Fresh out of prison with his sentence commuted by President Trump, convicted felon and former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich addressed cheering throngs Wednesday outside his Chicago home.
(SOUNDBITE)(ENGLISH) EX-GOVERNOR ROD BLAGOJEVICH, SAYING: We want to express our most profound and everlasting gratitude for President Trump.
How do you properly thank the person that has given back the freedom that was stolen from you?
He didn't have to do this.
He's a Republican president, I was a Democratic governor... (SOUNDBITE) (ENGLISH) QUESTION FROM THE CROWD: "You gonna vote for him, governor?" (SOUNDBITE) (ENGLISH) EX-GOVERNOR ROD BLAGOJEVICH, SAYING: "I'm a Trumpocrat!" The now white-haired 63 year old was removed from office in 2009 after prosecutors said he tried to sell or trade the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama after the 2008 presidential election.
On Tuesday Trump complained about the 14 year sentence against Blagojevich, who was convicted of wire fraud, extortion and soliciting bribes while governor.
(SOUNDBITE) (ENGLISH) U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP SAYING: "He'll be able to go back to his family after spending eight years in jail.
That was a tremendously powerful, ridiculous sentence, in my opinion.
Blagojevich, a Democrat, appeared on Trump's "Celebrity Apprentice" while awaiting trial.
(SOUNDBITE) (ENGLISH) U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP SAYING: "I don't know him very well...I've met him a couple of times, he was on, for a short while, the "Apprentice" years ago..
He seems like a very nice person..." Trump's decision, which was criticized by both Democrats and Republicans, came amid a slew of other pardons for white collar criminals.
And during a week where he has repeatedly asserted the right to intervene in criminal cases brought by the Department of Justice.
On Wednesday Blagojevich effusively praised the man who sprung him from jail.
(SOUNDBITE)(ENGLISH) EX-GOVERNOR ROD BLAGOJEVICH, SAYING: "President Trump is a man who's tough and outspoken, but he also has a kind heart.
And this is an act of kindness and I also believe it's the beginning of the process to actually turn an injustice into a justice." Instead of apologizing for the crimes that got him locked up, he claimed he was unfairly targeted by a broken criminal justice system.
(SOUNDBITE)(ENGLISH) EX-GOVERNOR ROD BLAGOJEVICH, SAYING: "From beginning to end, this was persecution, masquerading as prosecution." A line of reasoning Trump will undoubtedly like as the president rails against Department of Justice prosecutors on Twitter for targeting his former associates for crimes related to the Mueller investigation.
One of them, Trump's long-time friend Roger Stone, is expected to be sentenced on Thursday, amid speculation the president could pardon him as well.