CHICAGO (CBS) — President Donald Trump on Thursday suggested that he floated the idea of commuting former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s prison sentence just to see if it was popular.
On Air Force One, Trump said, “I floated it, and I wanted to see where Republicans stood.”
Trump went on to say the idea seemed to be popular, and Blagojevich has “been in there for a long time.”
But Illinois Republican members of Congress have sent letters to Trump saying they oppose the idea of commuting Blagojevich’s sentence.
Last week, five Republican Illinois congressmen — Darin LaHood, John Shimkus, Adam Kinzinger, Rodney Davis, and Mike Bost — were on record urging President Trump not to issue the commutation.
“It’s important that we take a strong stand against pay-to-play politics, especially in Illinois where four of our last eight Governors have gone to federal prison for public corruption,” the congressmen said in a statement. “Commuting the sentence of Rod Blagojevich, who has a clear and documented record of egregious corruption, sets a dangerous precedent and goes against the trust voters place in elected officials. We stand by our letter and urge the President to not commute Rod Blagojevich’s sentence.”
CNN has also reported that Trump is backing away from the plan to commute Blagojevich’s sentence.
On Wednesday, Aug. 7, Trump had seemed to be enthusiastic about the idea.
“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,” Trump said.
Before his conviction on corruption charges, Blagojevich was a contestant on Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice” reality show.
“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 all these sleazebags — that did it,” Trump said.
But by Thursday, Aug. 8, Trump’s tone had changed. He tweeted that the White House staff was “continuing the review of this matter” when it came to what to do with Blagojevich’s sentence.
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.