CHICAGO — Is Illinois’ infamous ex-governor any closer to freedom? The decision to set Rod Blagojevich free lies solely with President Donald Trump.
The ups and downs of Blagojevich’s life date back well beyond his appeal for early release. It started with an arrest as a sitting governor more than 10-years ago, an impeachment, two trials, and a conviction followed by a 14-year sentence — that many regard as too long.
Today, Blagojevich, 62, sits and waits behind bars like he has for seven-years hoping the president gives him a lucky break.
This week, Trump, aboard Air Force One, told the traveling press corps he thinks Blagojevich has been treated “unbelievably unfairly", and he planned to do something impactful.
Perhaps signaling a change in tone and speed, Trump tweeted Thursday:
“Rod Blagojevich, the former governor of Illinois, was sentenced to 14 years in prison. He has served 7 years. Many people have asked that I study the possibility of commuting his sentence in that it was a very severe one. White House staff is continuing the review of this matter.”
The president also said he and Blagojevich were not friends, even though Blagojevich appeared on Trump's reality show "Celebrity Apprentice."
In the past year, there have been three instances where Trump appeared to soften when it comes to the Blagojevich family. He indicated he wanted to see Illinois’ ex-governor reunited with his wife, Patti, and his two daughters.
So as Blagojevich’s hair turned from dark brown to white behind bars, Patti made her public pleas for mercy through the airwaves — sitting down at Fox News on several occasions. Knowing it is Trump’s source for news, she repeatedly heaped praise on the president there. He responded, admiring her devotion to her imprisoned husband and referring to Patti as a “hell of a woman.”
On Thursday, Patti responded to Trump's comments of considering commuting her husband:
"Our President's comments on Air Force One last night make us very hopeful that our almost 11 year nightmare might soon be over. We are very grateful," she said in a message posted to social media.
In recent months, Rev. Jesse Jackson has spoken out on Blagojevich’s behalf-urging early release. The president’s own son-in-law pushing the topic too.
Illinois Republicans are urging the president to think twice of his consideration. Letting Blagojevich go home early, they say, would set a “dangerous precedent” and goes against the trust voters place in elected officials.
Insiders said this began with a suggestion by Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner as a move that might appeal to Democrats and black voters.
"We are not that stupid that you can support a rapper or a former governor or a woman who was over-sentenced and just because of the color of their skin or because they were friendly to black people that we'll suddenly think 'oh, he's for us,'" Delmarie Cobb, Democratic political consultant, said.
So Blagojevich sits and waits, knowing the decision that could reverse his current reality lies with the president alone.
Without presidential intervention, the Federal Bureau of Prisons lists his release date as May 23, 2024.