Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich spoke to the media one day after being released from prison, heaping praise on himself and offering no apology for the crimes that landed him a sentence of 14 years behind bars.
Blagojevich was let go after President Donald Trump commuted his sentence on Tuesday. The former Democratic governor served nearly eight years following his conviction on multiple counts of corruption, most notably related to his attempt to “sell” the U.S. Senate seat vacated by then newly elected President Barack Obama. As governor, he had the power to name someone to serve out the remainder of Obama’s Senate term.
“I’ve got this thing and it’s fucking golden. I’m just not giving it up for fucking nothing,” Blagojevich said in late 2008 ― a comment that was recorded by the FBI.
Speaking outside his home on Wednesday, Blagojevich lauded Trump for facilitating his release.
“I’m a Trumpocrat,” he said. “If I have the ability to vote, I’m gonna vote for him.” (In Illinois, prisoners’ voting rights are automatically restored upon release from prison.)
Blagojevich also thanked his wife and daughters, remarking how much his children grew while he was away. He spoke about his accomplishments as governor and painted himself as a victim spared by Trump’s “kind heart.”
“It’s been a long, long journey. I’m bruised and I’m battered and bloody,” he said, even as he sported a bleeding chin ― the result, he said, of a shaving mishap.
In a tweet on Wednesday, Trump said Blagojevich had “paid a big price” for his efforts at extortion, once again downplaying the harm that corruption inflicts on a democracy.
In his appearance on Wednesday, Blagojevich seemed to paint himself as a martyr and a “political prisoner.” He even invoked Martin Luther King Jr.: “As Martin Luther King used to say, ‘Truth crushed to earth will one day rise again because no lie can live forever.’”
And for the voters of Illinois, Blagojevich had a message: “I wanna say again to the people of Illinois who twice elected me governor: I didn’t let you down. I would have let you down if I gave in to this, but resistance to tyrants is obedience to God.”
In October 2008, just two months before his arrest, a Chicago Tribune poll showed the governor with a job approval rating of 13%. Three-fourths of voters said he had failed to end corruption in state government. While the federal case would drag out for three years, the Illinois state legislature took just four months to impeach and oust Blagojevich.
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