For more than a year, former Illinois first lady Patti Blagojevich has been praising President Donald Trump and criticizing his opponents in a clear campaign to land clemency for her husband.
It looks like she got Trump’s attention, at least.
“She’s one hell of a woman,” the president said Wednesday of Blagojevich.
Trump said that, and made other flattering comments about the former first lady, as he said he might commute the prison sentence of her husband, former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, possibly bringing him closer to freedom than he’s been in years.
“I watched [Blagojevich’s] 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 orange uniform,” Trump said. “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.”
In December, Trump described an interview Patti Blagojevich gave to Martha MacCallum of Fox News as “required television watching.” He also referred to her as “the wonderful wife of Rod Blagojevich.”
So far, Patti Blagojevich has only released a statement about the president’s latest comments.
“Our President’s comments on Air Force One last night make us very hopeful that our almost 11 year nightmare might soon be over,” Patti Blagojevich said in a statement. “We are very grateful.”
Patti Blagojevich’s campaign to court mercy from a Republican president for her Democratic husband began around April 2018, after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Rod Blagojevich’s appeal. That decision forced the Blagojevich family to turn to presidential clemency as its only hope.
Then, Patti Blagojevich began giving interviews — including to the Chicago Sun-Times —linking such Trump foils as then-Special Counsel Robert Mueller and former FBI Director James Comey to her husband’s prosecution.
Former Chicago U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who prosecuted Blagojevich, is friends with Comey and has worked on Comey’s legal team. Mueller was the director of the FBI when Rod Blagojevich was arrested in 2008.
“This same cast of characters that did this to my family are out there trying to do it to the president,” Patti Blagojevich told the Sun-Times in April 2018.
At first, the strategy seemed to be working. Trump floated the idea of commuting Blagojevich’s sentence in May 2018, telling reporters that Blagojevich went to jail “for being stupid” and saying things “many other politicians say.”
The next month, seven Republican members of Congress from Illinois urged Trump not to commute Blagojevich’s sentence. A letter organized by Rep. Darin LaHood urged Trump to “give thoughtful attention to our fear that granting clemency for the former governor would set a detrimental precedent and send a damaging message on your efforts to root out public corruption in our government.”
Following a rash of clemency moves by the president in mid-2018, Trump seemed to move on. The issue faded away. Then, Trump made his comments to reporters late Wednesday night about Blagojevich.
“I’ve been thinking about that for a long time,” Trump said.