Former Illinois Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich said that new revelations in the Russia investigation prove that the FBI has criminalized routine political behavior in order to take out specific targets.
Blagojevich was convicted in 2011 on corruption charges and served eight years of his 14-year sentence before President Donald Trump commuted his sentence in February. He spoke at length Friday with the Daily Caller and drew a number of comparisons between his own case and that of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
“I saw this all unfold while I was sitting in prison and it was deja vu all over again,” Blagojevich explained. “I saw them using the playbook they had used against me, for practicing politics, for things that aren’t crimes.”
The former governor went on to argue that the narrative the media had run with — that he had attempted to “sell” the U.S. Senate seat that was left vacant when Barack Obama was elected President in 2008 — was entirely crafted by the FBI.
“They use these clever names, the ‘sale of a Senate seat,’ ‘Russian collusion,’ and they feed that to the media — these super-sensational accusations — because they know everyone will trip over each other trying to get the story,” he said. “They create a narrative that is too tempting, too explosive for the media to do anything but run with it.”
Blagojevich explained that, after two years and several delays, the appellate court actually reversed the decision on conspiracy to profit from the appointment to replace Obama. “They called it ‘routine political log-rolling,’ and if they upheld that, politics all over the country would come to a stop because it’s the same kind of horse-trading that goes on everywhere, all the time.”
Blagojevich drew another comparison between his own early morning arrest, complete with SWAT teams, and the pre-dawn raid executed last year to bring in Trump associate Roger Stone.
“I’ve been through all of it, the early morning SWAT raid like Roger Stone, the shock and awe,” he said.
But the real manipulation, Blagojevich said, began when the FBI started asking questions. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: ‘They Did It To Me First’ — Rod Blagojevich Knew Exactly What The FBI Did To Flynn)
“They’re shakedown artists. They threatened Flynn’s son, they threatened my wife and threatened my brother,” he said. “Then they create the media furor against you, all designed to intimidate and make you say the things they want you to say.”
“My own chief of staff went to prison for his part in ‘conspiring to sell the senate seat,'” Blagojevich added, saying that he was threatened with a lengthy prison term and he did what most people would do: he played ball. “His reward, for conspiring in a nonexistent crime, was ten days in prison. They threaten you with long prison terms if you don’t cooperate and reward you with short ones if you do.”
The same thing, but on a much larger scale, was what he believed happened to President Trump when House Democrats first began the Russia investigation and then the impeachment inquiry.
“What they succeeded in doing at the Triple-A level to a Democratic Governor, they tried to do at the Major League level to a Republican President,” Blagojevich explained, saying that he truly believed they thought they would get away with doing it to Trump because they had already gotten away with it in his case. (RELATED: Newly Released Rod Blagojevich Thanks Trump, Lists New Party Affiliation: ‘I’m A Trumpocrat’)
Noting that some of the same players were even involved — former Special Counsel Robert Mueller had been the FBI Director when he was arrested — Blagojevich said the playbook was identical to the one they had used against him.
They used the people around Trump, such as Flynn, former Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, and they found weaknesses or even crimes that had nothing to do with Trump or Russian collusion.
“They go to people like that and find that they have weaknesses that have no relation to the target and use that to squeeze those guys. Most of them will cave,” Blagojevich added.
Once Blagojevich went to trial, the prosecution introduced tapes of phone calls that they said contained evidence of the conspiracy to sell Obama’s Senate seat — but they only used about 1% of the taped conversation and had the remainder sealed.
“It was like the Ukrainian phone call with President Trump, it was just routine politics, discussing ideas,” explained. “They take cherry-picked things they thought they could use and the blocked the release of the rest. They used 1% of my calls and sealed the rest, I couldn’t play the rest in court in my own defense.”
Blagojevich said he’s still fighting to have the rest of the conversations unsealed. “In my long and unhappy experience, I saw how they use trickery and deceit as legal tools. They lie and they cheat; they manipulate and minimize evidence; they hide and cover up exculpatory evidence – evidence that proves innocence. And to this day, in my case, they are still covering up tape recordings they made because those tapes show innocence,” he said.
The end result in both cases, the former governor argued, was an attempt by the FBI to undo the results of an election. In his case, it was successful. “Trump was lucky,” Blagojevich noted, saying that even in the face of the accusations against him, he had retained the support of his base.
“This cannot be a Democratic or Republican issue. It is far too important. What these corrupt prosecutors and FBI agents are doing threatens the fundamental rights of the American people to choose their own leaders through free elections,” he concluded. “Watch out! If these people keep getting away with what they’ve been doing, and their unlimited and unrestrained power continues unchecked, they, without firing a shot or casting a single vote will succeed in choking the life out of our democracy. Abraham Lincoln would roll over in his grave.”