BELLEVILLE — U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, confirmed he spoke with President Donald Trump and his acting chief of staff just before the president backed off of his consideration of commuting former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's prison sentence.
Trump had brought up the idea while speaking to reporters on Air Force One while returning from a trip to El Paso, Texas, last week.
Trump later tweeted: "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."
The possibility touched off speculation about whether Blagojevich, a Democrat, would be released from the low-security Federal Correctional Institution, Englewood in Colorado. He was found guilty of public corruption that 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.
Wife Patti Blagojevich on Saturday made a rare public appearance, marching in the Bud Billiken Parade with the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who has joined her in pressing for leniency and last month co-signed a letter to the president with his son, Jesse Jackson Jr., asking that he grant her husband a full pardon.
Jesse Jackson Jr., a former Democratic congressman from Chicago, also was convicted of federal corruption charges and had actively sought the Obama Senate seat that Blagojevich was convicted in part of trying to sell.
But CNN on Wednesday reported that Trump had changed his mind after conversations with Bost and U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Peoria. They also spoke with acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.
All five of Illinois congressional Republicans, including U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, and U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, have been against the idea of Blagojevich being allowed to leave prison early.
The former governor is scheduled to be released in March 2024.
"The crimes that Rod Blagojevich committed need to serve the full sentence of what the judge ordered," Bost said. "I expressed that concern to the president."
Ultimately it is Trump's decision whether to commute the sentence.
"If he doesn't talk about, it's not going to happen," Bost said.
Bost was a state representative when the Illinois General Assembly impeached and threw Blagojevich out of office.
Trump has said he thinks Blagojevich's sentence was too harsh for the crime he committed. The two also have a personal relationship as Blagojevich competed on "The Celebrity Apprentice" in 2010 while awaiting trial.
— The Chicago Tribune contributed to this report.