Reporting with Natasha Korecki and Dave McKinney
Rod Blagojevich sits in the crowded courtroom after the lunch break, waiting for the judge to enter. As everyone talked and laughed, milling about, the ex-governor sits alone at the defense table, writing in a yellow notepad. He's digging in hard, biting his lower lip.
Judge James Zagel and the jury are now seated, and Robert Blagojevich is back on the stand.
Prosecutors move on to the important phone call of Dec. 4, 2008, when the governor asks his brother to set up a meeting with fund-raiser Raghu Nayak -- a move, the government will argue, toward accepting Nayak's $6 million offer in exchange for appointing Jesse Jackson Jr. to the Senate seat. It's a key call in the government's case against Robert.
Prosecutor Chris Niewoehner walks Robert through the transcript of the tape, paying close attention to a particular line.
"I can cut a better political deal with these Jacksons," the governor says on the tape. "And some of it can be tangible up front."
Yesterday, Robert testified that he didn't know what his brother meant by "tangible up front." Niewoehner seizes on this and asks Robert if he understands it now.
"You can split hairs," Robert says, sounding frustrated. "I do eventually accept the fact that he may be referring to fund-raising."
At another point on the tape, Robert tells his brother that, in light of a potential Jackson appointment, he should start thinking about new fund-raising possibilities.
"I don't know who the money centers are in the black community, but you need to get me focused on them or somebody focused on them," Robert tells the governor.
On the stand, Robert explained that he was always looking for new "universes" to fund-raise in, and if Jackson were appointed, "it would make sense to go prospecting" in the black community.
Niewoehner moves on to the key point of the tape -- the governor asking his brother to deliver a message to Nayak that Congressman Jackson had been "elevated" in the search for a replacement senator.
Robert: "He wanted me to pass on information that he thought would be well received by (Nayak).
Niewoehner: "And you were, in fact, the chairman of Friends of Blagojevich."
Robert said he was.
Niewoehner: "So this is an instance where, in terms of mixing government and fund-raising, this is now your brother asking the chief fundraiser to deliver a political message."
Robert: "I had no problem passing that message on."
It's very quiet inside the courtroom as witness and prosecutor trade barbs on this critical conversation. Jurors are looking on carefully; Rod Blagojevich is watching is brother testify, leaning his left elbow on the defense table.