Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a self-proclaimed “Trumpocrat,” was as defiant Wednesday as he was on the day he was sentenced to prison, calling the criminal justice system corrupt and broken.
He also called out Illinois politicians for hiking state taxes in his absence.
Blagojevich spoke to supporters and reporters outside of his home in Chicago, sporting gray hair that he wasn’t allowed to dye in prison and dabbing blood from his chin, the result of what he said was using a proper razor for the first time in more than 7 years.
“We want to extend our profound and everlasting gratitude to President Trump,” he said, between quoting scripture, Martin Luther King Jr., and praising his family. “How do you properly thank someone who has given you back the freedom that was stolen from you? He didn’t have to do this. He’s a Republican president, I was a Democratic governor.”
Blagojevich said Wednesday, as he did during his trial, that he was “persecuted” for what he called routine political practices.
“From beginning to end, this was persecution masquerading as prosecution,” he said.
He also said he was a “political prisoner.”
The former governor also spoke about injustice in the nation’s criminal prosecution system and criticized Illinois politicians for hiking taxes in the years after he was removed from office, convicted and sentenced to prison.
“I wouldn’t allow that swamp in Springfield, and my fellow Democrats, who just wanted to raise taxes on the working people, to raise their taxes,” he said.
Blagojevich didn’t take questions from reporters.
The former Illinois governor was convicted to 14 years in prison after being convicted on multiple corruption charges. He was eight years into his 14-year sentence when Trump commuted it Tuesday.
While he’s free from prison, Trump did not pardon him. That means Blagojevich remains a convicted felon who cannot run for office, own a firearm, or work in a number of professions. His law license remains suspended in Illinois, although he could try to get it reinstated.
Blagojevich, a Chicago Democrat, was sentenced in 2011 to 14 years in prison after he was convicted of corruption tied to his attempt to sell then newly-elected President Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat. He entered prison in March 2012.
In 2018, Illinois’ Republican congressmen wrote a letter to Trump opposing any kind of mercy for Blagojevich.
The letter reminded the president of the evidence against Blagojevich, including his shakedown of Children’s Memorial Hospital for a $50,000 campaign contribution and the delay in signing a new law for the state’s horse tracks until he had secured a $10,000 contribution. (By Cole Lauterbach |The Center Square, Photo AP)