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Trump Frees Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich

He has been imprisoned since 2012 over corruption
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 18, 2020 1:03 PM CST
Updated Feb 18, 2020 3:59 PM CST

(Newser) Rod Blagojevich is going home. President Trump on Tuesday commuted the sentence of the former Illinois governor, reports ABC News. Blagojevich has been imprisoned since 2012 after being convicted on corruption charges. Among other things, he famously tried to sell the vacant Senate seat of Barack Obama after Obama won the 2008 presidential election. Also Tuesday, Trump pardoned former NYPD commissioner Bernie Kerik and, earlier, he pardoned former NFL owner Edward Debartolo Jr. Coverage:

  • Blagojevich was serving a 14-year sentence and expected to get out in 2024 with good behavior. Instead, the AP reports that he is expected to walk out of prison on Tuesday.

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  • Trump spoke briefly to reporters after the news, saying he didn't know Blagojevich well (he noted Blagojevich's appearance on Celebrity Apprentice) and characterizing his 8 years behind bars as a "long time," per ABC. He also called Blagojevich's 14-year sentence "ridiculous." Trump had previously floated the idea of commuting the sentence.
  • Talking Points Memo notes Trump also cited Blagojevich's kids: "They’re growing older, they're going to high school now, and they rarely get to see their father outside of an orange uniform."
  • The New York Times reports that members of the GOP told Trump not to do it, "arguing that Mr. Blagojevich's crime epitomizes the corruption that Mr. Trump had said he wanted to tackle as president."
  • To that end, this from the conservative site Twitchy: "Is that how you 'drain the swamp'? By letting people in the swamp out of it?" And the conservative Washington Examiner calls the commutation "very swampy," arguing Blagojevich does not deserve it and that the president's move "doesn't simply fuel the swamp. It floods it with gallons of festering water and a banqueting invitation to the mosquito corruption clique."
  • But Media Matters argues the commutation shows the influence Fox News has over Trump, calling the conservative hosts "sympathetic" to Blagojevich's cause. The site notes that among Trump's remarks Tuesday was this one: "I watched his wife on television," which it pegs as a "clear reference" to her at least seven appearances on Fox News.
  • As for Kerik, the New York Post reports that he was actually released from prison in 2013 after serving three years of a four-year sentence. He previously pleaded guilty to tax fraud and lying to those vetting him for the position of Homeland Security director after George W. Bush nominated him.
  • CNBC reports via the White House that Trump "granted some form of executive clemency" to 11 people on Tuesday. Another one making headlines was former "junk bond king" Michael Milken, whom Trump pardoned, Reuters reports. Since serving two years behind bars on securities violations charges, he has started a nonprofit that funds research on cancer, financial markets, and a wide range of other issues.
  • The rest of those 11: Pardons were given to entrepreneur Ariel Friedler, former contractor Paul Pogue, former US government procurement officer David Safavian, and Angela Stanton, who was implicated in a stolen vehicle ring. Commutations were given to three women, two who were convicted on drug charges and one on healthcare fraud charges.
(Read more Rod Blagojevich stories.)

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