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

May 2011 Archives

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

U.S. District Judge James Zagel warned Rod Blagojevich's defense team after court Tuesday to reconsider a defense that Blagojevich was acting on bad legal advice when he allegedly sought to trade the Senate seat for something for himself.

When Blagojevich began testifying about the Senate seat this afternoon, he listed off his advisers, some of whom had legal experience, and their extensive credentials (one, Blagojevich said, was high school valedictorian; this anecdote prompted an exasperated Zagel to rub his eyes). The defense seemed to be attempting to show that Blagojevich didn't know that what he was doing was wrong, and was instead being encouraged by his Chief of Staff John Harris and legal counsel Bill Quinlan.

Zagel took some time after court adjourned for the day to warn against pursuing that defense.

"I think it is better for the defense not to go down that road," Zagel said.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Rod Blagojevich testifies that one of his ideal appointees to President Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat was an African American war hero.

Beginning in the summer of 2008, Blagojevich said he was thinking, if he had the opportunity, of appointing then-Illinois Senate President Emil Jones; Attorney General Lisa Madigan; Rep. Danny Davis; an African American war hero; and himself.

Appointing himself to the Senate was "never something I felt deep down comfortable with," Blagojevich testifies. But he said spending the remainder of his term as governor in the political environment in Illinois was an unappetizing prospect.

In late October, he said he was still considering the same candidates for the Senate seat, with the inclusion of Rep. Luis Gutierrez.

Now Blagojevich is talking about Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.'s alleged attempts to get Blagojevich to appoint him to the seat. Blagojevich said he received offers of fundraising in exchange for the Senate seat from Rajinder Bedi and Raghu Nayak.

"I had no intention of appointing Congressman Jackson, with or without" the offers, Blagojevich testified.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

As defense lawyers hinted during squabbles over tapes at the end of last week, Rod Blagojevich is using the defense that he planned to appoint Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan in exchange for her father, Speaker of the House Mike Madigan, passing certain legislation.

Defense attorney Aaron Goldstein asks his client if Lisa Madigan was friend or foe.

"She was the offspring of a foe," answered Blagojevich. "She was a qualified attorney general who loves her father and a father who loves her, and they didn't love me."

But he shares a few rare words of praise about his "nemesis" Mike Madigan and adds that he got along well with Madigan's son, Andrew.

"I really admire Mike Madigan as a dad," Blagojevich testified as prosecutors object. "I know, there's no point, you're right -- I'm sorry. I want to say something nice about him, Judge."

Blagojevich is earning lots of smiles from female jurors today, who are seemingly responding to his frequent tangents and self-deprecating remarks.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

At the close of his third day on the stand, Rod Blagojevich is approaching the government's flagship charges in the case against him: that he tried to sell President Barack Obama's old Senate seat.

His defense lawyer, Aaron Goldstein, starts out by asking Blagojevich how he makes decisions and why he spent so much time at home as governor. Blagojevich says it's because he was making budget cuts and wanted to distance himself from special interests, and said it's an idea he got from President Richard Nixon.

That cuts off his explanation. Blagojevich's wife, Patti, giggles at his Nixon mention.

"I was hunkering down to be away from all the men and women and interests who wanted money," Blagojevich explains.

He adds that it was easier to combine politics and governing when he wasn't on a state phone or in a state office.

He saw the Senate seat appointment as an opportunity -- to prove himself.

"I felt that the Senate seat was one of my last best opportunities to try to use this opportunity to make the best decision I could, and I wanted to be very careful," Blagojevich testifies.

To that end, he considered different options -- "good ones, bad ones, stupid ones, ugly ones" -- to try and make the best decision.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

The defense just played its own tape referencing a Chicago Tribune article printed on Dec. 5, 2008 that said Rod Blagojevich's friend John Wyma was cooperating with a federal investigation.

The call takes place right after Blagojevich gets off a late night Dec. 4 phone call with his spokesman Lucio Guerrero. In the call played by the defense, Blagojevich says he was still reeling from finding out Wyma was cooperating with the government.

