SPRINGFIELD — Mayor Lori Lightfoot Tuesday blasted President Donald Trump’s decision to commute the 14-year prison sentence of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was convicted of trying to sell President Barack Obama’s former Senate seat as well as extorting the CEO of a Chicago’s children’s hospital and owners of racetrack.
Lightfoot said she was particularly troubled that Trump’s action came as he weighed in on the convictions of several of his former aides.
“It sends entirely the wrong message,” said Lightfoot, a former federal prosecutor. “It is unfortunate.”
Lightfoot was in Springfield lobbying lawmakers when the news of the president’s action broke, which she called “ironic.”
Blagojevich, a Democrat, was impeached and removed from office after he was arrested in December 2008. FBI wiretaps caught the governor talking about the seat on the phone in a now-notorious conversation about cashing in on the vacancy.
“I’ve got this thing, and it’s f**king golden. I’m just not giving it up for f**king nothing,” he said.
Trump’s action comes as several federal corruption investigations are swirling around Chicago City Hall and the Capitol. During the 2019 mayoral campaign, Lightfoot vowed to root out corruption.
“Blagojevich is a real touchstone for a lot of people of what is wrong in Illinois politics,” Lightfoot said, noting that the crimes for which Blagojevich was convicted were “very, very serious” and involved attempts to “monetize his public office.”
Before her visit to the Capitol was overshadowed by the news that Blagojevich would be released after serving nearly eight years in prison, Lightfoot met with lawmakers to try again to change the Chicago’s Real Estate Transfer Tax from a flat tax to a graduated levy in an effort to reduce the city’s deficit, which is expected to approach $1 billion for the second year in a row.
That push fell short during the fall veto session after progressive Democratic lawmakers demanded Lightfoot earmark some of the new revenue to reduce homelessness in Chicago, as she had proposed in her campaign platform. With no support from Republicans, Lightfoot acknowledged the push fell five votes short during last year’s veto session.
“We’re going to do everything we can,” Lightfoot said, adding that the push has made progress getting lawmakers on board since the fall.
However, Lightfoot said she was most focused on asking state lawmakers to change the tax and fee structure of a Chicago casino to make it more attractive to investors and operators. Lightfoot has also asked lawmakers to allow the city to own the casino.