CHICAGO (CBS) — President Donald Trump told reporters on Wednesday night that he is likely to commute the sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Maggie Haberman of the New York Times tweeted that Trump addressed the reporter pool on Air Force One that he is likely to commute Blagojevich’s 14-year corruption sentence.
TRUMP confirms to pool on AF1 what two sources have said has been discussed for days – that he’s likely to commute Rod Blagojevich’s sentence.
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) August 8, 2019
The Office of the White House Press Secretary released Trump’s full comments late Wednesday night:
“But we’re going to be doing something very, I think — very impactful. A man who is a Democrat, not a Republican — who I don’t know very well, but he was on “The Apprentice” for a couple of weeks – meaning, a couple of, you know, seasons; a couple of, what would you say? Episodes. I thought he was treated unbelievably unfairly. He was given close to 18 years in prison. 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 the — all these sleazebags — that did it. And his name is Rod Blagojevich.”
“And I am thinking about commuting his sentence. He’s been in jail for seven years, over a phone call where nothing happens. But over a phone — where nothing happened. Over a phone call where — which, you know, he shouldn’t have said what he said, but it was braggadocio, you would say. I would think that there have been many politicians — I’m not one of them, by the way (inaudible) — but that have said a lot worse over telephones.”
“And I watched his wife, on television, saying that the young girl’s father has been in jail for now seven years, and they’ve never seen him outside of an oran1ge uniform. You know, the whole thing. His wife, I think, is fantastic. And I’m thinking about commuting his sentence very strongly. I think he was — I think it’s enough: seven years.
“Not a friend of mine. He’s a Democrat, not a Republican. It’s Illinois. I think he was treated very, very unfairly, just as others were. Just as others were.
“So Rod Blagojevich — I am thinking very seriously about commuting his sentence so that he can go home to his family after seven years. You have drug dealers that get not even 30 days, and they’ve killed 25 people. They put him in jail for 18 years, and he has many years left. And I think it’s very unfair.”
According to his published remarks, Trump repeatedly reiterated that he was “looking very seriously” and “very strongly considering” commuting Blagojevich’s sentence.
Haberman reported that Trump was pushed to pardon Blagojevich by his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Other high-profile people – including the Rev. Jesse Jackson and former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. – have been pushing for a pardon for Blagojevich.
Aides got Trump to agree to commute Blagojevich’s sentence, Haberman reported.
Per administration officials, BLAGO – another person with an Apprentice connection – has been pushed for a pardon by Trump’s son-in-law, Kushner. Aides got Trump to agree to a commutation instead.
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) August 8, 2019
As CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reported, there have been rumblings that this may happen over the past year, intensifying in the past two weeks.
Blagojevich’s wife, Patti Blagojevich, had not addressed Trump’s comments on social media late Wednesday. CBS 2’s Kozlov left Patti Blagojevich a message by phone and text, but there was no response late Wednesday night.
A couple of weeks ago amid rumblings that a commutation might happen, Patti Blagojevich had no comment.
Kozlov did talk Wednesday night to former Gov. Blagojevich’s attorney, Leonard Goodman, who said he could not comment. Sheldon Sorosky, who was Blagojevich’s defense attorney in both his criminal trials and remains close to the former governor, said a commutation is what team Blagojevich has been hoping for – but he has not heard anything official.
Blagojevich is more than halfway through his prison sentence. He entered prison in March 2012, following his 2011 conviction for, among other things, trying to sell an appointment to the U.S. Senate seat once held by Barack Obama before he was elected president in 2008.
Trump is Blagojevich’s last hope to get out of prison early. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his last-ditch appeal, leaving presidential clemency as his only option to go free before his sentence is over. He formally filed a petition for leniency last year.
In the past, Trump has said he would consider showing leniency to Blagojevich, also previously calling his 14-year sentence “really unfair.”
“[Fourteen] years in jail for being stupid and saying things that every other politician, you know that many other politicians say,” Trump said last year. “What he did does not justify  years in a jail. If you read his statement, it was a foolish statement. There was a lot of bravado … but it does not … plenty of other politicians have said a lot worse. And it doesn’t, he shouldn’t have been put in jail.”
If Trump announces that Blagojevich’s sentence is being commuted, the former governor could be out of prison within hours, if not minutes, afterward.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)