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Inside the Rod Blagojevich investigation and related cases

February 2010 Archives

Bill O'Reilly and Rod Blagojevich

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Rod Blagojevich sat down with Bill O'Reilly on the O'Reilly Factor this week after the former governor pleaded "innocent" to federal charges.
O'Reilly accuses Blagojevich of dodging the question when he asks if White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel or President Obama will be embarrassed if secret FBI recordings are played in court.
"You're supposed to be a straight up guy!" O'Reilly tells Blagojevich.
Blago says he can't get into the contents of the tapes because of a court order.

I'm catching up here with a post of the FOXNews segment.

Robert Blagojevich: "I want my name back."

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Minutes before he entered a "not guilty" plea in federal court this morning, Robert Blagojevich said he agrees with his brother's position -- made public yesterday -- not to contest the playing of secret FBI recordings in his case.
Rob Blagojevich, who flew in from Nashville, Tenn., will only ask to suppress private conversations between his wife and his son, which had nothing to do with the case, he said.
The ex-governor's brother, who keeps a low-profile compared with Rod Blagojevich's national media tour, said he was disheartened by the new set of charges -- including attempted extortion and bribery conspiracy leveled by the government. The charges are designed to battle an expected U.S. Supreme attack on the honest services statute.
"The misery continues every day," Rob Blagojevich said of battling his case. "I am an innocent man and I will keep fighting. But (prosecutors) have the unlimited resources of the federal government."
His lawyer, Michael Ettinger, said Rob Blagojevich will also not contest the recordings in the case.
"Play them all," Ettinger said.
After court, Rob Blagojevich called his relationship with his brother "strained."
"It's not what it once was. It's a little strained. But we'll get through it," Rob Blagojevich told reporters. As for the tapes in the case, the Tennessean said he's listened to them all. "I'm very comfortable with the outcome with regard to me," he said.

Blagojevich text from today

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Here's Rod Blagojevich's full statement today, from his publicist.
He said this minutes after pleading not guilty to charges.

"Today I'm throwing down the gauntlet. I know I have a constitutional right to try to suppress these tapes. And as a former prosecutor I believe there's a good chance that it would probably be granted. Here's what I'm not going to do: I'm not going to hide behind my lawyers, nor will I hide behind technicalities in the law to try to block these tapes from being heard. Instead, I've instructed my lawyers to petition the court so that every second, every minute and every hour that the government secretly taped me is provided to both sides to be played in court. And I challenge the government to get on the side of truth and justice and if this is a crime spree like you claim it was, then don't hide behind technicalities. Play the tapes. Play the truth, and play the whole truth.

"I'm not just talking the talk here. I'm also going to walk the walk, which is right up to the witness stand. And when I take the stand, I'll testify and swear on the Holy Bible to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I expect and, more importantly, I believe the people of Illinois expect and deserve that the government does the same.

"Play the truth, and play the whole truth. Play nothing but the truth. Play the tapes."

Blagojevich: 'Play all the tapes.'

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(Sun-Times photo by Al Podorski)
Blagojevich enters the courthouse today with his lawyer, Sheldon Sorosky (right).

Rod Blagojevich was famously caught on tape calling a U.S. Senate seat appointment (bleepin') golden.
But the former governor wants his future jury to hear that recording -- and everything else he said on secret FBI wiretaps he said minutes after he pleaded not guilty to a new indictment in federal court today.
Lawyers in the case filed a court motion late this morning asking U.S. District Judge James Zagel to allow both sides to play any relevant recording "without reservation or limitation in open court."

"Today I'm laying down the gauntlet now that I know that I have a constitutional right to try to suppress the tapes and as a former prosecutor, I think there's a good chance that that would be granted.

"However, here's what I'm not going to do, I'm not going to hide behind my lawyers, nor will I hide behind technicalities in the law to try to block these tapes from being heard.

"Instead, I've instructed my lawyers to petition the court, petition so that every second, every second, every minute, every hour that the government secretly taped me is provided to both sides to be heard and played in court. And I challenge the government, I challenge the government, if you are on the side of truth and justice as you say you are and if this was a crime spree like you claim it was, then don't hide behind technicalities play all the tapes. Play all the tapes. Play the truth and play the whole truth."

Blagojevich's lawyer, Sam Adam Jr., qualified later that, following the rules of evidence, only the tapes that are relevant to the case be played. There are 500 hours of recordings in the case.

In his public remarks, Blagojevich also said he would take the witness stand during trial.

