Yesterday, President Trump commuted the sentence of Rod Blagojevich saying a bit later in the day that Blago had been given a “ridiculous sentence.” Last night Politico published a piece by Natasha Korecki, a reporter who covered Blagojevich’s trial and 2011 sentencing. Korecki’s headline claims that “Trump’s Commutation Isn’t Crazy” which is about as positive toward Trump as the media ever gets these days:
U.S. District Judge James Zagel handed down a 14-year sentence to Blagojevich. Prosecutors had calculated that under federal guidelines, Blagojevich’s crimes technically qualified for 30 years to life in prison, but they asked for 15 to 20 years.
Among Blagojevich’s crimes: lying to the FBI, trying to sell President Barack Obama’s old Senate seat and holding up money to a children’s hospital and a racetrack in exchange for campaign contributions.
Zagel, as it happens, was the same judge who in 2009 had sentenced mob informant Nick Calabrese to 12 years in prison. Calabrese helped take down the Chicago mob. He also killed 14 people.
I’ve written hundreds of stories, blog posts, magazine articles and, finally, a book on Blagojevich’s case. There was one sentiment I heard over and over again, which went something like, “I know Blagojevich was guilty as hell, but 14 years is insane.”
Korecki points out that the state’s previous governor, George Ryan, was convicted of corruption and given a 6 1/2 year sentence. She writes that “conventional wisdom” at the time was that Blagojevich deserved more time. Now he’ll have served eight years.
Guy Benson, whose opinion I respect, argued on Fox News that Blagojevich wasn’t deserving of the break he’d been given. A whistleblower who was instrumental in Blagojevich’s conviction expressed her displeasure with the move, though she was relieved that Trump didn’t issue a pardon in Blago’s case. So there are plenty of critics of this decision out there, but it seems noteworthy that there is some arguable justification for this commutation coming from someone who knows the case intimately.
Blagojevich spoke to the media outside his home this morning. He expressed his “profound and everlasting gratitude” to President Trump. He added, “He’s a Republican president and I was a Democratic governor and doing this does nothing to help his politics.” Some are already wondering if this commutation isn’t Trump’s way of laying the groundwork for future pardons and commutations closer to home. Asked yesterday if he’d thought about pardoning Roger Stone, Trump said he hadn’t considered it. I guess we’ll have to wait and see. Here’s Blago’s press conference: