The Illinois Republican congressional delegation is asking President Trump to call off any plans to commute ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s 14-year sentence, saying it would “set a detrimental precedent and send a damaging message.”
A copy of the letter obtained by POLITICO shows the state’s seven GOP House members in unified opposition to freeing the former Democratic governor.
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“[W]e ask that you consider very carefully the precedent this may set and the impact it will have on acts of public corruption in the future. As you well know, the integrity of our democracy and the core of American values depend on our elected officials being honest in upholding the trust given to them by the American people. Granting clemency to Rod Blagojevich would go against this trust,” the letter concludes.
The letter was signed by Reps. Peter Roskam, Darin LaHood, John Shimkus, Mike Bost, Randy Hultgren, Adam Kinzinger and Rodney Davis.
“As public servants, we are rightfully held to a higher standard. In Illinois, many of our elected officials have failed to do so in the past, and few – like former Governor Rod Blagojevich – have been held accountable for their actions,” Roskam said in a statement. “Commuting the sentence of a corrupt politician, particularly from Illinois, sends a dangerous message that this type of behavior is acceptable. It is not acceptable. Today, my Illinois colleagues and I are urging the President not to set this harmful precedent and to deny the former governor’s petition for commutation.”
Last week, Blagojevich’s attorneys formally sent a commutation request to the Office of the Pardon Attorney, after the president’s remarks that Blagojevich’s sentence was too lengthy.
Trump had asserted to reporters on Air Force One that the former governor’s actions did not justify his sentence, and that he “shouldn’t have been put in jail.”
“There’s another one that I’m thinking about, Rod Blagojevich,” Trump said in late May. “Eighteen years in jail for being stupid and saying things that every other politician, you know that many other politicians say.”
In addition to his remarks about Blagojevich — who appeared with Trump on the president’s television show, “The Apprentice“ — Trump floated a pardon for TV personality Martha Stewart, who in March 2004 was convicted on felony charges of conspiracy, obstruction of an agency proceeding and making false statements to federal investigators.
The remarks about Blagojevich and Stewart came on the same day Trump pardoned controversial conservative filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza.
Blagojevich, who served as governor from 2003 to 2009, was removed from office following various corruption charges, including delaying a signature on a horse racing bill in order receive a $100,000 campaign donation and withholding reimbursement money to a children’s hospital until contributions were made to his campaign.
Most notably, Blagojevich attempted to sell the Senate seat left vacant by Barack Obama’s 2008 election as president.
Blagojevich was found guilty on 18 counts of public corruption, including charges of extortion, wire fraud, corrupt solicitation of funds and lying to federal investigators.
The former Illinois governor and congressman was sentenced to 168 months in prison.
Before reports of a potential presidential pardoning surfaced, Blagojevich turned to the Supreme Court, which turned down his appeal in April.
Didi Martinez contributed to this report.