Illinois GOP warns Trump: 'Stupid' to free Blagojevich

Illinois Republicans in Congress are making an urgent plea to President Donald Trump: Don't let Rod Blagojevich off t...

Posted: Jun 9, 2018 3:24 PM
Updated: Jun 9, 2018 3:24 PM

Illinois Republicans in Congress are making an urgent plea to President Donald Trump: Don't let Rod Blagojevich off the hook.

The former Democratic governor, who's serving a 14-year sentence stemming from felony corruption charges, is filing official clemency paperwork after Trump told reporters he was considering a commutation.

But publicly and privately, Republicans from Illinois say that doing so would be a huge mistake -- and send the wrong message to politicians who abuse their public offices for personal gain.

"I'm not going to talk about his thinking, but I think pardoning Blagojevich would be stupid," said Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger.

Multiple Republicans in the delegation told CNN that they have relayed their concerns directly to the White House to warn Trump of the consequences of showing leniency on Blagojevich, warning that doing so would lead to a major uproar given that the governor's corruption scandal left the state reeling for years.

"I would stress to the administration in the strongest possible terms that pardoning or commuting the sentence of Rod Blagojevich would be a mistake," said Rep. Darin LaHood, a Republican who represents the area around the Illinois capital of Springfield, where Blagojevich was governor for six years. "It would send the absolute wrong message that the behavior that was engaged in by Rod Blagojevich somehow is acceptable or forgivable."

Blagojevich was arrested in 2008 for engaging in a pay-to-play scheme that included an effort to sell an appointment to the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama when he became president. Federal prosecutors, who had recordings of Blagojevich discussing favors in exchange for the appointment, also laid out what they said was a wide-ranging corruption scheme where the governor sought to award political handouts in exchange for campaign cash. He was convicted on 17 charges and sentenced to 14 years in prison in 2011.

In January 2009, the Democratic-controlled state Senate voted 59-0 to remove Blagojevich just weeks after the state House overwhelmingly impeached him, with just one lawmaker voting in support of the then-governor. In another damning rebuke, the state senate voted, again 59-0, to ban Blagojevich from ever holding office again in Illinois.

If Trump were to help Blagojevich now, Republicans say it would reopen old wounds.

"Let me tell you the conversations going around Springfield are that there were probably not enough charges to bring," said Rep. Rodney Davis, a Republican whose district also encompasses the Springfield area. "So I think that's not being taken into consideration."

Davis added, "I've gotten calls from folks that were affected by decisions that were made by the Blagojevich administration, unfairly fired, lost their jobs, having to file lawsuits. They were personally financially hit, and their lives were disrupted. ... I would much rather see some other folks be able to be pardoned rather than somebody like this."

It's unclear precisely why Trump is considering showing leniency to Blagojevich, who got to know Trump while appearing on "The Celebrity Apprentice" in a four-episode stint in 2010 before his trial. Blagojevich's prosecutor was US Attorney Patrick Fizgerald, now a member of the legal team for fired FBI Director James Comey, whom Trump frequently bashes.

Speaking to reporters recently, Trump didn't give much window into his thinking.

"I am seriously thinking about -- not pardoning -- but I am seriously thinking of a curtailment of Blagojevich," Trump said, adding that "to a certain extent" Blagojevich has been "harshly and unfairly treated." He added Friday that he is considering pardoning thousands of others.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Trump will "base" his decision on "what he thinks is the right decision to make."

For the last several days, members of Blagojevich's family, including his wife Patti, have been taking to the airwaves to appeal to Trump for leniency, arguing that the conviction was unfair.

"You know they were emboldened," Patti Blagojevich said on Fox News, trying to appeal directly to Trump's concerns about special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. "They took down a governor, and now they're got their sights much higher."

One top Senate Democrat seems to agree that the 14-year sentence is too tough on Blagojevich.

"Fourteen years is, you know, violent felonies and treason," Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin told CNN.

Pressed further on how much time he should have been sentenced, Durbin didn't get specific.

"You're asking me, and I'm saying to you I thought that was an excessive sentence," he said.

But Republicans say doing anything to forgive Blagojevich would undercut the will of the justice system and voters in Illinois.

