CHICAGO (CBS) — In announcing he’s considering possible leniency for Rod Blagojevich, President Trump said he believes the former governor was treated unfairly by former FBI director James Comey and “all these sleazebags,” even though Comey played no role in Blagojevich’s prosecution and conviction.
Blagojevich has served more than seven years of his 14-year sentence, following his 2011 conviction for, among other things, trying to sell an appointment to the U.S. Senate seat once held by Barack Obama before he was elected president in 2008.
Trump said Thursday he’s “thinking very seriously” about commuting Blagojevich’s sentence on corruption charges, claiming the former governor’s crimes amounted to no more than “braggadocio” and ill-advised talk on the phone.
“I thought he was treated unbelievably unfairly. He was given close to 18 years in prison, and a lot of people thought it was unfair, like a lot of other things. And it was the same gang — the Comey gang and all these sleazebags — that did it,” Trump said.
Comey is a frequent target of Trump’s ire. The president admitted he was thinking of the FBI’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 elections and possible ties to the Trump campaign when he fired Comey as FBI director in 2017.
Trump has called the investigation a “witch hunt,” and also has railed against former special counsel Robert Mueller, who took over the Russia investigation after Comey was fired.
However, Comey’s only tie to the Blagojevich case is a nebulous one. His good friend, Patrick Fitzgerald, was the U.S. Attorney in Chicago whose office led the investigation and prosecution of Blagojevich.
While Fitzgerald did work under Comey as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York in 2002 and 2003, Comey had left for the private sector by the time Fitzgerald came to Chicago, and did not become director of the FBI until 2013, two years after Blagojevich was convicted, and a year after Fitzgerald himself had moved to private practice.
Mueller also has only a distant connection to the Blagojevich case, at best. He was the FBI director at the time of the Blagojevich investigation, but there never has been an indication he had any direct involvement in the probe.
Even if Mueller did have some involvement in the investigation, the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is the highest court to hear an appeal of Blagojevich’s case, has said “the evidence, much of it from Blagojevich’s own mouth, is overwhelming.”