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Blagojevich heaps praise on Trump after release from prison

Blagojevich heaps praise on Trump after release from prison
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Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) on Wednesday lauded President TrumpDonald TrumpWhat blue wave? A close look at Texas today tells of a different story Democrats go down to the wire with Manchin Trump's former bodyguard investigated in NY prosectors' probe: report MORE and cast himself as the victim of an unfair criminal justice system in his first extended remarks since the president commuted his sentence and he was released from prison.

Blagojevich, who had served nearly eight years of a 14-year sentence, spoke for about 20 minutes outside his home on the North side of Chicago. Surrounded by his wife, daughters and family friends, the disgraced governor quickly singled out Trump for praise.

"[Trump] didn't have to do this. He’s a Republican president. I was a Democratic governor. Doing this does nothing to help his politics," Blagojevich said. "President Trump is a man who is tough and outspoken, but he also has a kind heart. This is an act of kindness, and I also believe it’s the beginning of a process to actually turn an injustice into a justice."

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Blagojevich said he cut himself while shaving and repeatedly dabbed a spot of blood on his chin with a napkin as he spoke.

He reiterated that he considers himself a "Trumpocrat" after the president intervened in his case. The governor made clear Trump has his support, even if he's not legally able to vote for the incumbent in November.

"If I have the ability to vote I’m going to vote for him," he said.

Blagojevich was removed from office in 2009 and was later convicted of 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 he was elected to the White House in 2008. The former governor began serving a 14-year prison sentence in 2012.

He was infamously caught on tape speaking about the pay-for-play scheme involving Obama's seat.

"I've got this thing, and it's f-----g golden. I'm just not giving it up for f-----g nothing," Blagojevich said in a secretly recorded phone call.

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Trump on Wednesday weighed in on Twitter as Blagojevich spoke.

"Rod Blagojevich did not sell the Senate seat. He served 8 years in prison, with many remaining. He paid a big price. Another Comey and gang deal!" he tweeted.

The president has repeatedly seized on that detail that U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who prosecuted Blagojevich's case, has a relationship with former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyMystery surrounds Justice's pledge on journalist records NYT publisher: DOJ phone records seizure a 'dangerous incursion' on press freedom Trump DOJ seized phone records of New York Times reporters MORE. Fitzgerald in 2018 took a role on Comey's legal team.

For his part, Blagojevich has been defiant, maintaining he was the victim of an overzealous prosecution.

"From beginning to end, this was persecution masquerading as prosecution," the governor said Wednesday.

He bemoaned that the criminal justice system is "rigged" against "everyday people." Blagojevich, who appeared as a contestant on "The Celebrity Apprentice," pointed to Trump's efforts to address inequalities in the criminal justice system.

"So far up until now in the history of our country, no one has done more or is currently working to do more to fix this racist and broken criminal justice system than President Trump and Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerTrump discussed sending infected Americans to Guantanamo Bay: book NYC voters set to decide Vance's replacement amid Trump probe Kushner lands book deal, slated for release in 2022 MORE," he said. One onlooker booed at the mention of Trump and Kushner.

Blagojevich did not take questions from reporters gathered outside his home.

The president had been mulling commuting the ex-governor's sentence for more than a year, but he opted against it twice previously after Illinois Republicans warned it would send a negative message about corruption.

Patti Blagojevich appeared semi-regularly on Fox News as she lobbied her husband's case, and Trump signed off on the commutation on Tuesday as part of a wave of clemency orders.