Trump commutes Blagojevich sentence, pardons others

Illinois Republicans universally condemn the move

Alex Degman
February 18, 2020 - 1:22 pm

WASHINGTON (AP/KMOX) — President Donald Trump has commuted the 14-year prison sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

The announcement ended many months of speculation and debate over whether he should be set free ahead of his projected 2024 release date. The 63-year-old was found guilty in 2011 of crimes that included seeking to sell an appointment to Barack Obama's old Senate seat and trying to shake down a children's hospital for campaign contributions. 

Trump first suggested in May 2018 that he was considering intervening, downplaying the crimes.

Illinois Republicans were quick to condemn the move -- many of them have been speaking out against the possibility since the president first suggested it.

"I don't know what his game is," said Illinois House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, referring to President Trump. "I'm not going to try getting into his head. I don't understand what his motivation is, but I think it's wrong."

Congressman Mike Bost says Trump called him late last week to tell him he was thinking about it.

"I said, 'Mr. President... you and I have agreed on a lot of things. But I do not agree with you on this, and I will be vocal about disagreeing with you on this,'" Bost told KMOX.

The Illinois House impeached Blagojevich on an abuse of power charge -- the aforementioned crimes, trying to sell a U.S. Senate seat and shaking down a childrens' hospital, were encompassed in that abuse of power charge. President Trump, similarly, was impeached on an abuse of power charge -- alleging he sought to use his position to withhold military aid from Ukraine unless they investigate former Vice President Joe Biden's son, Hunter, and his connections with Ukranian company Burisma.

Bost says the two are not the same and shouldn't be treated as such. 

"[The national media] are trying to say this was all over the selling of a Senate seat," Bost says. "No, that was one of 17 different things that happened -- including shaking down an orphanage for a campaign contribution."

Those are crimes of which Blagojevich was convicted -- the Ukranian situation, Bost says, didn't amount to a crime because nothing happened -- and Congress controls spending in that arena, not the president.

During his trial, Blagojevich said that he engaged in common political horse-trading and was a victim of an overzealous prosecution -- a notion prosecutors initially balked at.