Give Rod Blagojevich – and his wife, Patti Blagojevich – credit: They know what makes President Donald Trump tick.
For weeks before Trump stunned the political world by floating the possibility of pardoning the currently incarcerated Rod Blagojevich, the ex-governor and his family had been on a PR campaign aimed directly at the President of the United States.
It all began – or ended? – for Blagojevich in mid-April, when the Supreme Court rejected a chance to hear his appeal, virtually ensuring he would be in prison through 2024. (Blagojevich has been in prison since 2011.)
Less than a month later, Blagojevich wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal protesting his conviction. “The rule of law is under assault in America. It is being perverted and abused by the people sworn to enforce and uphold it. Some in the Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation are abusing their power to criminalize the routine practices of politics and government,” he wrote.
Sound like the sort of message that might appeal to anyone you know?
The Blagojeviches weren’t done. Far from it.
Shortly after Trump suggested he might pardon Blagojevich, the former governor’s wife, Patti, who is also the daughter of longtime Chicago city councilman Richard Mell, took to Fox News to make the case.
“I see that these same people that did this to my family, [who] secretly taped us, twisted the facts, perverted the law [which put] my husband in jail – these people are trying to do it on a larger scale,” she said, suggesting that they’re also doing it to the President.
Then, just this past Saturday night on Jeanine Pirro’s Fox News show, Patti Blagojevich kept up the drumbeat.
“[Prosecutors] create crimes where there are no crimes,” she said. “They make up crimes. They make a big splash in the press just to bring down people who are controversial or who they don’t like.”
And just in case you missed who she was trying to appeal to, she added this: “It takes a strong leader like President Trump to right these wrongs.”
Before we go any further, let’s revisit why Rod Blagojevich is in jail. He was convicted on 17 – yes 17! – counts of public corruption, most notably his attempts to sell the former Senate seat of Barack Obama to the highest bidder. (Blagojevich was the governor at the time and, as such, was charged with making the appointment to fill the vacancy created by Obama’s election to the presidency.) He was impeached by the state Legislature – with a unanimous vote in the Senate! – and removed from office.
“Trump is using pardons to further his narrative that people like him and his friends are supposedly mistreated by the justice system,” tweeted former federal prosecutor Renato Marrioti. “But people like Rod Blagojevich have not been treated unfairly. I watched both of his criminal trials and he was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Despite all of that, Trump appears to have a soft spot for Blagojevich. “Eighteen years in jail for being stupid and saying things that every other politician, you know, that many other politicians say,” Trump said of the former governor, who appeared as a contestant on “The Celebrity Apprentice” in 2010.
What Patti Blagojevich is trying to do here is titanically transparent: She is appealing to Trump’s vanity and his innate belief that a “deep state” is operating within the government and attacking innocent people like him (and Rod Blagojevich).
But simply because what she’s doing is hugely transparent doesn’t mean it won’t work. We know that Trump likes people who like him. He responds well to flattery. He likes people owing him things. He loves stories that fit the overall narrative through which he understands his life.
The Blagojeviches are going out of their way to check each and every one of those boxes. And it just might work.