“President Trump has every reason to be testy with that judge,” Blagojevich said on Tuesday. “Here’s another example of how brave he is, willing to stand up and do what he’s doing in front of the judge, who’s going to actually make a ruling and decision on his case.”
He also lauded Trump for “the kind of chutzpah he shows … right there in the lion’s den.”
In Trump, Blagojevich recognizes a kindred spirit. He told POLITICO that Trump is a victim of overzealous prosecutors, just as Blagojevich believes he was in his own case. The former Illinois governor was convicted of 17 charges, including wire fraud and conspiracy to solicit bribes, and impeached by an overwhelming vote of the Illinois Legislature.
“It’s a classic case of weaponized prosecutors, whether they’re federal or even elected, and hyperpartisan persecutions against political figures. And it started with what they did to me … to a Democratic governor,” Blagojevich said. “They’ve taken it to the next level now. And the Democrats are now doing it to the former Republican president and leading Republican candidate for president.”
Blagojevich insists these prosecutions are threatening the sanctity of American institutions.
“This is the new politics. And this will destroy our country. This is turning our country into a third-world banana republic. It’s turning us into Russia and the Soviet Union,” Blagojevich said. “Our new politics is police state politics. That’s what this is.”
Blagojevich has always maintained his innocence and tried to testify on his own behalf in the 2011 retrial. He insists he was sandbagged by a judge who blocked his efforts to testify that the deals he was making were “legal, routine and necessary, and how politics works” and that there were FBI tapes that would have exonerated him. The district court judge precluded Blagojevich from testifying to that on legal grounds.
Despite that experience, he still believes that politicians should take the stand when on trial out of an obligation to the public.
“When you’re innocent, and you didn’t do it, and you were elected to a high office like governor, or president, I think those of us in those positions have a duty to get up there and say you didn’t do it,” Blagojevich said. “And if you’re innocent, you should get up there and say it.”
When asked this weekend if he had any advice for Trump ahead of his testimony, Blagojevich said: “He doesn’t need my advice, because he’s doing it.”
“Embrace the truth. Be strong. Get up there and fight for the truth, even though you’re going into an arena that’s stacked against you,” Blagojevich said, adding that he believes history will look favorably upon Trump’s “heroic” defiance of the charges.
Given that Trump commuted his sentence, it’d be easy to reject Blagojevich’s defense of Trump as the ex-governor simply returning the favor, but Blagojevich is consistent.
He’s skeptical about the investigations into Hunter Biden, President Joe Biden’s son, arguing that, even though “it sure does look like there’s some things that aren’t right there,” it’s a similar case of prosecutors feeding into “this intense desire to destroy people politically through the criminal process.”
And politicized investigations aside, there is one elected official who Blagojevich says deserves the scrutiny from federal investigators.
“Unless you have something that’s so obviously corrupt, you know, probable cause along the lines of, let’s say, $480,000 in cash and $150,000 in gold bars in your home as a United States senator,” Blagojevich said, referring to the federal indictment of Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) for allegedly taking bribes in exchange for helping the Egyptian government.
“Unless you got something like that, focus on the policy part of governing,” he advised.
Blagojevich says the problem he describes is solvable: Congress could exert its oversight powers to rein in abuses from prosecutors. But he says it would take “the Jerry Nadlers of the world joining hands with Jim Jordan and putting aside their partisan differences for the larger good of our country and our democracy.”
He’s not too optimistic that will happen.
“That’s the solution, I think, in the immediate term,” he said. “But do I think it’s going to happen? I do not. It most certainly will not.”