Freeing Blagojevich — a bad idea — wouldn’t be the worst pain Trump has inflicted on Illinois

The president is just trying to change the subject.

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Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich arrives at the federal courthouse in Chicago in 2011. Appeals. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)

So another musing by President Donald Trump about possibly pardoning former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich appears to have come and gone. And once again it served its intended purpose: changing the subject.

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Because if we’re talking about why pardoning Blagojevich is a bad idea which I’ll do here then we’re not talking about how Trump’s economic policies devastate the middle class.

And I suspect that’s why Trump will keep pulling this stunt.

As a state legislator, I began calling out my own party’s governor as a fraud before it was fashionable. I was a chief co-sponsor of the bill creating the committee that led to impeachment charges against Blagojevich in 2009.

As I worked on legislation to provide increased reimbursement rates to specialty care physicians treating sick children, Blagojevich threatened to hold up that financial help indefinitely unless the CEO of Children’s Memorial Hospital gave him a campaign donation of $25,000. That’s extortion.

Blagojevich famously tried to auction off Barack Obama’s senate seat. This was not just “a phone call” or “braggadocio” as President Trump apparently misunderstood Blagojevich’s serious crimes to be. A governor should be held to a higher standard. His conduct was shameful and worthy of a long sentence.

Illinois taxpayers sick of Blagojevich’s shake-down schemes generally were not too bothered by the admittedly long 14-year sentence. Outside of Blagojevich’s immediate family and a handful of others, few here are clamoring to bring Blagojevich home from his prison in Colorado early.

What is it the people of Illinois are talking about?

The way Trump’s economic policies are killing the middle class in Illinois.

His disastrous trade war means Illinois soybean farmers can no longer sell their crops to China. China has turned to other countries for soybeans perhaps permanently.

That means our farmers have less money to buy tractors from Illinois companies like John Deere or Caterpillar, which will have to raise their prices because the cost of steel is going up thanks again to Trump’s Trade War.

Our banks and our 401Ks are suffering as Trump’s scattershot economic policies rattle the markets.

You want to see two full levels of empty storefronts? Look at the first two floors of the Trump Tower on the Chicago River. Despite his self-professed real estate marketing prowess, that prime riverfront retail space has remained vacant for years.

Rural and middle class America are being hit hard by Trump’s policies and he does not want us talking about that.

He certainly did not like all the talk about how his racially charged statements incited the white supremacist who went out looking to kill Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in El Paso, Texas, and succeeded in killing 22 innocent people.

When his latest Blagojevich tweet came out, Trump really wanted to change the subject about how his sustained drumbeat of racism shares some of the blame for the slaughter of innocents in El Paso, so voila! he dusted off the old “Maybe I’ll pardon Rod Blagojevich” subject-changer.

It has worked for him before. He appears to have backed away once again — knock on wood — now that he has heard from elected officials here in Illinois. Trump may pardon Blagojevich. He may not.

Freeing Blagojevich would hardly be the worst damage Trump is inflicting on the people of Illinois. We had the foresight to pass a law barring Blagojevich from ever holding public office in Illinois again.

Enough with the recurring Blago show.

Let’s focus on stopping the real damage Trump is inflicting on our country.

Susana A. Mendoza is the Illinois State Comptroller, charged with paying the state’s bills. She served 10 years as a state legislator.

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