Donald Trump on Tuesday commuted the sentence of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, who was convicted of trying to sell the US Senate seat formerly held by Barack Obama.
Mr Trump told reporters on Tuesday afternoon that he had commuted Blagojevich’s 14-year prison sentence, saying: “He served eight years in jail, a long time.
“He seems like a very nice person, don’t know him,” the president added, although Blagojevich had appeared as a contestant on the Celebrity Apprentice television programme, which Mr Trump hosted.
Blagojevich, a Democrat, was impeached and removed from office for corruption in 2009. He was later convicted by a federal jury on 17 counts of bribery, wire fraud, attempted extortion and conspiracy, and sentenced to 14 years in prison.
Some of the charges against Blagojevich related to him looking for money in exchange for an appointment to replace Mr Obama in the US Senate. Mr Obama, who was the junior US senator from Illinois from 2005 to 2008, vacated his seat when he was elected president.
The Blagojevich case was part of a long-running drive by federal prosecutors to clean up Chicago’s notoriously corrupt politics.
Mr Trump had repeatedly raised the possibility that he would get involved in Blagojevich’s case. Last summer, he told reporters on Air Force One: “I’m thinking about commuting his sentence very strongly. I think it’s enough, seven years.”
Commuting Blagojevich’s 14-year prison sentence means the former governor will be released from jail, but his criminal record will not be expunged.
Earlier on Tuesday, Hogan Gidley, deputy White House press secretary, announced that Mr Trump had pardoned Edward DeBartolo, a real estate magnate who owned the San Francisco 49ers football team for more than two decades and pleaded guilty to corruption charges in 1998. Mr DeBartolo did not go to prison, but was given two years probation, paid a $1m fine and was suspended for a year by the National Football League.
Jim Brown, widely considered to be one of the greatest NFL players of all time, spoke to reporters at the White House on Tuesday, saying: “I take my hat off to Donald Trump for what he did.”