Blagojevich, 53, said he believes he can contest the probable cause that allowed the wiretaps in the first place, but the ousted governor, who pleaded "innocent to each and every count" today revised indictment today, will waive any challenge and ask that the tapes be played at his June trial.
Since the case's inception, the government has alluded to the hundreds of hours of recordings that have been publicly viewed as a point of strength in its case.
The filing paints Blagojevich as welcoming of what he said on the recordings, which, but for portions of a handful of conversations, have been kept secret under a court order.
A federal grand jury indicted Blagojevich again last week, adding eight new counts and bringing to 24 the total number of charges against the ex-governor.
The new charges were crafted to protect the indictment and keep the case on track for trial as the U.S. Supreme Court looks to gut an honest services statute. Blagojevich was charged with violating that statute.

Rod Blagojevich to make statement after court today

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Rod Blagojevich's publicity agent just announced the former governor will make a statement to the press after today's arraignment on federal charges.

Blagojevich to be arraigned in Chicago federal court today

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Camera crews have been assembling since early morning in Chicago federal court, awaiting the arrival of Rod Blagojevich, who is expected to plead not guilty to a new federal indictment today.
The former governor isn't expected until just before his 11 a.m. arraignment time.
A federal grand jury indicted Blagojevich again last week, adding eight new counts and bringing to 24 the total number of charges against the ex-governor.
The new charges were crafted to protect the indictment and keep the case on track for trial as the U.S. Supreme Court looks to gut an honest services statute. Blagojevich was charged with violating that statute.
Other defendants in the case, including Blagojevich's former chief of staff John Harris, lobbyist friend Lon Monk and his brother, Rob Blagojevich will appear another day in federal court.
Rob Blagojevich, of Nashville, Tenn. is supposed to fly in Thursday for his arraignment.


This is what it looked like the last time Blagojevich visited the downtown Chicago courthouse.

It's probably nothing personal, but none of Rod Blagojevich's codefendants -- including his brother -- will be anywhere near the former governor tomorrow at Chicago's federal courthouse when he faces the media crush -- and pleads to a new indictment.

"He will be there and you will hear him say he's not guilty for the 1000th time," said one of Blagojevich's lawyers, Sam Adam Jr.

The ousted governor's brother, Rob Blagojevich, who must fly in from his Nashville, Tenn. residence, is set to enter a formal plea to the new charges on Thursday, weather permitting.

Though the court docket now says that Blagojevich's former chief of staff John Harris will also be arraigned tomorrow, that date will be rescheduled. A date for Rod Blagojevich's longtime friend, lobbyist Lon Monk, is also still pending.

Both Monk and Harris have pleaded guilty and are expected to be witnesses at the June trial.

The last time Blagojevich appeared in court, he was asking a federal judge if he could appear on a reality TV show in Costa Rica.
His wife, Patti, went instead.
Rod Blagojevich will appear on this Spring's "Celebrity Apprentice."
The former governor faces 24 counts in all including for allegedly trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat appointment.

Judge to Blagojevich: Enough of your 'blunderbuss!'

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The federal judge overseeing the case of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich today slaps down his "blunderbuss" bid for an early return on witness statements -- including a request for a report on the FBI's interview of now-President Obama.
U.S. District Judge James Zagel today noted that a recent motion filed by Blagojevich's lawyers contained no legal citations in its request that the government give them rush copies of witness statements.
"The blunderbuss demand for everything to be turned over sooner than the law allows is not well made," Zagel said, adding:
"The volume of discovery already
produced far exceeds that required by established law."
Zagel makes it plain he is not amused with a recent filing by Blagojevich attorneys, which at one point criticizes the government for securing its witness list as if the defendant were "Tony Soprano" and not the ousted governor of Illinois.
Zagel calls the recent pleading by Blagojevich lawyers: "an assortment of rhetorical flourishes oddly detached from the issues in this case, in one instance invoking the case of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and, in
another, pleading that Defendant needs certain evidence to establish his innocence. This last statement ignores the well-known principle that a defendant does not carry a burden of establishing his innocence; instead, a burden of establishing guilt belongs to the prosecution."

Ex-governor Rod Blagojevich is scheduled to appear in Chicago Wednesday morning for his arraignment on a new charges returned last week by a federal grand jury. On Thursday, Blagojevich was hit with an additional eight charges in a new indictment designed to withstand an upcoming U.S. Supreme Court decision on the honest services statute. The high court is poised to overhaul the honest services law, which made up the bulk of the original charges against Blagojevich and his brother, Robert.

