Editorial | Ridiculous claims of innocence

Editorial | Ridiculous claims of innocence

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is right where he belongs — behind bars.

President Donald Trump last week, as is his unfortunate custom, sent shock waves through the body politic in Illinois when he disclosed that he's considering commuting the remainder of Blagojevich's 14-year prison sentence.

That would be a terrible mistake. Blagojevich is not, as he and his supporters claim, a victim of a prosecutorial overreach. He is, in fact, one of the most corrupt politicians in the history of this irredeemably corrupt state.

As governor, Blagojevich and his many political henchmen presided over what was the most ambitious conspiracy in the history of the state — to sell government licenses and contracts for personal financial gifts or campaign contributions.

It was as disgraceful as it was bold. That's why he was convicted of charges as diverse as trying to sell a U.S. Senate seat and shaking down a hospital executive and a racetrack owner.

The incident involving the hospital executive was particularly bad, demonstrating why Blagojevich is entitled to zero consideration from Trump.

As governor, Blagojevich held up a state grant to Children's Memorial Hospital, using it as leverage to extort cash from the hospital's chief executive office.

Blagojevich and his supporters have been waging a phony campaign for sympathy in past weeks, obviously trying to play on Trump's obvious anger over the pending Russian collusion investigation being led by former FBI Director and special counsel Robert Mueller.

One particularly outrageous example of the Blagojevich campaign was a commentary he wrote for The Wall Street Journal editorial page that was headlined, "I'm in prison for practicing politics."

He portrayed his conduct as simple political fundraising that was criminalized by unreasoning prosecutors.

"Some in the Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation are abusing their power to criminalize the routine practices of politics and government," he wrote.

There was nothing routine about Blagojevich's pervasive efforts to trade seats on state boards, contracts for services and licenses for hospital expansion for cash gifts or campaign contributions.

That's why his repeated appeals have been rejected by the courts. Blagojevich was convicted fair and square.

His sentence was justified by the length and breadth of his criminal conduct. It's unfortunate that his family suffers while he's behind bars. But isn't that the case with the families of all inmates in all cases?

Before pulling the trigger on this commutation question, Trump would be well advised to take an in-depth look at what Blagojevich did during his six years as this state's chief executive and the damage he caused.

Even by the usual standards of this thoroughly corrupt state, Blagojevich was an outlier. His repeated claims that he did no wrong demonstrate a complete lack of remorse that is almost psychopathic.

His ridiculous claims of innocence have, no doubt, found a willing audience in Trump. But like so much of what Blagojevich said and did during his six year reign of error, there's little to no substance to it.

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