WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump will commute the prison sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich after long criticizing federal authorities involved in the corruption case for persuing what he’s described as a “tough” sentence.
Blagojevich, a Democrat, entered federal prison in 2012 and is serving a 14-year sentence after being convicted on federal charges of using his powers as governor to extract campaign money and other political favors in exchange for naming a successor to fill the Illinois Senate seat left open when Barack Obama became president.
“He seems like a very nice person,” Trump told reporters at Joint Base Andrews on Tuesday.
Trump said in August he was considering a commutation for Blagojevich, calling his prison term excessive. Trump previously said he felt Blagojevich, who appeared as a guest on his television program “The Apprentice,” was treated “very, very unfairly.”
“Many people have asked that I study the possibility of commuting his sentence in that it was a very severe one,” Trump posted on Twitter last year. “White House staff is continuing the review of this matter.”
There are connections between the Blagojevich case and the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Robert Mueller, who as special counsel oversaw the Russia probe, was the head of the FBI during the Blagojevich investigation. Trump has also blamed associates of former FBI Director James Comey for the Blagojevich sentence, though Comey did not take over at the FBI until years later.
Trump fired Comey in 2017 and has described both him and Mueller as partisans.
FBI agents captured Blagojevich on a wire describing the Senate seat as “golden” in a profanity laced conversation. He added that he was “just not giving it up for…nothing.”
In 2015, a federal appeals court threw out some of the charges and left the other charges intact.
“I am thinking very seriously about commuting his sentence so that he can go home to his family after seven years,” Trump said in August. “I’ve been thinking about that for a long time. I thought from Day One – I said, ‘Boy, that is really tough stuff.'”
The commutation came hours after the White House announced Trump would pardon Edward DeBartolo Jr., the former owner of the San Francisco 49ers, who pleaded guilty in a gambling fraud case in Louisiana in the late 1990s.