As he was defending his commutation of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s (D) prison sentence on Wednesday, President Donald Trump dragged one of his favorite punching bags onto the scene.
Arguing that the disgraced ex-governor “did not sell” Barack Obama’s vacant Senate seat (he was arrested before he could do so), Trump lamented Blagojevich’s eight years in prison.
“He paid a big price,” Trump tweeted. “Another Comey and gang deal!”
It was the second time Trump blamed former FBI Director James Comey for Blagojevich’s sentence, even though the former FBI director wasn’t working at the Department of Justice when Blagojevich was arrested in 2008 and tried in 2010. The lead prosecutor in the case was U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who joined Comey’s personal legal team in 2017, as TPM first reported at the time.
“It was a prosecution by the same people, Comey, Fitzpatrick. The same group,” Trump claimed on Tuesday, referring to Fitzgerald by the wrong name.
Except Fitzgerald had Blagojevich arrested for conspiracy and attempted extortion in 2008, three years after Comey had departed from the Justice Department to work for defense contractor Lockheed Martin. By the time Comey returned to the government as Obama’s director of the FBI in 2013, Blagojevich’s prison stint had already begun after he was sentenced to 14 years in 2011.
Trump commuted the ex-governor’s “ridiculous” sentence on Tuesday, echoing the complaints he’d made about Roger Stone’s criminal case.
Blagojevich, who appeared on Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice” reality TV show shortly before his trial in 2010, gratefully declared he was a “Trumpocrat” after his commutation.
Ed note: This post has been updated with additional information about the prosecutor in Blagojevich’s case, and his relationship to Comey.