The Rev. Jesse Jackson and his son, former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., himself a convicted felon, have written a letter to President Donald Trump seeking the release and full pardon of imprisoned former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a Rainbow/PUSH Coalition spokesman has confirmed.
The Jacksons’ letter seeking mercy for Blagojevich was dated Friday, a day before former Illinois first lady Patti Blagojevich appeared with the Rev. Jackson and others at his Rainbow/PUSH Coalition headquarters to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the release of three U.S. Army soldiers captured by Yugoslavian forces. The Wall Street Journal was first to report the letter from the Jacksons to Trump.
“We stand with his family as they seek a full pardon for a father and husband that has served most of a sentence that was far longer than the offense deserved,” the Chicago-based father and son wrote in the letter to Trump.
The White House did not respond to the Tribune’s request for comment.
The elder Jackson, however, recently told the Tribune that he and Trump have a strained relationship. Blagojevich was an unsuccessful contestant on Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice” show following his arrest.
In the last year, the Republican president has raised the specter of a commutation for the disgraced former governor who’s halfway through a 14-year sentence in a public corruption case. Patti Blagojevich also has appeared on Fox News to make a case for her husband’s freedom.
Blagojevich was convicted on federal charges tied to trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama when he won the presidency in the 2008 election. The younger Jackson’s name was raised in the cash-for-appointment scheme, but he has denied any involvement or knowledge of the case.
In 2013, Jesse Jackson Jr. was convicted of violating federal campaign law by using campaign funds to make personal purchases, including a fedora that once belonged to Michael Jackson and cashmere capes. Both he and his then-wife Chicago Ald. Sandi Jackson served time in the case.
On Saturday, the Rev. Jackson marked the 20th anniversary of his trip with Blagojevich, a former congressman, and others to Belgrade to help free the U.S. Army prisoners of war. Linking the plight of the POWs to Blagojevich’s imprisonment, Jackson told the crowd gathered for the event: “We’re not going to rest until we set Blagojevich free either” and “We intend to set the captive free.”
Patti Blagojevich read a statement from her husband: "The brave men and women who serve in our military are the pride of our nation. Their service and sacrifice and their willingness to fight for and give their lives for our country should inspire all of us to never give in to those who abuse power, pervert our constitution and steal our freedoms. So from prison, I want to extend my best wishes and express my deepest appreciation to Rev. Jackson, and to all of you at Rainbow/PUSH for everything you do in the cause of freedom and in the fight for equal justice. Thank you for serving our country and thank you for keeping hope alive.”
Patti and Rod Blagojevich, both Democrats, for more than a year have made overtures to the president seeking some sort of mercy.
Rod Blagojevich and his team embarked on a publicity campaign attempting to label his prosecution on sweeping federal corruption charges unjust and politically motivated. Speaking aboard Air Force One in May 2018, Trump raised the possibility of slashing Blagojevich’s sentence for “being stupid and saying things that every other politician, you know, that many other politicians say.”
Patti Blagojevich, the daughter and sister of former Chicago aldermen Dick Mell and Deb Mell, respectively, also has tried to court the president in a smattering of appearances on Trump’s go-to cable station Fox News.
In one interview, she compared the probe into questionable spending on Trump’s 2017 inauguration to what she said were injustices in her husband’s conviction.
She also wrote an op-ed on her husband’s behalf, but so far their efforts have not resulted in Blagojevich’s freedom.