There’s little need to rehash the saga of Rod Blagojevich, Illinois’ 40th governor and the only one ever impeached. For the last six years he has been locked up in a federal prison in Littleton, Colorado, serving a 14-year sentence for convictions on an array of corruption charges, including a spectacularly brazen attempt to sell his power as governor to fill the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by the ascension of Barack Obama to the presidency.
Blagojevich has exhausted all appeals through the courts to get his conviction overturned or the sentence reduced. Lately, his family and some diehard supporters have made noises about seeking a pardon from President Donald Trump, who once featured Blagojevich on his Celebrity Apprentice TV show and who, judging by his tweets, has his own beef with aggressive prosecutors.
Against that backdrop, federal prisoner number 40892-424 this week penned a column in the conservative opinion pages of The Wall Street Journal, owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch who is tight with Trump. Murdoch also owns the conservative Fox News Channel, which the president is known to binge watch.
Blagojevich framed his column as a cautionary tale to other politicians, warning that he had been hounded unfairly by an out-of-control Justice Department “abusing their power to criminalize the routine practices of politics and government.”
“I’m in Prison for Practicing Politics,” the headline on his opinion article declared.
All of which raises some provocative questions. Is Blagojevich really the victim here, as he clearly suggests? And was he sent to prison for merely doing the same things other politicians and government officials routinely do?
First, a note of explanation. The authors of this fact-check have more than a passing knowledge of Blagojevich. One covered every moment of both his federal corruption trials as a reporter for The Chicago Tribune, the other also as a Tribune reporter covered the federal investigation that led to Blagojevich’s indictment and later co-authored a book chronicling his political rise and fall.
The portrait that emerged from that up-close observation was of a leader sublimely self-righteous, comically vain, untrustworthy, uninterested in the process of governing, unsophisticated in the arts of policy and deal making and not particularly discriminating in…