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As clemency from Trump remains a possibility, disgraced former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich goes for a jog

Gregory Pratt and Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune on

Published in News & Features

LITTLETON, Colo. -- As President Donald Trump left open the possibility he might release Rod Blagojevich from his federal prison sentence, the disgraced former Illinois governor this weekend set off for a solitary run underneath the setting sun.

Wearing black New Balance sneakers and rocking his now-silver mane, Blagojevich bounded down the porch steps at the boomerang-shaped camp building where he's held and ran past a group of fellow inmates.

With his head down, Blagojevich jogged 20 laps Saturday on a dirt path that snakes around a baseball diamond with a mural of Ernie Banks and Nolan Ryan. Red, white and blue bunting adorned the backstop.

At one point on his hourlong run at the prison camp outside Denver, Blagojevich passed a large goateed inmate and gave him a friendly wave.

On Sunday, the former governor again left the camp to exercise. Wearing headphones and no shirt, Blagojevich spent part of the evening doing pushups and pacing along the track, talking to other inmates who greeted him as "Rod!"

Trump's Wednesday night announcement that he is "very strongly" considering whether to commute Blagojevich's 14-year sentence for public corruption -- which included attempting to trade Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat for personal gain as well as trying to shake down executives from a children's hospital and the horse-racing industry for campaign contributions -- has transfixed Chicagoans, who wonder whether the imprisoned former governor will soon be back among them.

 

Trump seemed to take a step back on releasing Blagojevich based on his Thursday Twitter post: "Rod Blagojevich, the former Governor of Illinois, was sentenced to 14 years in prison. He has served 7 years. Many people have asked that I study the possibility of commuting his sentence in that it was a very severe one. White House staff is continuing the review of this matter."

His wife, Patti Blagojevich, has mounted an intense campaign for her husband's release, which has included appearing on Fox News, appealing directly to the president on his favorite cable news station by attempting to link the governor's ordeal with former FBI Director Jim Comey and other Trump targets.

Blagojevich's relationship with the president dates back to 2009, when the just-removed governor was a contestant on Trump's TV show, "The Celebrity Apprentice." Blagojevich only made it to the season's fourth episode, when he was fired for bungling facts about Harry Potter.

Blagojevich was once a rising star in Illinois politics. The son-in-law of legendary power broker Richard Mell, Blagojevich was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives before Illinois voters elected him governor in 2002 and again in 2006.

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