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President Donald Trump said Wednesday he’s “strongly considering” commuting the prison sentence of corrupt former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich — who just so happens to have been a contestant on “Celebrity Apprentice.”
Trump floated the idea to reporters on Air Force One Wednesday evening, as he returned home from visiting victims of the deadly mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.
Blagojevich, a Democrat who served as Illinois governor from 2003 through 2009, was convicted of trying to sell off the Senate seat vacated by former President Barack Obama.
“I’ve got this thing,” Blagojevich said about the seat, in a conversation that was recorded with an FBI wiretap, “and it’s fucking golden. And I’m just not giving it up for fucking nothing. I’m not going to do it. And I can always use it. I can parachute me there.”
He’s now served about seven years of a 14-year sentence for corruption.
Trump said the former governor — whom he fired in a 2010 episode of Celebrity Apprentice, after a disastrous challenge related to Harry Potter — has gotten a raw deal. He offered a nonsensical explanation for why he was considering the commutation, mentioning his nemesis James Comey, the former FBI director.
“I thought he was treated unbelievably unfairly,” Trump told reporters. “He was given close to 18 years in prison. And a lot of people thought it was unfair, like a lot of other things — and it was the same gang, the Comey gang — and all these sleazebags — that did it. And his name is Rod Blagojevich."
Trump has been expressing his sympathies for Blagojevich for at least a year. The former governor’s wife, Patti Blagojevich, is a frequent guest on Fox News and has made direct on-air pleas to Trump. They seem to have worked.
“I’m very impressed with his family. I’m very impressed with his wife,” Trump told reporters on Wednesday. “I mean, she has lived for this. She has—she’s one hell of a woman. She has lived—she goes on and she makes her case. And it’s, it’s really very sad.”
The New York Times reported that Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, has suggested Trump pardon Blagojevich, saying “that it would appeal to Democrats.” When other advisers disagreed, they settled on commuting the sentence.
“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,” Trump said on Wednesday. “I would think that there have been many politicians — I’m not one of them by the way — that have said a lot worse over the telephone.”
Cover: In this Dec. 7, 2011 file photo, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, left, speaks to reporters as his wife, Patti, listens at the federal building in Chicago.A federal judge will decide Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2016, whether to cut the 14-year prison term given to Blagojevich after he was convicted of corruption, including charges that he tried to exchange an appointment to President Barack Obama's old U.S. Senate seat in exchange for campaign donations. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)