In Springfield, people usually see President Trump’s newsworthy decisions as trending topics on Twitter or headlines on the news, but one in particular is hitting home in Illinois. On Feb. 18, Trump granted clemency to former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich who previously spent many hours at the State Capitol, only a few blocks away from Springfield High School. The president commuted Blagojevich’s sentence, which allowed him to be released Tuesday night, four years before his anticipated release.
In 2008, Blagojevich was arrested and charged for corruption after attempting to sell the newly elected President Obama’s vacant Senate seat. He was impeached and eventually sentenced to 14 years in prison. He was expected to serve 12 and become eligible for early release in 2024 but served only eight at a federal facility in Colorado before he was commuted. Blagojevich was released Tuesday night and was seen arriving in Denver for a flight home to Chicago soon after.
Blagojevich and President Trump had a previous connection before the commuting of the sentence as well. In 2010, after he was removed from office, Illinois’ disgraced governor appeared as a contestant on Trump’s show “The Celebrity Apprentice.” He was fired for inaccurate facts and inadequate research during a Harry Potter challenge. Trump said, “I feel badly for him. He tried, but I feel badly,” Evidently, he still felt bad for the former governor 10 years later.
In a statement made regarding his pardons and commutations, Trump said “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 also went on to discuss how he believes Blagojevich’s sentence was too much, saying, “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.”
Trump’s action has been criticized by many, including numerous Illinois politicians, both democrats and republicans. Don Harmon, the democratic President of the Illinois Senate said, “Donald Trump models a behavior where you never apologize or show contrition for anything, and it seems he is rewarding people that behave the way that he behaves.” Additionally, Jim Durkin, a republican, the Minority Leader of the Illinois House of Representatives, said, “It’s just because of the celebrity of Rod Blagojevich. I think it’s wrong and it sends a bad message to people in this country that…you don’t have to pay your debt to society.” Regardless of your opinion of Blagojevich, it is safe to say he will be in the news much more in upcoming weeks so stay tuned to see how he readjusts to life out of prison.