Rod Blagojevich’s only hope now is a show of mercy from a ridiculous president.
Donald Trump, though, is not likely to pardon Blagojevich, or to commute the former governor’s sentence. Not unless Trump can see something in it for himself, which is his only way.
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Blagojevich’s appeal, letting stand his convictions for public corruption and his 14-year prison term. He likely will remain locked up until 2024.
This, to our thinking, is bad news for the principle of proportionate justice. We have long argued that 14 years of incarceration is overkill for a man who was more foolish than criminally minded, more delusional than dangerous.
We have accepted the arguments and evidence for Blagojevich’s guilt, though his legal appeals were premised on the contention that his supposedly criminal offenses amounted to nothing more than old-fashion political logrolling — the normal give-and-get of politics.
Among other offenses, Blagojevich was convicted of betraying his oath of office by squeezing people for a big job or campaign money in return for an appointment to a senate seat.
We would have liked to have seen the Court take up Blagojevich’s appeal so as to clarify the sometimes blurry line between what’s legal political bartering and what’s not. An awful lot of working politicians who consider themselves ethical have felt uneasy about what has happened to the former governor.
But what has troubled us most is the length of Blagojevich’s sentence.
Former Gov. George Ryan got just 6 1/2 years in prison for bribery, and nobody could have been confused about his criminal intent — least of all Ryan. Former Gov. Otto Kerner, convicted in a racetrack stock scandal, served just over seven months in prison.
When Trump on Friday pardoned Scooter Libby, the chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney who was convicted in 2007 of perjury and obstruction of justice, we assumed Trump’s motives were not high-minded, but base. Trump is not high-minded.
Pardoning Libby was Trump’s way of emphasizing his disdain for the current Russian-collusion investigation by special prosecutor Robert Mueller. It also was his way, we suspect, of signaling to former aides and allies targeted by Mueller, such as his attorney Michael Cohen, that he’s ready to bail them out if they refuse to flip.
Trump is utterly transactional. He gives only to get.
And we can’t see what Blagojevich has got to trade.
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