Court security is already preparing for what's likely to be another mob scene outside the downtown federal courthouse in Chicago when the former governor is expected --as of now -- to appear at 11 a.m. Wednesday, said Acting U.S. Marshal John O'Malley.
Deputy marshals are arranging for a controlled entry for Blagojevich, who has gained national fame, including for his upcoming appearance on "Celebrity Apprentice."

Robert Blagojevich as well as former Blagojevich chief of staff John Harris and lobbyist friend Lon Monk, will likely be arraigned on another date.


A federal grand jury returned a new indictment against former Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his brother this afternoon, in a move aimed at avoiding problems with a disputed law now being weighed by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The 113-page indictment adds eight new charges against Blagojevich and others and among the charges is the alleged attempted extortion of Rahm Emanuel and Emanuel's brother when the now-Presidential chief of staff was a congressman.
Rod Blagojevich now faces 24 counts in all. The eight new counts do not involve violating the honest services statute and lawyers for Blagojevich say the charges do not allege any new conduct.
"It merely alleges the same old, same old under different legal theories," said Blagojevich lawyer Sheldon Sorosky.
Another Rod Blagojevich lawyer, Aaron Goldstein, said the new charges will not translate into a trial date extension. He said the new indictment reflects a difference in legal reasoning by the government rather than substantive differences.
"It doesn't change the strategy at all. We've maintained from day one that the governor is innocent," Goldstein said. "The core facts are the same and that is that he didn't do anything wrong. We anticipate being ready, and we anticipate going forward. The governor's maintained from day one that he's done nothing wrong and our stance is the same since the day he was arrested."
But the lawyer for Rob Blagojevich wasn't so sure. Attorney Michael Ettinger said the new charges alter his defense strategy and means he will have to listen to hundreds of hours of tape again.
The bribery conspiracy, attempted extortion and extortion conspiracy charges puts the ex-governor's brother in the middle of the "whole process of appointing a senator," instead of more minimal involvement, Ettinger said.
"These are different factual allegations for my client," Ettinger said. "Because how I listened to them the first time, I paid attention to different factual allegations."

The new charges are: racketeering, attempted extortion involving Emanuel and his brother, bribery involving the CEO of Children's Memorial Hospital, bribery involving a construction executive, conspiracy to commit bribery involving a Racetrack executive, conspiracy to commit extortion tied to appointing a U.S. Senator, attempted extortion in relation to a U.S. Senate seat appointment and conspiracy to commit bribery involving the senate seat appointment.

Prosecutors added the new charges for similar conduct against the Blagojevich brothers as a legal maneuver to help keep the case on track for a June trial even if the Supreme Court strikes down the honest services statute beforehand.
The high court has taken up three cases dealing with the honest services statute -- something the Blagojevich brothers are now accused of violating.
The new indictment likely means that both the ex-governor and his brother, of Nashville, Tenn., will soon make an appearance again in federal court to formally enter a plea to the new indictment.
Even if honest services is revamped, U.S. District Judge James Zagel has said he was unlikely to give much of an extension.

Sun-Times photo by Jean Lachat

Robert Blagojevich talks to the Chicago Sun-Times last fall.

Our indicted ex-governor Rod Blagojevich is among the "celebrities" Sports Illustrated online features in forecasting the outcome to this weekend's Super Bowl.
But Blagojevich, who will appear on "Celebrity Apprentice," this Spring: "does not consider himself to be a celebrity," says Glenn Selig, Blagojevich's publicity agent who sent out a release noting Blagojevich joined Usher, Jimmy Kimmel, Valerie Bertinelli and others on the site. Blago's prediction: Indianapolis Colts 38-31 over the New Orleans Saints.
Says Blagojevich on "The Colts' offense is better than the Saints' offense because they have the most valuable player in football, Peyton Manning. And the Colts' defense is better and faster than the Saints' defense. The only advantage the Saints have is on special teams, but that's not enough to overcome the advantage the Colts have on both offense and defense."

Blagojevich and his brother, Rob, are expected to be re-indicted by a federal grand jury tomorrow.

The Obama Report

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TO: The President-Elect
FROM: Greg Craig

DATE: December 23, 2008

SUBJECT: Transition Staff Contacts with the Governor's Office

At your direction, I arranged for transition staff to provide accounts of any contacts that you or
they may have had with Governor Blagojevich or his office in which the subject of your
successor came up.

