GOP leader in Illinois statehouse slams Trump for commuting Blagojevich's sentence

Illinois House Republican leader Jim Durkin tore into President TrumpDonald John TrumpPelosi eyes end of April to bring a fourth coronavirus relief bill to the floor NBA to contribute 1 million surgical masks to NY essential workers Private equity firm with ties to Kushner asks Trump administration to relax rules on loan program: report MORE on Tuesday for granting clemency to the state’s disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), saying Trump isn't "concerned about the state of Illinois for next November."

“We have a massive federal investigation into corruption in the state of Illinois and this action distracts and dilutes what I think is the proper role of the Department of Justice — to root out corruption,” Durkin said. “I don’t agree.”

Trump on Tuesday commuted Blagojevich’s sentence after the former governor had served roughly half of a 14-year sentence on federal corruption charges.

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Blagojevich was convicted on a wide array of corruption charges, including attempted extortion of a children's hospital for campaign contributions and trying to sell former President Obama’s Senate seat after the 44th president was elected to the White House in 2008. Blagojevich began serving his prison sentence in 2012.

While speaking to reporters in the state capitol in Springfield, Durkin described Blagojevich’s actions as “rogue on steroids.”

“He didn’t care about the state of Illinois, he cared about his own ambition,” Durkin said. “He abused the office, and the legislature did the appropriate thing, the federal courts did the right thing. Not only at the district court level but through the appellate court and also the U.S. Supreme Court, which said his sentence was appropriate.”

Durkin, the ranking GOP member of the Illinois House impeachment committee during Blagojevich’s 2009 removal from office, questioned why the ex-governor should be getting “special treatment” when there are people sitting in jail with lengthy sentences for drug offenses.

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“It’s just the celebrity of Rod Blagojevich, which he’s getting this type of relief,” Durkin said. “And I think it’s wrong and it sends a bad message to people in this country that, you know what, you don’t exactly have to pay your debt to society.”

The GOP leader added that Trump needs to explain his reasoning to the people of Illinois who “saw a governor destroy the integrity of this office but also did some terrible things to the finances of this state."

Trump spoke about commuting the sentence of the former “The Celebrity Apprentice" contestant before departing Washington on Tuesday. 

"He’ll be able to go back home with his family after serving eight years in jail," Trump told reporters. “That was a tremendously powerful, ridiculous sentence in my opinion, and in the opinion of many others."

Trump had been mulling the idea of commuting Blagojevich's sentence for some time, saying in August that the former governor had been treated "unbelievably unfairly." 

"You have drug dealers that get not even 30 days, and they’ve killed 25 people," Trump said at the time. "They put him in jail for 18 years, and he has many years left. And I think it’s very unfair."