Reporting with Natasha Korecki and Dave McKinney
"The heart of this case boils down to something very simple," Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Niewoehner tells the jury in his closing argument. "The governor of the state of Illinois cannot exchange taking some state action for some personal benefit like money or a campaign contribution. You do -- that's a bribe."
Rod Blagojevich's "inner circle" schemed and plotted to use the ex-governor's position to personally benefit themselves and their conspirators, Niewoehner continues.
He's referring to Blagojevich's former law school roommate, Lon Monk; convicted businessman and political hot potato Tony Rezko; and Blago fund-raiser and friend Chris Kelly, who killed himself after pleading guilty to related crimes -- although the jury doesn't know that.
"They're in the driver's seat of state government and also in the driver's seat in terms of raising money," Niewoehner says.
The prosecutor recaps testimony of a list of government cooperators and witnesses. That includes Joe Cari, who testified about a plane ride in which the ex-governor tried to get him to cooperate in what Cari saw as illegal fund-raising efforts.
"Cari is someone who worked at the national level (in fund-raising), but he'd never seen anything like this," Niewoehner says.
And he reminds the jury about the testimony of Ali Ata, who testified about dropping a $25,000 check on a table in front of the governor at Tony Rezko's office -- a campaign contribution that was allegedly a down payment on a lucrative state job.