President Trump would be making a huge mistake in commuting the prison sentence of Rod Blagojevich, the former governor of Illinois. Blagojevich is corrupt to the core. He is not the victim of anything except his own guile.
Let’s remember why Blagojevich is in prison. Among other crimes, he actually tried to sell Barack Obama’s Senate seat. If he were not arrested in time, Blagojevich would have likely sold the seat to then-Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. for $1.5 million in campaign contributions.
Speculation that Trump may pardon Blagojevich or commute his sentence apparently results from a Wall Street Journal op-ed by Blagojevich on Monday headlined, “I am in prison for practicing politics.” That is exactly the problem. In Illinois, corruption is endemic. Blagojevich’s Republican predecessor, George Ryan, also went to prison. A pardon of Blagojevich would seriously undercut the fight against corruption.
The McDonnell Supreme Court decision has apparently given hope to all kinds of crooks that they can get off. The Court ruled that a bribery conviction must be based on an explicit promise to take an “official act” on behalf of the person offering the bribe. There certainly was an “official act,” a gubernatorial appointment to a vacant Senate seat. The evidence against Blagojevich was his own voice, captured on FBI wiretaps.
Coming on the heels of the Justice Department decision not to retry Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), a Blagojevich commutation would put Trump firmly on the side of protecting crooked politicians. You can’t drain the swamp when at the same time you are rescuing the leaches and eels.