Robert Blagojevich spoke to us by phone on Thursday. Read the web-exclusive interview with the brother of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich in the Q&A below.
What is your reaction to your brother Rod’s 14-year prison sentence?
I am very sad for my brother, and just do not understand why he was given such a harsh penalty. For someone who did not make any financial gain from this…and you look at other cases that were concluded in that same federal court building…that his sentence is draconian and just severely harsh.
Have you spoken to your brother since the sentencing? What is his state of mind?
Yes. He is in a remarkable state of mind. He is obviously very concerned about his daughters and how they will get along without him. But for someone who has been through such a tumultuous time, he is remarkably holding up well.
Are you planning to see Rod before he reports to prison in February?
Yes. I do plan to see him.
What are your thoughts on Rod’s trials and did you have advice for him throughout this process?
I had no advice for him. But I would say that Rod is looking forward to his appeal. He believes he’s got strong grounds for that.
You recently said you wanted to testify before the congressional ethics committee that is investigating Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. Do you still want to testify and why?
Yes, I made myself available to them when I read the committee was reopening the investigation of Jesse Jackson Jr. When I testified under oath in federal court in the summer of 2010, I testified that I was approached by two emissaries who I believed were representing Jesse Jackson Jr. On two separate occasions, within a short period of time, two people approached me and offered to exchange campaign contributions for the Senate seat. Both times occurred in October 2008. One of them offered $1.5 million; the other offered $6 million. I testified under oath that I killed that deal. That’s factually correct and I testified to that.
The government dropped the charges against me. I offered to testify before the ethics committee because I think it would be useful to them in getting the truth; the truth about Jesse Jackson Jr. If the ethics committee is interested in hearing my experience with that, then my purpose is to go share that story with them.
Do you think the government missed other people in this process, as far as who they should be prosecuting?
(chuckling) It’s best that I don’t comment on that. But I think people should be asking that question.
Do you regret working for your brother and getting involved in his campaign?
I don’t look back. I just look forward. There were major lessons learned along the way that have made me a stronger and more vital person.
What is your advice for Rod’s wife and kids through this process?
I’d like to keep that between the families. I don’t want to give public advice to anyone about how to deal with this.
What do you think your parents would say about Rod and his actions in office and subsequent punishment?
I think they would be devastated, and believe that it was a very unjust prosecution of their son, because they know how he was raised and they know he would never do anything intentionally criminally improper.
How has your life been affected by the trials, and what are you up to these days?
I’ve tried to regain my life, which was never going to be the same again. You never go through a prosecution by the federal government where it’s kind of a David and Goliath alignment, and you don’t get over it that easy.
I am trying to regain my footing in my business and am optimistic that I will succeed at it.
I can choose to be bitter from what was done to me because I think it was absolutely unjust and wrong, but I’ve chosen not to be bitter and learned from experience and get on with my life.
I would also say this too. I can never talk on the telephone again without suspicion that someone is eavesdropping, from the government, into my conversations. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were listening now. I’ve lost faith in our system that way.
I’m a much more aware citizen who recognizes how precious our First Amendment rights are and our civil liberties are, and I’m fearful that those rights are slowly being chipped away at by our government.