Former Democratic Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who is a free man this week after eight years in prison, continued to proclaim his innocence Friday during a CNN interview that got heated.
President Donald Trump granted Blagojevich clemency this week after a jury convicted him in June 2011 of trying to sell then-President-elect Barack Obama’s vacated Senate seat. Trump’s decision was not welcomed by everyone but the ex-politician proclaimed himself to be a “Trumpocrat” following his release.
On Friday, the former governor described himself as a “political prisoner” and a victim of “corrupt prosecutors” during an interview on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360.” (RELATED: Trump Clemency For Blagojevich ‘Straight Out Of Louis XIV’)
Blagojevich’s claims were not received well by the CNN host who labelled at least part of the ex-governor’s story as “bullsh*t.”
“I am a political prisoner,” Blagojevich said before Cooper interjected that “Nelson Mandela was a political prisoner … So you’re hardly a political prisoner.”
When Blagojevich suggested there might be some comparison to Mandela, the CNN host erupted by calling that equivalency “offensive.”
Blagojevich insisted, “I was thrown in prison and spent nearly eight years in prison for practicing politics, for seeking campaign contributions without a quid pro quo. No expressed quid pro quo, and I was given the same standards [Democratic New Jersey] Sen. Bob Menendez was given. I could very well have been in the U.S. Senate instead of where I was.”
He continued, “I am complaining that I was sent to prison by a handful of corrupt prosecutors who are abusing their power, they’re uncontrolled … and these uncontrolled prosecutors who can do just about anything they want to do … are using their power to go after government officials for … routine practices.” (RELATED: Rod Blagojevich’s Daughter To Obama: Thanks For Nothing Jerk)
Blagojevich referenced “requests for campaign contributions” as one of those routine practices. The former governor has been accused of extorting money from a children’s hospital but Blagojevich denied that claim, saying, “It’s only bribery or extortion — it’s only a crime if there is an express quid pro quo, one thing for another. There was never evidence of that. They never proved that. They simply said that if there is a connection in the mind of somebody, then that then is the standard.”
Cooper said Blagojevich was merely drawing on a “whole new alternate universe of facts” while refusing to acknowledge his own guilt.
“That may be big in politics today but it’s still frankly just bullsh*t,” Cooper said.
“It’s not bullsh*t; I lived it myself, it’s not bullsh*t at all,” Blagojevich shot back.