Ex-Democrat Illinois governor turned “Trumpocrat” Rod Blagojevich said he believes current Gov. J.B. Pritzker tried to keep him in jail because the Democrat establishment is “afraid of what he knows” and “what [he] will say soon.”
In a video obtained exclusively by Breitbart News, Blagojevich, who was Illinois governor from 2003 to 2009, can be heard talking about his relationship with the current governor, some of the events leading up to his time in federal prison, and his standing with the party he left behind.
Blagojevich, who Chicago Magazine characterized as “real-life cartoon character, popular culture’s best example of a bombastic, narcissistic, devious politician since the fictional Senator Claghorn,” served 7.5 years of a 14-year sentence in a Colorado federal prison after being impeached and accused of trying to sell former President Barack Obama’s vacated Senate seat while he was governor, among other charges.
“He charmed everyone but the General Assembly that impeached him and the jury that convicted him at his federal trial,” Chicago Magazine reported.
The main charges surrounding the accusation were eventually vacated by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, though his sentence remained notably lengthy, and his request for Supreme Court review of his case was rejected twice. Former President Trump was his final hope, and in a highly controversial move, Trump commuted his sentence. Blagojevich went home on February 18, 2020 to his wife and children, and his supervised release officially ended in June 2021.
Blagojevich, whose story has regained public interest partly because of the release of Hulu’s new four-part miniseries Being Blago, was the speaker at the Arts and Ideas Exchange Speakers Series on Wednesday night at the Railway Exchange Building in Chicago, Illinois, the city where he grew up. In front of a room full of seated, attentive dinner guests in a hall laden with Christmas trees, red ribbons, and wreaths, the ex-governor blasted Pritzker for reportedly calling Trump “not once, but twice” requesting to keep him behind bars.
“J.B. called Trump not once, but twice, joining with most Republicans to say, ‘Keep him in, don’t let him out. Keep him in, don’t let him out,'” he told the attendees, his voice echoing and his hands moving excitedly as he recounted the story.
“….Why did he do it? ” he continued, before foreshadowing his willingness to expose the underbelly of his former party:
I truly believe its because J.B. Pritzker, Governor Pritzker and some of the Democratic political establishment is very fearful. They’re very fearful of what I know, and what I can say, and what I’m likely to say, and what I will say soon. That’s why I think that he did that.
Blagojevich also quipped that if anyone would try to sell a Senate seat, it would be Pritzker, who allegedly called the former governor asking to be considered for the seat at the time.
“Ok, by the way, if you want to sell the Senate seat, you’ve got your guy,” he said, drawing chortles from various guests in the crowd.
“…We had a nice relationship, and then calamity and [I] never heard from him again,” he said.
Democrat strategist Justin Horwitz said during an appearance on Breitbart News Saturday in 2020 that the Democrats’ turn on Blagojevich will “backfire.” Horwitz, who is from Illinois, said that many people outside of the state do not realize that Blagojevich was “an incredibly popular governor” and that the Democrats’ opposition to his commutation would come back to bite them in the future.
“What people don’t realize is that in Illinois this is going to backfire on Democrats because Rod Blagojevich is not only an incredibly talented and charismatic speaker, and now he’s going to be campaigning with the Republicans, but what he got done in Illinois,” he explained.
“Seniors and the disabled were riding the bus for free — over 275,000 people. He established the All Kids program, which gave over 400,000 kids health care, making Illinois the first state in the nation to provide affordable and comprehensive health care to all children. We have led the nation in providing preschool access for all three- and four-year-olds with his Preschool for All program. This was a very popular governor who got caught saying things that, frankly, other politicians do all the time, and it was unfortunate to see all the Democrats who were calling for the commutation of his sentence to immediately backtrack after President Trump did it,” he continued.
Blagojevich emerged from prison a self-avowed “Trumpocrat” after Trump commuted his sentence, and he thanked the president for being kind to him — even when members of his former party were not.
“He’s got obviously a big fan in me, if you’re asking me what my party affiliation is, I’m a Trumpocrat,” Blagojevich said to reporters in the Denver airport after he was released.
Both the former governor and former president seem to view themselves as sinking in the same swamp that manipulates the political system to eliminate inconvenient players from the game. Trump reportedly said in 2018:
I thought he was treated unbelievably unfairly. He was given close to 18 years in prison. And a lot of people thought it was unfair, like a lot of other things — and it was the same gang, the Comey gang and all these sleazebags that did it. And his name is Rod Blagojevich.
After pardoning him in 2020, Trump reiterated the sentiment, saying Blagojevich was prosecuted by “the same people, Comey, Fitzpatrick, the same group” that prosecuted him, and acknowledged that even though the governor was a Democrat, he deserved release from prison.
Blagojevich, who to this day insists he did nothing wrong, likened himself to the former president during an interview with Breitbart News soon after his release.
“The fact that President Trump is getting so much pushback and the opposition is so determined to destroy him—and that raises a whole bunch of other issues, and I’m also an expert witness on this and how when you go down and try to shake things up and change things the political establishment comes after you and destroys you personally…”
Katherine Hamilton is a political reporter for Breitbart News. You can follow her on Twitter.