Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Friday said he thought ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s 14-year sentence on corruption charges was “a little too harsh” and appeared open to reducing the disgraced governor’s sentence.
“That was a case that was brought up while I was attorney general,” Holder said during the “Politics and Eggs” forum at Saint Anselm College. “I thought that sentence was a little harsh. And if that sentence were reduced, that would be consistent with what we did in the Obama administration, as we looked at a vast number of people who, in the war on drugs, were arrested and convicted — and who should have gone to jail and who should have served time, but didn’t deserve to be in jail for 20 years, 30 years, or life.”
You can listen to his comments around the 34:48 mark in the video below.
Holder’s comments come after President Donald Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One yesterday that he is considering commuting Blagojevich’s sentence as well as pardoning Martha Stewart.
Trump said Blagojevich is in prison for “being stupid” and his sentence does not fit the crime.
“If you read his statement, it was a foolish statement,” Trump said. “There was a lot of bravado but … plenty of other politicians have said a lot worse. And it doesn’t, he shouldn’t have been put in jail. And he’s a Democrat. He’s not my party. But I thought that he was treated unfairly.”
Days earlier, Blagojevich wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal arguing that he is in prison for “practicing politics.” A fact-check by the Better Government Association concluded that Blagojevich’s claims were false.
Rod Blagojevich’s brother, Robert Blagojevich, told WBEZ on Thursday that he would like to see his brother released.
“Rod served plenty of time for a guy, who I believe, was only guilty of stupid talk,” Robert Blagojevich said. “If you’re wiretapped for 50 days and surveilled for 50 days, and the FBI and the DOJ have an agenda against you, they’re going to find something against you.”
The Democratic former governor was convicted on numerous counts of corruption, including for trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat that was vacated by Barack Obama and for shaking down a children’s hospital. As governor, he had the right to name someone to fill the Senate vacancy, but he was caught on FBI wiretaps discussing ways to make money off of it.
He began serving a 14-year prison sentence in 2012 and is scheduled for release in 2024.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Hunter Clauss is a digital editor at WBEZ. You can follow him @whuntah.