"He was a bad governor who broke the law," Kinzinger said.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 483790

Reported Deaths: 6543
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1003791583
Ramsey42945800
Dakota36091387
Anoka33200384
Washington21986254
Stearns18703200
St. Louis14746262
Scott13209107
Wright12489115
Olmsted1176188
Sherburne869772
Carver765240
Clay688887
Rice667191
Blue Earth591035
Kandiyohi578474
Crow Wing518381
Chisago496844
Otter Tail481370
Benton444890
Winona416649
Mower402731
Douglas392268
Nobles386547
Goodhue384468
Polk342262
McLeod338349
Beltrami336751
Morrison323547
Lyon312444
Itasca311646
Becker309941
Isanti305354
Carlton299848
Steele299211
Pine281916
Freeborn279823
Nicollet256041
Todd246330
Brown243537
Le Sueur233920
Mille Lacs226747
Cass219124
Waseca208617
Meeker206934
Martin188228
Wabasha18613
Roseau179617
Hubbard160640
Houston157114
Dodge15154
Renville149040
Redwood146527
Fillmore13708
Chippewa135935
Cottonwood134520
Pennington131816
Wadena130220
Faribault122716
Aitkin118733
Sibley117110
Watonwan11708
Rock115614
Kanabec107319
Pipestone101424
Yellow Medicine97617
Murray9438
Jackson93310
Swift87918
Pope8025
Marshall77615
Stevens7398
Lake73518
Clearwater71914
Lac qui Parle68216
Wilkin66910
Koochiching61711
Big Stone5163
Lincoln5052
Grant4908
Norman4768
Unassigned44568
Mahnomen4417
Kittson40821
Red Lake3625
Traverse3025
Lake of the Woods2161
Cook1180

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 361499

Reported Deaths: 5412
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk58007549
Linn20606312
Scott18279207
Black Hawk16223290
Woodbury14924211
Johnson1380473
Dubuque13522194
Dallas1132690
Pottawattamie10762143
Story1018945
Warren553474
Clinton542484
Cerro Gordo532781
Webster517687
Marshall495572
Sioux493469
Buena Vista472736
Des Moines457061
Muscatine450691
Wapello4314108
Jasper416266
Plymouth394277
Lee374752
Marion358469
Jones294354
Henry293037
Carroll285348
Bremer279154
Crawford273435
Boone259130
Washington253747
Benton252054
Mahaska223846
Jackson221138
Dickinson217238
Tama212965
Kossuth208154
Clay193125
Hamilton191942
Delaware188639
Winneshiek188427
Buchanan184629
Fayette184335
Page182619
Hardin180839
Wright179531
Harrison179469
Cedar177023
Clayton168053
Butler165831
Mills162820
Floyd162740
Madison154018
Poweshiek153630
Cherokee153535
Hancock146729
Lyon145941
Allamakee144946
Iowa144223
Grundy138830
Appanoose138647
Jefferson138232
Winnebago137730
Calhoun133311
Cass133351
Mitchell130640
Louisa128341
Union126331
Chickasaw124813
Sac124218
Emmet120940
Shelby120433
Franklin118419
Humboldt117225
Guthrie116228
Palo Alto104921
Montgomery103936
Howard102821
Clarke100320
Unassigned9850
Keokuk97829
Monroe93128
Adair91928
Ida90832
Pocahontas85219
Davis82523
Monona81527
Greene76910
Lucas73221
Osceola70314
Worth6947
Taylor66312
Fremont5869
Decatur5749
Van Buren56018
Ringgold51820
Wayne48721
Audubon4869
Adams3264
Rochester/St. Mary'S
Mostly Cloudy
21° wxIcon
Hi: 37° Lo: 19°
Feels Like: 14°
Mason City
Clear
19° wxIcon
Hi: 35° Lo: 19°
Feels Like: 7°
Albert Lea
Partly Cloudy
19° wxIcon
Hi: 35° Lo: 18°
Feels Like: 11°
Albert Lea
Partly Cloudy
19° wxIcon
Hi: 36° Lo: 18°
Feels Like: 11°
Charles City
Partly Cloudy
19° wxIcon
Hi: 37° Lo: 19°
Feels Like: 9°
Tracking a cool start to the work week then a big warm-up!
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Grizzlies clinch playoff spot

Image

Sex trafficking bill

Image

Vigil for Rochester crash victim

Image

Sara's Sunday Night Forecast

Image

Sara's Sunday Evening Forecast

Image

Cardboard sled race

Image

Sara's Saturday Night Forecast

Image

Bleu Duck local food market

Image

Aaron's Saturday Forecast

Image

Lake City athlete inspires community, experiences unforgettable senior night

Community Events