CHICAGO (CBS) — Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich had been home one week as of Wednesday, after President Donald Trump commuted his sentence and had him released from federal prison.
But Blagojevich continues to spark criticism as he goes on portraying himself as a victim.
CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov sat down with Blagojevich this week. They talked for almost 50 minutes.
Blagojevich acknowledged he had made mistakes and should have done some things differently. But backing down he is not.
Kozlov: “Some believe you shouldn’t have had your sentence commuted, and some very upset with your calling yourself a freed political prisoner. What do you say to those critics?”
Blagojevich: “Well, I’m sorry they feel that way, but I’m going to continue to speak the truth, and the truth is I was sent to prison for practicing politics.”
Kozlov: “Is that the right narrative, portrayal of yourself?”
Blagojevich: “Well, I want to be very clear, as I was with Anderson Cooper. He’s the one who brought up Nelson Mandela, not me.”
On CNN last Friday, Cooper took issue with Blagojevich’s calling himself a political prisoner by saying: “Nelson Mandela was a political prisoner. Political prisoners have no due process and are unjustly jailed. You had a jury convict you, you had appeals courts look at your sentencing, and you even appealed to the Supreme Court twice and they refused to hear you. You’re hardly a political prisoner.”
Blagojevich said, “I bet you if you were to ask Nelson Mandela if he thought the process was fair back in the early 60s in South Africa, he would say what I’m saying today.” But he went on to protest that he never compared himself to Mandela and said Cooper was putting words in his mouth.
Kozlov continued, asking Blagojevich about the infamous recording that was used as evidence that he tried to sell Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat when Obama was elected president.
Kozlov: “So what did you mean, and it’s on tape – ‘I’ve got this thing and it’s effing golden, and I’m not going to give it away for nothing?’”
Blagojevich: “I meant that we’re going to discuss political horse-trading – routine political log-rolling. And I’m glad you brought that up, because the appellate court did reverse those charges.”
Kozlov: “You’re saying one thing. The courts said another after the jury convicted you. People really have a hard time with you insisting you did nothing wrong – at all.”
Blagojevich: “I understand when an appellate court reverses part of it – the centerpiece of the case – then upholds another part of it, that somehow the appellate court got it right. Now unfortunately, and I’d like to wake up my fellow citizens in America, the courts don’t always get it right.”
Kozlov went on to ask Blagojevich about his claims that he was railroaded by corrupt prosecutors.
Kozlov: “Are you saying all prosecutors are bad?”
Blagojevich: “No, I’m saying there’s a small handful. I’m not saying that at all.”
Kozlov: “And there are some people – Rod, I say this politely as I can – who say, ‘I think he’s delusional.’”
Blagojevich: “Mmm-hm. Well, I mean, they said that about Lincoln when he held the line and was determined to keep the southern states in the Union and wouldn’t let them go, and a terrible war was fought for four years. Events ultimately proved Lincoln to be right. I’m not comparing myself to Lincoln.”
Kozlov: “Some of the criticism that erupted last week after you were released was you, as governor, sat on clemency petitions – let them simmer for years and years – and did not act upon them, and called you, in some cases, a hypocrite.”
Blagojevich: “Right, that goes along with the territory. I’m not the first one to admit the mistakes I’ve made, and I’ve acknowledged mistakes. That’s a big one. And that’s probably one of my biggest regrets.”
Kozlov: “You feel you’ve done nothing wrong. You never broke the law. Is that fair?”
Blagojevich:: The second part, absolutely, yes. I never broke the law. Absolutely. Did I make mistakes? Absolutely.”
One mistake to which Blagojevich does admit is that he knew he had a federal target on his back as far back as 2003. In retrospect, he said he would not have done any fundraising at all.