President Donald Trump came under fire on Tuesday for commuting the sentence of Rod Blagojevich, the ex-Illinois governor convicted of trying to peddle Barack Obama’s vacated U.S. Senate seat, Reuters reported.
Trump also pardoned Michael Milken, once considered Wall Street’s “junk bond king,” along with six others, and commuted the sentences of another three people. The recipients of clemency had been convicted on charges ranging from defrauding the federal government to theft.
Blagojevich, a Democrat who appeared on Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice” reality television show while awaiting trial, began serving a 14-year sentence in 2012 after being convicted of wire fraud, extortion and soliciting bribes while governor.
“That was a tremendously powerful, ridiculous sentence,” said Trump, a real estate developer who produced and starred in the NBC show before clinching the Republican presidential nomination and winning election to succeed Obama in the White House in 2016.
Within hours, the Chicago Tribune quoted a U.S. Bureau of Prisons statement saying Blagojevich “is no longer in custody” at a federal detention center in Colorado.
Chicago television station WGN-TV aired footage of the former governor, his once jet-black hair now white, at Denver International Airport as he was making his way home.
“I’m profoundly grateful to President Trump. It’s a profound and everlasting gratitude,” Blagojevich told reporters. “He didn’t have to do this, he’s a Republican president.”
Blagojevich, 63, was removed from office in 2009 after prosecutors said he tried to sell or trade the U.S. Senate seat Obama vacated after winning the 2008 presidential election.