The former Illinois governor had served eight years of a 14-year prison term.
Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich expressed his “profound and everlasting gratitude for President Trump” in public comments made outside his Chicago home Wednesday, the day after Trump commuted his federal prison sentence.
“He didn’t have to do this, he’s a Republican president I was a Democratic governor,” Blajgojevich said of Trump. “Doing this does nothing to help his politics. President Trump is a man who is tough and outspoken but he also has a kind heart and this is an act of kindness — and I also believe its the beginning of the process to actually turn an injustice into a justice.”
He thanked him for giving him back what he called the “freedom that was stolen” from him.
“From beginning to end, this was persecution masquerading as prosecution,” he said, expressing no remorse.
Blagojevich, a Democrat, was convicted in 2011 by a federal jury in Chicago on 17 counts, including an attempt to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated when President Barack Obama was elected in 2008. As governor, he was empowered to appoint a temporary successor.
Blagojevich served eight years of his 14-year prison sentence. He had been serving his prison time at a federal prison in Engelwood, Colorado, since 2012, and was released Tuesday evening, according to the Bureau of Prisons.
Asked Wednesday about his party affiliation, Blagojevich identified himself as a “Trump-o-crat” and said he would vote for Trump if he could.
Blagojevich criticized the criminal justice system, calling it” racist” and “broken”, and praised President Trump and his senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner for their work in criminal justice reform.
“One of the great ironies of history is so far up to now in the history of our country no one has done more or is currently working to do more to fix this broke and racist criminal justice system than President Trump and Jared Kushner,” Blagojevich said.
During his public comments Tuesday, Trump said he did not know the former governor, who appeared on Trump’s reality television show “The Apprentice” very well, but that he believed Blagovjevich’s sentence was too severe, based in part on what he heard his wife say on Fox News.
“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 time on ‘The Apprentice’ years ago, seemed like a very nice person, don’t know him, but he served eight years in jail, there’s a long time to go,” Trump said Tuesday. “He’ll be able to go home to his family after serving eight years in jail, that was a tremendously powerful, ridiculous sentence in my opinion, and in the opinion of many others.”
But some Illinois lawmakers have been critical of the president’s decision to commute Blagojevich’s sentence.
“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,” Durbin said in a statement which called on lawmakers to pass stricter ethics requirements.
The commutation for Blajoveich was issued as part of a sweeping round of pardons and commutations announced by the president. The White House announced Tuesday that Trump had signed an executive order pardoning former San Francisco 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. and later Tuesday, Trump said he would pardon New York police commissioner Bernie Kerik. Trump also pardoned Michael Milken, the former investment banker who became known for his involvement in an insider trading scandal.
In total, Trump granted seven pardons and four commutations.