Ex-FBI honcho blasts Trump over Blagojevich

 In Politics

Robert D. Grant is pictured. | Getty Images

Robert Grant, who headed the FBI’s Chicago office at the time of the Blagojevich investigation, said Trump was working to upend the FBI’s work as personal revenge for Robert Mueller’s probe. | Tim Boyle/Getty Images

President’s remarks a product of ‘spite and animus’ toward Mueller, Comey.


CHICAGO — A top former FBI official accused President Donald Trump of acting out of spite against federal law enforcement after the president suggested Thursday he might commute former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s 14-year prison term.

Robert Grant, a longtime colleague and friend of special counsel Robert Mueller who headed the FBI’s Chicago office at the time of the Blagojevich investigation, told POLITICO in an interview that Trump is working to upend the FBI’s work as personal revenge for the special counsel probe he’s facing.

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“It’s so disheartening to think that the president of the United States would overturn the evidence heard by a judge and jury, all out of an animus toward Bob Mueller, James Comey and [former U.S. Attorney] Pat Fitzgerald,” said Grant, who is now retired from the FBI. “Blagojevich got caught by wiretaps and microphones and he was engaging in a practice that we believed he was taking part in for quite awhile … I don’t think anybody who listened to those tapes would think anything but it was an incredibly corrupt governor who was dealing with corrupt associates.”

Mueller served as FBI director during the Blagojevich probe, while Comey was deputy attorney general and Fitzgerald served as U.S. attorney in Chicago.

Grant said he views the possible commutation of Blagojevich’s sentence as in line with Trump’s pardon of Lewis “Scooter” Libby — all part of a broader attempt to discredit Mueller in his role as special counsel.

In April, Trump pardoned Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney who was convicted in 2007 of obstruction of justice and false statements in connection with an investigation into the leak of the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame.

“So if Trump gets himself into an obstruction of justice case or lies, then that’s OK. But that’s not the case for the poor kid on the South Side,” Grant said. “I think [Trump] tries to hurt anybody he doesn’t like. He will use his office because he can. Not to use it judiciously, but out of spite and animus. When the framers of the Constitution framed that power, I don’t think they envisioned this.”

Trump asserted to reporters on Air Force One that the former Illinois governor’s actions did not justify his sentence, and that he “shouldn’t have been put in jail.”

In addition to his remarks about Blagojevich — who appeared with Trump on the president’s television show, “The Apprentice“ — Trump floated a pardon for TV personality Martha Stewart, who in March 2004 was convicted on felony charges of conspiracy, obstruction of an agency proceeding and making false statements to federal investigators.

Trump told members of the press she “was harshly and unfairly treated,” adding that “she used to be my biggest fan in the world” before he launched his political career. The remarks about Blagojevich and Stewart came on the same day Trump pardoned controversial conservative filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza.

The prospect that Trump might commute Blagojevich’s sentence stoked deep emotions here Thursday, angering federal law enforcement officials but also offering hope to a family that’s exhausted its legal options.

Blagojevich’s family and legal team were heartened by the president’s remarks, as they’ve long argued the 14-year sentence was out of line with the governor’s convictions.

Blagojevich was convicted of an array of schemes, including attempting to shake down the CEO of a children’s hospital for $25,000, delaying his signature on a horse racing bill as he sought a $100,000 donation and, most famously, attempting to cash in on his unique power to fill the Senate seat left vacant by Barack Obama’s 2008 election as president.

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