Trump continues to weigh Blagojevich commutation: ‘We’re looking at it. I feel very badly’
‘I floated it and I wanted to see where the Democrats stood where the Republicans stood,’ Trump said.
President Donald Trump revived the prospect of a commutation for imprisoned ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Thursday, days after he almost set him free only to pull back and send the case to White House lawyers to “review.”
“We’re looking at it. I feel very badly. I think it was very harshly sentenced but we’re looking at it very strongly. People feel very strongly about that,” Trump said.
Trump, taking questions from the press pool at the Morristown, N.J., airport, was asked if he still planned to grant a commutation to Blagojevich, who is midway through his 14-year sentence.
Trump, in signaling he was interested in moving ahead despite critics inside and outside the White House, re-calibrated his argument, saying flat-out that what Blagojevich did was “terrible” but his sentence was too long.
Earlier comments from Trump minimized the multiple corruption convictions that sent Blagojevich to a federal prison not far from Denver.
Seeming to excuse Blagojevich’s conduct as a public official draws critics. The matter of whether the sentence Blagojevich was handed was overly harsh is less of a hot-button issue and goes to broader legal questions about fairness in sentencing.
“I floated it and I wanted to see where the Democrats stood, where the Republicans stood. People feel very strongly about Rod Blagojevich and his sentence. He’s been in there for seven and a half years — that’s a long time. And what he did was terrible. But it’s a long time. It’s a long time,” Trump said.
I reported last Friday that clemency for Blagojevich – seemingly hours away from freedom last Thursday – is stalled because of opposition from inside and outside the White House, despite having presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner as his champion.
Before Trump signs any clemency papers, the Illinois Republicans in Congress want a chance to persuade the White House to keep him locked up.
“I requested that we have an opportunity to weigh in before a final decision is made,” Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Ill., told the Chicago Sun-Times on Wednesday.
LaHood said the GOP Illinois delegation “ought to be able to have a say, be able to have an audience whether it’s on the phone or in person before a final decision is made.”