President Donald Trump on Wednesday again said he might commute the prison sentence of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. This time, the president made one motive clearer. It’s about revenge.
“I thought he was treated unbelievably unfairly; he was given close to 18 years in prison,” Trump said to White House reporters aboard Air Force One, misstating Blagojevich’s 14-year sentence. “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.”
Comey, of course, is a reference to former FBI Director James Comey, whom Trump fired. That firing led to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller to investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 election. The firing also resulted in Comey becoming a high-profile critic of Trump. Oh, Comey is also a friend of former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who oversaw the prosecution of Blagojevich.
So look at any compassion expressed by Trump toward Blago as a reflection of the president’s blinding bitterness toward Comey.
Also know this: The “Comey gang” did not overzealously prosecute the former governor. The former governor overzealously abused his position in state government and got caught. Not only did he threaten to hold up government projects until he could squeeze their proprietors for campaign contributions, he used a U.S. Senate seat, which belonged to the citizens of Illinois, as a bargaining chip to try to enrich himself.
Keep in mind that Blagojevich ran for office on a platform of ethics reform after replacing a disgraced former governor, George Ryan, who was convicted on charges he ran state government like a criminal enterprise. Keep in mind, too, that Illinois is the state that grows corrupt governors like it harvests soybeans: in vast numbers. Blagojevich, Ryan, Otto Kerner and Dan Walker all went to prison.
Blagojevich’s 14-year sentence on myriad corruption charges was harsh but deserved. Sending him back to Illinois would be a gut-punch to the law-abiding, frustrated, fed-up electorate here, more than 2 million of whom voted for Trump in 2016 based in part on his “drain the swamp” attitude toward sleaze in government.
Several high-ranking Democrats including U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin have supported commuting Blagojevich’s sentence. He has served long enough, they say. But mostly, Democrats in Illinois were glad to get rid of Blagojevich. His obsession with fundraising, with squeezing state government for his own personal benefit, took priority over his actual job of governing. He hardly showed up for work. Democrats led his House impeachment. Democrats led the Senate trial that led to his ouster from office. He was sent to prison for trying to extort campaign cash and other benefits for himself.
Trump wants to sell a possible Blagojevich commutation as righting a wrong committed by “the Comey gang.”
Wrong. Rod Blagojevich was not the victim. The people of Illinois were.