Civil rights icon the Rev. Jesse Jackson and his oldest son, former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., are throwing their weight behind a push to implore Donald Trump for the release and full presidential pardon of Rod Blagojevich, the former Illinois governor imprisoned for trying to auction off Barack Obama’s old U.S. Senate seat to the highest bidder.
Following Obama’s historic winning of the presidential election in 2008, Blagojevich sought to profit by promising the U.S. Senate seat Obama was vacating to hopeful politicos. Blagojevich was convicted in 2011 of public corruption, and he was sentenced to 14 years in prison.
The Jacksons, in a letter to Trump dated Friday, say Blagojevich has more than paid for his crime and should be released from prison and issued a pardon, the Chicago Tribune reports.
“We stand with [Blagojevich’s] family as they seek a full pardon for a father and husband that has served most of a sentence that was far longer than the offense deserved,” the Jacksons wrote.
The letter was dated one day before Blagojevich’s wife, former Illinois first lady Patti Blagojevich, was due to appear at the Rev. Jackson’s Rainbow/PUSH Coalition headquarters for an event.
She has also appeared on Fox News seeking a pardon for her husband, according to the Tribune, and Trump himself has indicated over the past year that he may be open to commuting his sentence.
In May 2018, Trump told reporters he was considering commuting Blagojevich’s sentence, calling it “unfair” and saying recordings in which Blagojevich speaks of using the open seat to enrich himself were things “many other politicians say.”
Also notably, in 2010, following his arrest, but before his conviction and imprisonment, Blagojevich appeared as a contestant on Trump’s former reality TV show Celebrity Apprentice.
The Rainbow/PUSH Coalition event at which Patti Blagojevich appeared was held to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the release of three U.S. soldiers being held captive in the former Yugoslavia, a mission the Rev. Jackson worked on with Rod Blagojevich.
At the Saturday event, according to the Tribune, the civil rights leader told the crowd:
“We’re not going to rest until we set Blagojevich free either.”