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Daily Journal
     February 26, 2020      #35-57 KDJ

Alan Webber: Thoughts on Blagojevich's

By Alan Webber

This Illinois schmuck was mildly surprised to hear President Donald Trump commuted the sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich last week. There had been rumors of an imminent release for more than a year, and I always felt uneasy as to what the connection might have been between Trump and “Blago,” as he used to be called. What possibly could have been the reason Trump was even involved in this matter.

Blago was not the only person granted clemency on Feb. 18. There were seven pardons and four commutations in total that day. I reviewed each for more insight.

Granted clemency for “white-collar” crimes were Eddie DeBartolo Jr., former owner of the San Francisco 49’ers; Michael Milken, a junk bond trader; Bernie Kerik, a former New York City police commissioner; software entrepreneur Ariel Friedler; Paul Progue, owner of a construction company; David Safavian, a lawyer who once worked in the George W. Bush administration; and Angela Stanton, a heretofore unknown author, TV personality and speaker.

There is no way for the average person to know the level of guilt of these seven people, how it affected anyone, nor if their clemency grants were fair or not. There were other people who evidently thought so and convinced Trump.

There also were pardons for Tynice Hall and Crystal Munoz on separate drug charges plus Judith Negron for her part in a Medicare fraud scheme, of which she admitted some culpability. On its face, all seemed to be excessive sentences placed upon these women, two of color, so pardons were more than likely justifiable.

But it was Blago’s release that made the most headlines, and in my mind, was the most provocative. It caused me to ponder Trump’s rationale.

Blagojevich was Illinois Democratic governor from 2003 to 2009. He was removed from office on corruption charges for attempting to sell Barack Obama’s senatorial seat. Although I didn’t care for him as governor, I recall thinking at the time there had to be more dirty politics to this story than what the public knew. Blago had evidently upset the wrong people.

The former governor was convicted and sentenced to 14 years at the Federal Correctional Institution in Englewood, Colo. He had served eight years at the time of Trump’s pardon, which released Blago from prison but did not overturn his conviction.

Blago had been so intertwined with Chicago politics and politicians, including the likes of slimy Chicago aldermen, former Mayor Daley, Obama, Dick Mell (his father-in-law) and Illinois’ real boss, Mike Madigan, that it would have been impossible to see where the horse’s posterior ended and the cowboy began.

As he will remain a convicted felon, Blago can’t run for office anymore … but his mouth can. He will probably be a thorn in the side of many Illinois politicians in the near future as I have a feeling Blago knows where “the bodies are buried.” Not good timing while the Fed is currently turning rocks over in Springfield.

But were there other determining factors guiding Trump’s decision to pardon Blago? Could it have been the personal televised plea’s by Blago’s wife, Patti, or possibly Blago’s two appearances on Trump’s television show, the “Apprentice?” Or, how about the fact Blago was prosecuted by Patrick Fitzgerald, a close friend to former FBI director James Comey? Trump fired Comey and criticizes him for what appears to be legitimate reasons. If I were Trump, I would be leery of anything connected with Comey.

Who knows what toll Blago’s incarceration took on Mrs. Blagojevich’s health, as she pleaded with anyone who would listen to let her husband out of prison. Given her own political connections, it would have seemed she could have pulled the right strings to spring him. And yet, her pleas always fell on deaf ears until reaching Trump’s, a Republican. Hmm.

When you consider it was more than likely the right “connections” that got the other 10 people clemency on the same day, and Mrs. Blagojevich’s connections had failed, might Trump have known Blago had been buried in prison to ensure his silence on political matters within the state of Illinois?

At the time of his incarceration, Rod and Patti Blagojevich had two daughters, Amy and Anne, 14 and 8 years old, respectively. Blago lost eight years of watching his daughters mature into young women. The daughters also lost eight years of paternal guidance and love. That was a heavy price to pay by the family for a crime only discussed and had not been committed. Probably he would have done it, but the fact is, he didn’t.

I’m not advocating that Blagojevich should be the next “Man of the Year,” but I think Trump’s instincts were correct on this matter, as usual. Blago suffered enough and probably more for political than criminal reasons.

It was time to let him return to his family.

Alan Webber is a local businessman, author and blogger. He can be reached at editors@daily-journal.com or directly at packerbacker1957@yahoo.com.

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