Chicago Sun-Times
Inside the Rod Blagojevich investigation and related cases

Blagojevich trial: Grant money paid out slowly, ex-chief of staff said

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In the fall of 2006, then-gubernatorial chief of staff John Harris started getting phone calls from both Bradley Tusk and then-Congressman Rahm Emanuel's office about a school grant that was turning out to be a big headache, Harris has testified.

Emanuel wanted to know where the money was; Tusk told Harris that the governor would not approve the release of funds. So, Harris testified, he spoke to the governor.

"He seemed to be familiar with it and told me not to approve the release of funds, that he had not approved the release of funds," Harris said.

The prosecution's charges allege that Blagojevich was withholding the payments in an effort to strong-arm Rahm Emanuel, the school's congressman, into convincing his wealthy brother to hold a fund-raiser for the governor.

Harris learned that, with its new play fields already being built, the school was sitting on a pile of construction invoices they couldn't pay, Harris testified. He said he urged Blagojevich to release the funds.

The governor agreed -- but only to release the grant money bit by bit, Harris testified.

"His instruction to me was to release only the money to pay the invoices that the school had in hand," Harris said.

Prosecutor Carrie Hamilton asked if this was the way grant money was usually doled out.

"No, the process was not typical and quite involved," Harris said. "I didn't experience that process again."

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This page contains a single entry by Sarah Ostman published on June 21, 2010 4:22 PM.

Blagojevich trial: Former chief of staff John Harris takes the stand was the previous entry in this blog.

Former chief of staff: Blagojevich tried to cut off firms that didn't give Patti a job is the next entry in this blog.

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