CHICAGO — Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich woke up in his Chicago home for the first time in eight years Wednesday.
The Democrat spoke outside his family home in Ravenswood around 11:30 a.m. surrounded by a frenzy of camera crews as well as supporters. A large sign hanging on the home read, “Thanks Mr. President.” One man wore a rubber Blagojevich mask and hoisted the former governor’s 2006 campaign sign.
“We want to express our most profound and everlasting gratitude to President [Donald] Trump,” Blagojevich said from outside his house. “He didn’t have to do this …. this is an act of kindness.”
The governor, who kept dabbing at his chin during the press conference later apologized saying it had been a long time since he had shaved with a “normal razor,” and that it’s going to take a little bit of practice.
“I’m bruised, I’m battered, and I’m bloody,” he said.
Blagojevich’s wife, Patti Blagojevich, was visibly smiling and happy at Wednesday’s press conference. She apologized for the late start, joking that her husband couldn’t find where she put his socks that morning.
Blagojevich kept dabbing his chin with a bloody napkin after cutting it while shaving this morning. He says he's not used to using regular razors anymore due to his stint in prison. @WGNNews @WGNMorningNews pic.twitter.com/CRltF8gYIF— Courtney Gousman (@cgousman) February 19, 2020
The former governor spoke to the media about how it felt to come back to his children, who have since grown up while he was in prison. His oldest daughter, Amy is now 22 and finished with college and grad school. His younger daughter Annie is now 16 and has her driver’s license.
“I’m thankful to you, Mr. President for giving my daughters their father back,” he said. “My daughters are growing up.”
Blagojevich, 63, walked out of a federal prison in Colorado Tuesday after serving eight years of a 14-year sentence for wide-ranging political corruption, just hours after Trump granted him a commutation.
“I’m a Trumpocrat,” Blagojevich said. “If I had the ability to vote, I would vote for him.”
BREAKING: Former IL Gov. #Blagojevich emerges from home for press conference after cutting himself shaving. Thanks @realDonaldTrump again for commutation. Live coverage now @WGNNews. pic.twitter.com/D8YEW8DApx— Nancy Loo (@NancyLoo) February 19, 2020
When he spoke with WGN News in the Denver airport Tuesday night, Blagojevich maintained federal prosecutors lied and cheated. After all these years, he repeats he committed no crimes.
Blagojevich was quick to say he is forever indebted to man who shaved years off his sentence and sent him home to his wife and daughters.
“I am profoundly grateful to President Trump,” he said. “(I have) a profound and everlasting gratitude. He didn’t have to do this. He’s a Republican president and I was a Democratic governor.”
The president tweeted Wednesday saying that the former governor did not sell the Senate seat, and said he paid a big price.
Rod Blagojevich did not sell the Senate seat. He served 8 years in prison, with many remaining. He paid a big price. Another Comey and gang deal! Thank you to @LisaMarieBoothe who really “gets” what’s going on! @FoxNews— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 19, 2020
Blagojevich, 63, hails from a state with a long history of pay-to-play schemes. He was convicted in 2011 of crimes that included seeking to sell an appointment to Barack Obama’s old Senate seat and trying to shake down a children’s hospital.
Among those who advocated for Blagojevich’s release was the Chicago police union.
Fraternal Order of Police President Kevin Graham said in opinion of union leadership, it was just the right thing to do.
“We took a look at this case myself and the first VP and we felt this was a nonviolent first time offender who had served enough time,” he said. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it is our job as police officers to standup for those people who can’t standup for themselves. This is no different.”
Graham would not name names but he said FOP didn’t initiate the matter.
“We were approached by some people connected to Blagojevich and they asked if we would help,” he said.
In a letter dated Jan. 24, Graham and FOP 1st VP Martin Prieb sent a letter to Trump encouraging Blago’s release and as convicted Illinois governors go, others have done worse things.
The letter read in part the following:
“…Corruption in the governor’s office is nothing new, but overwhelming evidence against other governors for similar wrongdoing has not met with anything close to the punishment meted out to Mr. Blagojevich. Indeed, former Governor George Ryan was sent to prison on a 21-count felony conviction of a much more serious nature but received a sentence not nearly as harsh as Mr. Blagojevich’s…”
Graham said their position may be controversial to some but so be it.
“Certainly am glad that Mr. Blagojevich has given his appreciation to God above and he is back with his family,” Graham said.
The police union is taking criticism on the issue with some people asking why it ripped apart Kim Foxx’s handling of the Jussie Smollett case but advocated the early release of Blagojevich.
To read the full letter from the FOP, click here.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.