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Trump tweet about TV interview by Blagojevich’s wife sparks clemency questions

Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich speaks to reporters as his wife, Patti, listens at the federal building in Chicago on Dec. 7, 2011. President Donald Trump says he is considering commuting the sentence of ex- Gov. Blagojevich. Blagojevich, a Democrat, began serving his 14-year prison sentence on corruption convictions in 2012. | M. Spencer Green/AP file photo

President Donald Trump on Sunday afternoon again stoked intrigue about whether he will commute the prison sentence of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

In a tweet sent out at 12:29 p.m., Trump called a Fox News interview with Blagojevich’s wife, Patti, “required television watching.”

In the interview, which aired Friday, Patti Blagojevich, stated: “I know the president’s a very busy man, he’s got a lot on his plate … we have a petition for clemency into the president. We hope and pray we won’t have to go another holiday season without him. The president’s about justice and fairness and we hope that he looks at Rod and sees how unfair and unjust what’s been done to our family.”

She also blasted federal prosecutors investigating Trump as the same “political assassins” with “unchecked power” who went after her husband.

Reached by the Chicago Sun-Times on Sunday evening, Patti Blagojevich declined comment on Trump’s tweet.

“I’m out buying a Christmas tree with my daughter right now. I’m not saying anything. Have a Merry Christmas,” she said.

In May, Trump said he might commute the former governor’s prison sentence, possibly springing Blagojevich as many as six years early.

The president told reporters back then that Blagojevich went to jail “for being stupid” and saying things “many other politicians say.” Trump said Blagojevich’s sentence was excessive. However, Trump repeatedly misstated the length of that sentence. U.S. District Judge James Zagel gave Blagojevich 14 years.

“What (Blagojevich) did does not justify 18 years in a jail,” Trump said. “If you read his statement, it was a foolish statement. There was a lot of bravado … but it does not … plenty of other politicians have said a lot worse. And it doesn’t, he shouldn’t have been put in jail.”

His remarks came days after the U.S. Supreme Court announced April 16 it would not hear an appeal from Blagojevich, finally ending a years-long battle by the former governor and his family in the courts. Since then, executive clemency has been Blagojevich’s only hope.

Should Trump commute Blagojevich’s sentence to time served, prison consultants said Blagojevich could walk free in days.

It’s not the first time Patti Blagojevich has appeared on Trump’s favorite conservative news network to appeal for help in freeing her husband. Ingratiating herself to the president by expressing a shared frustration with overzealous federal prosecutors has been a key tactic.

A commutation would reduce Blagojevich’s prison sentence, but it would not wipe out his convictions.

Blagojevich, 61, is not due out of prison until May 2024. Though an appellate court tossed five of his convictions in 2015, federal prosecutors say he remains convicted “of the same three charged shakedowns” for which he was first sentenced in 2011.

Those include his attempt to sell then-President-elect Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat, to shake down the CEO of Children’s Memorial Hospital for $25,000 in campaign contributions and to hold up a bill to benefit the racetrack industry for $100,000 in campaign contributions.

A jury also convicted Blagojevich of lying to the FBI.

Blagojevich’s attorney, Leonard Goodman, is a member of the investor group that purchased the Chicago Sun-Times in 2017.

Contributor: Maudlyne Ihejirika