Barack Obama is out of office.
And Rod Blagojevich is still in prison, as evidenced by his daughter’s recent letter, posted on Facebook, blasting the former president.
Given that Blagojevich was convicted of schemes that included an attempt to sell Obama’s U.S. Senate seat, it’s no surprise that Obama chose to ignore a clemency request from the former governor of his adopted home state.
But that decision has left Blagojevich’s bid for a sentence reduction in the hands of the more unpredictable President Donald Trump — with whom Blagojevich also has a connection.
In 2010, Blagojevich appeared on Trump’s TV show, “Celebrity Apprentice.”
Blagojevich was “fired” from the show after he struggled to operate a computer at a basic level and then fumbled with a smartphone. Trump called Blagojevich’s performance “sad,” but he also described Blagojevich as a “guy with great courage.”
When it was all over, Trump told Chicago Sun-Times’ entertainment columnist Bill Zwecker that Blagojevich “was very nice on the show.”
And ahead of the ex-governor’s sentencing, Trump indicated Blagojevich’s punishment shouldn’t be too harsh.
“Sounds like [his conviction] was just a lot of political stuff,” Trump said then. “More than pure corruption.”
It’s not clear whether Blagojevich’s clemency request ever made it to Obama’s desk. But when an outgoing president doesn’t act on a request, it is left to his replacement.
Blagojevich, 60, is nearly five years into the 14-year sentence. U.S. District Judge James Zagel reinstated Blagojevich’s sentence just five months ago after it was wiped out by an appeals court.
Then, days before Christmas, the Justice Department confirmed that Blagojevich had asked for a presidential commutation.
The president may commute an inmate’s sentence to time served, or he may simply reduce a sentence. But the move is described on the Pardon Attorney’s website as an “extraordinary remedy that is rarely granted.” Blagojevich would seem to be disqualified because such requests are generally not accepted “from persons who are presently challenging their convictions or sentences through appeal or other court proceedings.”
That’s exactly what Blagojevich is doing. His lawyer, Leonard Goodman, filed a brief last month with the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals asking for a third sentencing hearing.