Pritzker Says Blagojevich Commutation ‘Sends the Wrong Message at the Wrong Time'

Not everyone was disappointed in the decision. Sam Adam Jr. who once represented Blagojevich said he "could not be happier."

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Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker isn't impressed with President Donald Trump's decision to commute former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's prison sentence.

"Illinoisans have endured far too much corruption," Pritzker said in a statement sent to NBC 5 by his office, "and we must send a message to politicians that corrupt practices will no longer be tolerated."

NBC 5's Carol Marin has the latest information and analysis on the years-long case on former Illinois governor.

"President Trump has abused his pardon power in inexplicable ways to reward his friends and condone corruption," Pritzker continued, identifying Trump's action as a pardon instead of a commutation, "and I deeply believes [sic] this pardon sends the wrong message at the wrong time. I’m committed to continuing to take clear and decisive steps this spring to prevent politicians from using their offices for personal gain, and I will continue to approach this work with that firm conviction."

After months of speculation, President Donald Trump announced his decision to commute Blagojevich's sentence Tuesday as the president prepared to board Air Force One.

“Yes, we commuted the sentence of Rod Blagojevich," Trump said. "He served eight years in jail, a long time. He seems like a very nice person - don’t know him.” 

Trump cited Blagojevich's family as part of the reason for his decision.

"[His daughters are] getting into high school and they rarely get to see their father outside of an orange uniform," Trump 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.”

Not everyone was disappointed in the decision. Sam Adam Jr. who once represented Blagojevich said he "could not be happier."

"I couldn’t be happier to reunite him with his family, his two girls and Patti, who have been waiting way too long," Adam Jr. told NBC 5. "I could not be happier. The fact that President Trump did this, it makes my Christmas in February."

"There was never any criminal intent on his part and they didn’t prove it in the first trial," he continued. "Then they had the second trial and they got 14 years which I personally felt was way too long and to have President Trump understand that and see that and commute his sentence today after serving seven years, a long time, and reunite him with his family, I’m just ecstatic about it."

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

On the other hand, State Sen. Cristina Castro (D-Elgin), echoed Pritzker's sentiment.

“Rod Blagojevich’s sentence was commuted because he is friends with the president and appeared on his realty show, and no other reason," Castro said. "The misdeeds he committed while governor of our great state are disgraceful and embarrassing, and it’s a shame that his friendship with the president affords him the luxury of not facing the full consequences of his actions.” 

Blagojevich's brother, Robert Blagojevich, said he's "grateful" to the president.

"He is the ultimate disrupter," he told NBC 5.

Though the two brothers haven't spoken in years, Robert Blagojevich said he's hopeful for the future.

"Nothing has changed. I love my brother very much. I hope one day we will be reunited," he said.

Throughout the day Tuesday, more politicians on both sides of the aisle reacted to the decision by the president.

Senator Dick Durbin called for officials at the state and federal level to establish "stricter ethics requirements" in the aftermath of the commutation.

“Former Governor Blagojevich betrayed the people of Illinois and engaged in a pattern of corrupt behavior for which he was held accountable and which cost him more than seven years of freedom," he said. “At a time when corruption by elected officials is still in the headlines, Illinois and Washington should move quickly to establish stricter ethics requirements, including the full detailed disclosure of income, net worth and income tax returns by all elected officials.”

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.

Illinois GOP Chairman Tim Schneider criticized the president's decision, stating that he believed Blagojevich should have served his full sentence.

“In a state where corrupt, machine-style politics is still all too common, it’s important that those found guilty serve their prison sentence in its entirety. Rod Blagojevich is certainly no exception," he said. "The former governor’s proven record of corruption is a stain upon Illinois and its citizens. We must stand up and send the message that corruption will not be tolerated in Illinois.”

Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs, who was in the state legislature during Blagojevich's impeachment trial, linked Trump's recent impeachment trial to his actions in the Blagojevich case.

“Eleven years ago, I voted to convict and remove a member of my own party who abused his office to further his own re-election. I wish that Republicans in the U.S. House and Senate had shown similar courage when a leader in their party abused his office to further his own re-election," he said. “If that had happened, we would not be dealing with this today. It is some comfort, however, that my motion to bar our former governor from ever holding public office again means he will no longer be able to abuse the public trust.”

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