."

But where Trump and Patti Blagojevich begin to converge are over the people involved in the former governor's case.

"A lot of people thought it was unfair, like a lot of other things," Trump said, "And it was the same gang — the Comey gang and the — all these sleazebags — that did it."

The Comey that Trump was referring to is former FBI Director James Comey, who the president abruptly fired in 2017 as Comey oversaw an investigation into contact between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election.

Comey is close friends with former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, the prosecutor who put Blagojevich behind bars.

Timeline: The Legal Roller-Coaster Ride of Rod Blagojevich

Also involved in both investigations into Trump and Blagojevich was Robert Mueller, who was appointed special counsel overseeing the investigation into the Trump campaign following Comey's dismissal, and has previously served as director of the FBI throughout the federal investigation into and conviction of Blagojevich.

Trump previously brought up the idea of commuting Blagojevich's sentence in May 2018, telling reporters that Blagojevich said something "stupid" but his sentence (again incorrectly saying it was 18 years) was "really unfair."

At the time, Trump also said he was considering a pardon for Martha Stewart, prosecuted by James Comey and convicted in 2004 of obstructing justice and lying to the government.

In 2017, Rod Blagojevich broke his silence for the first time since entering prison in an exclusive interview with NBC 5’s Phil Rogers. 

"I see that the same people that did this to my family, the same people that secretly taped us and twisted the facts and perverted the law that ended up my husband in jail, these same people are trying to do the same thing they did to my husband, just on a much larger scale," Patti Blagojevich said in an appearance on FOX immediately following the president's comments about her husband in 2018. "You know they were emboldened - they took down a governor and now they got their sights much higher."

Trump tweeted that another FOX appearance by Patti Blagojevich was "required television watching," and it appeared as though her message had reached its intended audience.

Trump added that Rod Blagojevich was "not a friend" of his, saying, "He’s a Democrat, not a Republican. It’s Illinois. I think he was treated very, very unfairly, just as others were. Just as others were."

"I’m very impressed with his family," he continued. "I’m very impressed with his wife. I mean, she has lived for this. She has — she’s one hell of a woman. She has lived — she goes on and she makes her case. And it’s — it’s really very sad."

And again on Tuesday, when the decision was finally made, Trump cited Blagojevich's family.

"[His daughters are] getting into high school and they rarely get to see their father outside of an orange uniform," he said. "I saw that and I did commute the sentence so he’ll be able to go back home with his family after serving eight years in jail.”

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