The accounts support your statement on December 11, 2008 that you "have never spoken to the Governor on this subject [or] about these issues," and that you "had no contact with the Governor's office." In addition, the accounts contain no indication of inappropriate discussions with the Governor or anyone from his office about a "deal" or a quid pro quo arrangement in which he would receive a personal benefit in return for any specific appointment to fill the vacancy.

One member of the transition staff, Rahm Emanuel, did have contacts of the type covered by
your request. I discuss the nature of those contacts in the attached report. David Axelrod and
Valerie Jarrett, two other individuals on the transition staff, did not have any contacts with the
Governor or his office but are included in the report to address questions raised by the press.

These accounts were communicated to the Office of the United States Attorney in interviews that were conducted last week. At the request of the Office, we delayed the release of this report until such time as the interviews could be completed. The interviews took place over a period of three days: Thursday, December 18, 2008 (the President-Elect); December 19, 2008 (Valerie Jarrett); and December 20, 2008 (Rahm Emanuel).

One other individual, Dr. Eric Whitaker, a family friend, was approached and asked for information by a member of the Governor's circle. I have included an account of this contact even though Dr. Whitaker is not a member of the transition staff.

Report to the President-Elect

On December 11, 2008, the President-Elect asked the White House Counsel-designate to
determine whether there had been any staff contacts or communications - and the nature of any such contacts of communications - between the transition and Governor Blagojevich and his office relating to the selection of the President-Elect's successor in the United States Senate.
The results of that review are as follows:

The President-Elect

The President-Elect had no contact or communication with Governor Blagojevich or members of his staff about the Senate seat. In various conversations with transition staff and others, the
President-Elect expressed his preference that Valerie Jarrett work with him in the White House.

He also stated that he would neither stand in her way if she wanted to pursue the Senate seat nor actively seek to have her or any other particular candidate appointed to the vacancy.

After Ms. Jarrett decided on November 9, 2008 to withdraw her name from consideration as a
possible replacement for him in the Senate and to accept the White House job, the President-
Elect discussed other qualified candidates with David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel. Those
candidates included Representatives Jan Schakowsky and Jesse Jackson, Jr., Dan Hynes and
Tammy Duckworth. The President-Elect understood that Rahm Emanuel would relay these
names to the Governor's office as additions to the pool of qualified candidates who might
already be under consideration. Mr. Emanuel subsequently confirmed to the President that he
had in fact relayed these names. At no time in the discussion of the Senate seat or of possible
replacements did the President-Elect hear of a suggestion that the Governor expected a personal benefit in return for making this appointment to the Senate.

Rahm Emanuel

Mr. Emanuel had one or two telephone calls with Governor Blagojevich. Those conversations
occurred between November 6 and November 8, 2008. Soon after he decided to accept the
President-Elect's offer to serve as Chief of Staff in the White House, Mr. Emanuel placed a call
to the Governor to give him a heads up that he was taking the Chief of Staff's position in the
White House, and to advise him that he would be resigning his seat in the House of
Representatives. They spoke about Mr. Emanuel's House seat, when he would be resigning and potential candidates to replace him. He also had a brief discussion with the Governor about the Senate seat and the merits of various people whom the Governor might consider. Mr. Emanuel and the Governor did not discuss a cabinet position, 501c(4), a private sector position for the Governor or any other personal benefit for the Governor.

In those early conversations with the Governor, Mr. Emanuel recommended Valarie Jarrett
because he knew she was interested in the seat. He did so before learning -- in further
conversations with the President-Elect -- that the President-Elect had ruled out communicating a preference for any one candidate. As noted above, the President-Elect believed it appropriate to provide the names of multiple candidates to be considered, along with others, who were qualified to hold the seat and able to retain it in a future election. The following week, Mr. Emanuel learned that the President-Elect and Ms. Jarrett with the President's strong encouragement had decided that she would take a position in the White House.

Between the time that Mr. Emanuel decided to accept the position of Chief of Staff in the White
House and December 8, 2008, Mr. Emanuel had about four telephone conversations with John
Harris, Chief of Staff to the Governor, on the subject of the Senate seat. In these conversations, Mr. Emanuel and Mr. Harris discussed the merits of potential candidates and the strategic benefit that each candidate would bring to the Senate seat. After Ms. Jarrett removed herself from consideration, Mr. Emanuel - with the authorization of the President-Elect - gave Mr. Harris the names of four individuals whom the President-Elect considered to be highly qualified: Dan Hynes, Tammy Duckworth, Congresswoman Schakowsky and Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. In later telephone conversations, Mr. Emanuel - also with the President-Elect's approval - presented other names of qualified candidates to Mr. Harris including Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Ms. Cheryle Jackson. Mr. Harris did not make any effort to extract a personal benefit for the Governor in any of these conversations. There was no discussion of a cabinet position, of 501c(4), of a private sector position or of any other personal benefit to the Governor in exchange for the Senate appointment.

