Newsletter: Blago calls himself a ‘Trumpocrat’

Rod Blagojevich
Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich speaks outside his Ravenswood Manor home on Feb. 19, 2020. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ
Rod Blagojevich
Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich speaks outside his Ravenswood Manor home on Feb. 19, 2020. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

Newsletter: Blago calls himself a ‘Trumpocrat’

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Good afternoon! It’s that time of year where the weather is a struggle: too warm to wear my thermal coat, but too cold for my leather jacket. Here’s what you need to know today.

1. Rod Blagojevich calls himself a ‘Trumpocrat’, says he’d vote for Trump

In his first public remarks, the former Illinois governor expressed his “profound, everlasting gratitude” to President Donald Trump for cutting short his 14-year sentence. In a 20-minute speech outside his Northwest Side home, he also quoted a poem (“The Gate of the Year” by Minnie Louise Haskins), proclaimed his innocence and vowed he’ll try to “turn evil into good.”

Blagojevich served almost 8 years in a federal prison in Colorado before his sentence was commuted yesterday. Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers in Illinois have blasted Trump’s decision. [WBEZ]

If you can’t remember how we got here, this timeline provides a handy look back at Blagojevich’s political career, legal saga and tumultuous end game. [WBEZ]

Or, if you prefer to listen, WBEZ’s Public Official A, which details Blagojevich’s rise and fall, just released a new episode. [WBEZ]

2. Gov. JB Pritzker’s $42-billion proposed budget raises taxes on the wealthiest 3%

The plan would replace the flat income tax mandated by the state’s constitution and thereby raise an additional $3.6 billion annually by increasing taxes on the wealthiest 3%. The bottom line: Households earning more than $250,000 will be taxed at a higher rate. The budget also relies on $46 million from cannabis revenues.

Because Pritzker’s graduated income tax plan needs a constitutional amendment, voters will decide in November whether it passes into law. State legislators will be negotiating the fine print with the governor until May 31. [Chicago Tribune]

3. What you need to know before the Democratic debates tonight

Three days before the Nevada caucuses, only six of the eight remaining candidates qualified for the Democratic debate — including former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is taking the stage for the first time since he entered the race in November 2019. Although not on the Nevada ballot, Bloomberg is surging, polling second among Democratic-leaning voters nationally at 19%. [NPR] will have a live blog covering the debate starting at 8 p.m. CST.

Here’s a look at the ever-shifting strategic dynamics between the Democratic candidates. [The New York Times]

And this fascinating video examines how the modern televised debate has evolved since its famous first incarnation in 1960, between John F. Kennedy (“healthy”) and Richard Nixon (“sweaty and sick”). [The Wall Street Journal]

4. Attorney General William Barr’s mounting frustration leads to speculation that he might resign

According to sources close to Barr, the nation’s chief law enforcement officer may have approached a breaking point when President Donald Trump called himself the “chief law enforcement officer in the country” while announcing the rollback of sentences of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and 10 others.

This latest wrinkle comes after Barr said in an interview with ABC News that the president’s tweets and remarks about Justice Department cases made it “impossible” for him to do his job. Trump has continued to tweet today about the department needing to “clean shop.” A spokeswoman tweeted that Barr has no plans to resign. [The New York Times]

Meanwhile, Barr questioned today whether Facebook, Google and Apple should continue to be shielded from legal responsibility for content posted by users. [Reuters]

5.Online liquor, bottled water sales will soon be taxed too

Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced an ordinance today that would apply the city’s sales taxes on bottled water and liquor bought online.

The city’s 5-cent bottle tax and sliding scale liquor tax does not currently apply to online items purchased from companies located outside the city and shipped to Chicagoans’ homes. This ordinance would “level the playing field” and curb landfill waste, said City Comptroller Reshma Soni.

Although the “nickle-a-bottle” tax was passed by the City Council in 2008 to curb plastic pollution, bottled water use and landfill costs have skyrocketed. [Chicago Sun Times]

Here’s what else is happening

  • The central figure from the first season of WBEZ’s Motive podcast was charged with another felony. [WBEZ]

  • After shootings injured three children over the weekend, the Chicago Police Department offers gun safety tips. [WBEZ]

  • How McHenry County is successfully battling the opioid epidemic. [Chicago Tribune]

  • The Pitchfork lineup has dropped. [Block Club Chicago]

Oh, and one more thing …

Spicy food is perfect for all occasions, writes the Chicago Tribune, whether trying to fight the cold or fight a cold.

Growing up, our family meals stayed pretty mild, but as an adult I’ve grown to appreciate chilis, spicy mustards and wasabi — although I could never really get behind horseradish.

The Trib’s dining section has put together a guide to the best spicy food in the city, from a diner in Skokie that serves a chorizo-jalapeño scramble, to whole grilled fish in Chinatown that will make your lips feel “like you applied a lip plumper serum, prickling and throbbing, but in a good way.”

There’s even one place that offers to shower your dosa (a crepe-like, South Asian dish) in gunpowder spice, whatever that is. [Chicago Tribune]

Tell me something good …

What’s a weird, hilarious or unusual memory from your childhood that you look back on and think, man, things have really changed?

Marisa writes:

“When I was in high school, my friend cut out an article from the paper. It was about using the dials on a touch tone phone to play music such as Jingle Bells or Row, Row, Row Your Boat. We used to play each other ‘phone tunes’ and laugh and laugh. So funny how we thought that was so much fun.”

Feel free to tweet or email me, and your responses might show up here this week.

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