Rod Blagojevich, who was found guilty on 17 corruption-related charges in 2011, was offered clemency by US President Donald Trump on February 18. The president also pardoned or commuted the sentences of eight others – prominent white-collar criminals from politics, sports and business, most of whom were imprisoned due to charges involving fraud and corruption.
When Blagojevich appeared on CNN for an interview four days later with journalist Anderson Cooper, he alleged that he had been a ‘political prisoner,’ adding that “If you were to ask Nelson Mandela whether he thought the process was fair back in the early ‘60s in South Africa, he would say what I’m saying today.” He also announced that he plans to work on reforming America’s justice system.
Cooper, who appeared visibly heated by Blagojevich’s responses, pointed out that “There’s a lot of people in Illinois who actually... spit up when you say that. Because when you were actually in power, and when you were actually governor, you could have helped thousands of people with clemency cases [but] you blew it off.”
Cooper, who also questioned Blagojevich’s narrative of being unfairly victimised by prosecutors instead of admitting to any wrongdoing, has received praise online for his searing interrogation.