I had a chance last weekend to interview with my radio partner former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich who, after his sentence commutation last February from President Trump, now labels himself a “Trumpicrat” instead of Democrat.
The far-ranging interview covers what he considers his railroading by the Obama Justice Department; the similarities between his case and the cases of General Flynn and Roger Stone; the Coronavirus pandemic and how he would have handled it; and the eight years he spent in a Colorado federal prison.
Blagojevich still insists he did not commit the crime of trying to sell former President Obama’s Senate seat after Obama was elected President of the United States.
Well you know I sat in prison for 8 years, and I want to say again as I have been saying over and over again for more than a decade, for things that aren’t crimes for political things that are routine and that happen every day in politics. There was never a sale of a senate seat in my case. That case was actually reversed by the appellate court. It was just routine log rolling. That’s what they call that. They criminalize non existent crimes. What their motivation is it is sometimes partisan politics, and sometimes it’s these prosecutors are out of control. They are unaccountable and they often go on to bigger and better things and become big partners in law firms.
Blagojevich insists the same modus operandi the government used to successfully convict him was used to get convictions against Roger Stone and guilty pleas against former national security advisor General Michael Flynn:
Well yeah there’s examples with Flynn and there’s also examples with Roger Stone and the examples with President trump and me are endless. I truly believe they used the playbook that they successfully used against me and applied it to President Trump. In other words, they were successful at taking out a Democratic governor at the triple AAA level, and then they thought, hey we can go after bigger game and go after the Republican president at the major league level. I’m watching General Flynn and I’m watching how they set him up and then went out and tried to get him to say something that they can then turn around and say is a lie. It’s a perjury trap, they did the same thing to me. You just assume they are the good guys. I made that mistake, General Flynn made that mistake and their motivations – at least some of them – is actually to get you, in the case of general Flynn, to flip him on President trump. In my case, they were just after me.
Liberals have insisted that if General Flynn was not guilty, then why did he plead guilty not once but twice?
With General Flynn what they did, and again I saw it in my experience, is they threatened his family, they threatened to bring charges against his son. And they were destroying him financially. This is what they do to you to because they have unlimited resources and the power of the federal government. You are an ordinary person and you don’t have that kind of money. I was the governor but I don’t have that kind of money. I am not Governor Pritzker in Illinois who inherited billions of dollars. My father was a steel worker
The former governor described in detail his early morning arrest and the trauma it caused his family, especially his young daughters at the time.
I was a sitting governor of the 5th biggest state in America, and one morning at 6 am in the darkness of a December morning, they came to my house with a swat team and a hostage negotiator. Like somehow I was going to fight back and and not submit to the arrest! They came and arrested me, and it’s a tactic that they used on Stone. They used it on me. They used it on President Trumps lawyer Cohen when they raided his his office. Which is another question because Cohen, being the sleazy guy that he is and the weak guy that he is, still he has rights as a lawyer and to have the attorney’s office raided by the FBI is a violation of attorney client privilege. They do this because it is a psychological form of warfare they use to bring shock and awe designed to terrorize you, it’s designed to terrorize your family. My young daughters at that time my little Annie was 5 years old and my daughter Amy was 12. They’re sleeping, and fortunately they didn’t see it happen, but they were going to get up in a half of hour to go to school. They come and do this to scare you and the purpose is to get you to say the things they want you to say and to basically plead guilty to things you know and they know aren’t crimes.
According to the former governor, there is one common denominator in all these cases of prosecutor misconduct.
And one of the common denominators that you might find in all of this – the General Flynn stuff, the stuff against President Trump, the stuff with Roger Stone and the stuff with me. The one common denominator, and there are several, but the one that really jumps out is the Obama Justice Department. These are a lot of the same people; Comey, Fitzgerald, Mueller. They were all active in my stuff just like with President Trump. Mueller was the head of the FBI. He signed off on the arrest of a sitting governor.
Blagojevich gives his views on his successor’s, billionaire heir J.B. Pritzker, handling of the Coronavirus pandemic.
So, I would critique our governor for being wrong on many counts and among them is he should be working cooperatively with President Trump and not pointing fingers. So when Pritzker and other governors get on their high horses, our governor Pritzker seems to be the one who does it the most. He gets on CNN and MSNBC and the shows on Sunday to bash President Trump and point fingers. The fact is the governors were asleep at the switch, they should have been more prepared. The President, all things considered, has done a great job in addressing this situation. When he shut down travel from China, he was roundly criticized for being a racist when the whole thing came from China. Imagine had he not done that how much worse things would have been?
The Madison County, Illinois council voted recently to buck Governor Pritzker’s shut down orders and decided to open their county back up for business. In retaliation, the Governor threatened Madison County and businesses with the withholding of stimulus money and other punitive measures. Blagojevich has strong reservations against this type of government overreach:
This is a very dangerous thing he is doing. I understand this is a public health crisis and you have to balance the safety of the public first and foremost above all things with the need to get our economy in good health. I recognize public health is more important in the sense of preventing a virus that is killing people – that takes priority. However, we have enough evidence now, we have been at this now for nearly 3 months, that there are some places not nearly affected as other places. It is common sense there are a lot more cases up here in Chicago then there are in southwestern Illinois. I am an expert on the deprivation of civil liberties I know through hard experience when the heavy hand of government reaches in and wants to screw you and take away your freedoms, how they can do it and unless we as citizens band together and stay vigilant. We have to recognize the slippery slope and it doesn’t start with that knock in the early morning like it happened for me. So when a local community like Madison County has a vote like that and you’ve got the governor actually threatening to bring the power of state government to punish that local community, you’re going down a very dangerous slippery slope. This is the beginning of the process of frankly Soviet Union style forms of government. Instead of the people at the local level organically deciding what’s best for their communities, now suddenly you’ve got these elites in high places – like the governor – dictating to them what they ought to do, and if they don’t do it his way, he’s going to punish them. This is very dangerous and it is among the reasons why if I ever get my voting rights back, I am going to vote against that guy.
And finally, he talked about President Trump and his conversion to a “Trumpicrat.” It seems to go beyond just having his sentence commuted:
I am sitting in prison watching either the Russian collusion delusion which was all fake. I watched that abuse of the impeachment process with the Ukranian phone call by President trump, which was by the way something the president of the United States has to do. He has to a duty to look into possible corruption which might or might not be the case with Biden and his son in Ukraine. So that was an appropriate phone call and they impeached him over that. President Trump has a larger bully pulpit and he also was able to hold on to his base. His supporters, God bless them, all across America are understandably very supportive of him because he has been fighting to keep the promises he made to them. Unlike most people in politics, this is a President that actually keeps his promises and extends political capitol to get things done like the wall and other issues.
Of all the political figures I have been fortunate to interview, this had to be one of the most enjoyable and fun interviews I’ve ever done. Eight years in federal prison did not take away Blagojevich’s charisma and sense of humor.
EXTRA: Blagojevich surprisingly answers my very personal question: