After hinting at a possible pardon or commutation of the sentence of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, President Donald Trump made his strongest statement yet on the matter Wednesday, telling reporters aboard Air Force One that he is seriously considering commuting the former governor’s sentence.
"I'm thinking about commuting his sentence very strongly," the president told reporters. "He's been in jail for seven years over a phone call where nothing happens, over a phone call which he shouldn't have said what he said, but it was braggadocio, you would say."
According to Maggie Haberman of the New York Times and Reuters’ Jeff Mason, the president addressed Blagojevich’s sentence during an availability Wednesday night, saying that many observers thought the sentence was “unfair.”
“I thought he was treated unbelievably unfairly. He was given close to 18 years in prison,” the president told reporters. “And a lot of people thought it was unfair, like a lot of others things, and it was the same gang, the Comey gang and all these sleazebags that did it. You have drug dealers that get not even 30 days and they’ve killed 25 people. They put him in jail for 18 years.”
Haberman, citing administration officials, also reported that a Blagojevich pardon or commutation has been pushed for by the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner:
The comments came during a 45 minute meeting between the president and reporters aboard Air Force One. During the mostly off-record discussion, the president put only one thing on the record: that he was seriously considering commuting Blagojevich's sentence.
"I am seriously thinking about -- not pardoning -- but I am seriously thinking of a curtailment of Blagojevich," he said.
President Trump has addressed the Blagojevich sentence on multiple occasions since taking office in 2017, most notably after a Fox News interview featuring the former governor’s wife Patti Blagojevich in Dec. 2018.
In that interview, Blagojevich’s wife equated her husband’s case with the probe of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
“These prosecutors with their unchecked power and no oversight can go after any politician they want,” she said. “They were successful in going after my husband and locking him up and throwing away the key, and because nobody stopped them from going after my husband, now they are going after a bigger target!”
Those comments prompted a tweet of support from the president, who encouraged his social media followers to watch the interview.
“If that doesn’t tell you something about what has been going on in our country, nothing will,” he tweeted.
The president also praised the former governor's wife on Wednesday, saying that he thinks she is "fantastic."
The former governor was removed from office in 2009 after he was indicting on charges that he tried to solicit contributions and other favors in exchange for the Senate seat of then president-elect Barack Obama. He was convicted of making false statements in Aug. 2010, and in a subsequent retrial was found guilty on 17 counts, including wire fraud and attempted extortion, in 2011.
In Dec. 2011, Blagojevich was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison, and he has served over half of that sentence.
Recently, the Supreme Court declined to hear Blagojevich’s appeal in 2018, but President Trump indicated that he would consider commuting the sentence in a tweet in May 2018.