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Local Editorials

GOP group spot on in Blagojevich letter

THE ISSUE: Congressional Republicans oppose Blagojevich clemency
OUR VIEW: Kinzinger, colleagues were right to send bold, public statement

On Monday, the seven Illinois Republicans who serve in the U.S. House of Representatives signed their name to a letter addressed to President Donald Trump, expressing concern over his recent comments indicating the possibility of using his executive authority to shorten the prison sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

“We ask that you give thoughtful attention to our fear that granting clemency for the former governor would set a detrimental precedent and send a damaging message on your efforts to root out public corruption in our government.”

The letter went on for three pages, detailing Blagojevich’s impeachment as well as his conviction on 18 federal criminal counts of “public corruption including lying to federal agents, wire fraud, extortion and bribery.” It praised the efforts of law enforcement professionals in both the Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigations, noting: “To now excuse him would be demoralizing to those committed agents and officials who work hard every day in Illinois to fight public corruption and defend the rule of law.”

Blagojevich is incarcerated in Colorado, having served nearly half of his 14-year prison sentence, which the Congressmen noted was not the maximum sentence for which he was eligible and further that Blagojevich has already had opportunities to have the sentence reduced through the federal appeals process, all of which resulted in an endorsement of the original decision.

It is noteworthy that the seven signers are Republicans, as is President Trump. That alone gives their position weight, as well as the fact Blagojevich himself served three terms representing the 5th Congressional District.

And although Blagojevich’s impeachment was nearly unanimous, while his own party controlled the Statehouse, one of the state’s leading Democrats is among the rare few who seem to support the president seeing where this road leads.

In speaking to reporters last week, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin — hardly a Trump ally, to be clear — said he thought Blagojevich’s sentence was “way too long” and “didn’t make sense … I thought the sentence was outrageous, and if there is a way to reduce that sentence for him and his family, I would support it.”

Durbin couldn’t be more wrong in this instance. At least Illinois’ junior Senator, Democrat Tammy Duckworth, hasn’t gone on record to align with Durbin’s stance. Because this is an instance where she absolutely should sign on to the Republican statement in opposition to any sentence reduction.

The delegation’s letter was in a tone befitting a formal document on Congressional letterhead. But we also want to praise the press release remarks of our own Congressman, U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon:

"He is the swamp of Springfield and needs to be held accountable for the crimes he committed. Not only were his actions illegal, but they undermined the voters of Illinois and slapped our democracy in the face. Public corruption runs rampant in Springfield, and we must get a handle on it. Granting clemency to someone who violated the trust of the American people in the way Blagojevich has would have damaging consequences for our political system, the public’s trust and the precedent this would set for the future.”

He is completely correct. The fact Blagojevich and those few who still support him still insist he never broke any laws and was merely made an example for practicing politics as usual show that six and a half years of prison haven’t done anything to prove to the ex-governor that he bears some personal culpability for his predicament. Perhaps if he serves the rest of his sentence he’ll come to terms with his crimes, but cutting him loose now is merely an invitation for him to further undercut the DOJ, the FBI, the rule of law and common decency.

We salute Kinzinger and his colleagues for making their bold, public statement. We encourage Statehouse Republicans and Democrats, as well as Duckworth, to do the same. And we hope President Trump will listen to the well-reasoned arguments of these elected officials who know well the damage that can be done when politicians willfully, blatantly and unrepentantly violate public trust.

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