Although Mr. Emanuel recalls having conversations with the President-Elect, with David
Axelrod and with Valerie Jarrett about who might possibly succeed the President-Elect in the
Senate, there was no mention of efforts by the Governor or his staff to extract a personal benefit in return for filling the Senate vacancy.

Valerie Jarrett

Ms. Jarrett had no contact or communication with Governor Blagojevich , with his Chief of
Staff, John Harris or with any other people from the Governor's office about a successor to
replace the President-Elect in the United States Senate or how the decision should be made. Nor did she understand at any time prior to his arrest that the Governor was looking to receive some form of payment or personal benefit for the appointment. Her only contact with the Governor was at the Governor's Conference in Philadelphia on December 2, 2008, over three weeks after she had decided not to pursue the Senate seat and had accepted the President-Elect's offer to work in the White House. She had a brief conversation with him on that occasion. He wished her well.

On November 7, 2008 -- at a time when she was still a potential candidate for the Senate seat -- Ms. Jarrett spoke with Mr. Tom Balanoff, the head of the Illinois chapter of the Service
Employees International Union (SEIU). Mr. Balanoff is not a member of the Governor's staff
and did not purport to speak for the Governor on that occasion. But because the subject of the Governor's interest in a cabinet appointment came up in that conversation, I am including a description of that meeting.

Mr. Balanoff told Ms. Jarrett that he had spoken to the Governor about the possibility of
selecting Valerie Jarrett to replace the President-Elect. He told her that Lisa Madigan's name
also came up.

Ms. Jarrett recalls that Mr. Balanoff also told her that the Governor had raised with him the
question of whether the Governor might be considered as a possible candidate to head up the
Department of Health and Human Services in the new administration. Mr. Balanoff told Ms.
Jarrett that he told the Governor that it would never happen. Jarrett concurred.

Mr. Balanoff did not suggest that the Governor, in talking about HHS, was linking a position for himself in the Obama cabinet to the selection of the President-Elect's successor in the Senate, and Ms. Jarrett did not understand the conversation to suggest that the Governor wanted the cabinet seat as a quid pro quo for selecting any specific candidate to be the President-Elect's
replacement. At no time did Balanoff say anything to her about offering Blagojevich a union

David Axelrod

Mr. Axelrod had no conversations with anyone outside the President-Elect's immediate circle
about who should replace the President-Elect in the United States Senate. No one ever came to
Mr. Axelrod to propose a deal involving the selection of a replacement, and nothing came up in any of his conversations with the President-Elect or the members of the President-Elect's
immediate circle that suggested that the Governor was seeking some kind of quid pro quo for the appointment.

Mr. Axelrod recalls that, after the election, the President-Elect discussed - with Mr. Axelrod and Mr. Emanuel - a number of individuals who were highly qualified to take his place in the Senate.

Mr. Axelrod was under the impression that the President-Elect would convey this information to the Governor or to someone from the Governor's office, which explains why Mr. Axelrod gave an inaccurate answer on this subject to questions from the press. He later learned that it was Mr. Emanuel who conveyed those names to the Governor's Chief of Staff, John Harris.

Dr. Eric Whitaker

Dr. Whitaker had no contacts or communications with either the Governor or his Chief of Staff,
John Harris. He did have contact and communication with one individual purporting to act on
behalf of the Governor.

In the period immediately following the election on November 4, 2008 - on either November 6,
7 or 8 - Deputy Governor Louanner Peters called him at his office and left a message. When he
returned the call, Ms. Peters asked who spoke for the President-Elect with respect to the Senate appointment. She explained that the Governor's office had heard from others with
recommendations about the vacant seat. She stated that the Governor's office wanted to know
who, if anyone, had the authority to speak for the President-Elect. Dr. Whitaker said he would
find out.

The President-Elect told Dr. Whitaker that no one was authorized to speak for him on the matter.

The President-Elect said that he had no interest in dictating the result of the selection process,
and he would not do so, either directly or indirectly through staff or others. Dr. Whitaker relayed that information to Deputy Governor Peters.

Dr. Whitaker had no other contacts with anyone from the Governor's office.

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