"It was startling and shocking, and there's all kinds of emotions that go through your mind when you think about a friend that might have been doing that, not to mention it's frightening and terrifying," Blagojevich said.

Finding out about the Tribune article helped Blagojevich recall an October meeting where he remembered Wyma "seemed weird." That day, a Tribune reporter was also outside his office.

"My mind began to reconstruct that day with this particular reporter and John Wyma," Blagojevich testifies.

He said he called his counsel Bill Quinlan.

"My god, what could I have said?" Blagojevich said went through his mind. "Do you think I said something wrong? Could I have stumbled into crossing a line?"

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Rod Blagojevich is giving a different interpretation of a phone call with his deputy governor, Robert Greenlee, where the two discuss a rate increase for doctors.

In the Nov. 12 call, Blagojevich asks Greenlee about the rate increase, set to take effect January 1.

BLAGOJEVICH: And we have total discretion over it?
GREENLEE: Yep.
BLAGOJEVICH: So we could pull it back if we needed to, budgetary concerns, right?
GREENLEE: We sure could. Yep.
BLAGOJEVICH: Okay, that's good to know.

Greenlee said he took that as an order to halt the rate increase. He testified during the government's case that Blagojevich often gave him vague orders.

But today Blagojevich testifies that he was "absolutely not" ordering Greenlee to halt the increase. He was checking to see if it would be appropriate to call Patrick Magoon to ask for a fundraiser; Friends of Blagojevich was hoping to get $25,000 from a fundraiser they hoped Magoon would host.

"That was important to help me decide" if it would be OK to call Magoon, Blagojevich testifies. He said he didn't want to make Magoon "uncomfortable" by hitting him up for campaign contributions if the increase was still pending and didn't want Magoon to get the wrong idea.

"That's good to know; therefore, I'm not gonna call Patrick Magoon. I'm not gonna call and make him feel uncomfortable with this pediatric rate increase still hovering," Blagojevich testifies. "It was a relief. I didn't want to call him anyway."

Blagojevich said he never really liked making fundraising calls.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Rod Blagojevich's meandering testimony earned yet another reprimand from U.S. District Judge James Zagel this afternoon, who berated Blagojevich for giving personal histories of his fundraisers and donors.

"I don't really think we need the biographies," Zagel told him. "I'm sympathetic to you because I do the same thing, but not in court."

"OK, Judge," Blagojevich says. "Can I say great minds think alike? Sorry."

That earned a smile from the stoic Zagel.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Rod Blagojevich testifies that his deputy governor, Robert Greenlee, advised him against a rate increase for pediatric doctors because it would undermine the governor's budget cuts.

It would open a potential "Pandora's box," said Blagojevich, who said he often felt pressured to grant money to good causes. "I'm generally a soft touch," Blagojevich says. "It's hard to say no."

Still, he testifies that he told Greenlee: "I don't want to hear all that," he said. "Just find the money."

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Rod Blagojevich testified he never shook down the CEO of Children's Memorial Hospital, never held up a pediatric rate increase while he waited for that CEO to hold a fundraiser and never demanded or threatened that CEO.

Blagojevich is accused of demanding a fundraiser from that CEO, Patrick Magoon, as Children's waited on the governor to implement a promised increase in pay for pediatric doctors serving Medicaid patients.

Raising the ire of U.S. District Judge James Zagel, defense lawyer Aaron Goldstein continues to get emotional and long-winded answers from Blagojevich, eventually resulting in a sidebar. Following the sidebar Zagel told Goldstein to fast-forward to a specific meeting Blagojevich had with Magoon.

Yet Goldstein still manages to get this answer from his client: "Children's Memorial Hospital is a very personal place for me," Blagojevich testified. "I had a cousin who died there when he was 12 years old."

An exasperated Zagel has his hand on the side of his face as he scolds Goldstein, saying the issue was just discussed at sidebar.

"It's a breach," Zagel tells him.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

As court starts back up after lunch, U.S. District Judge James Zagel scolded Rod Blagojevich's defense lawyer, Aaron Goldstein, for continuing to ask questions inviting long-winded answers.

Zagel said it was fine for Goldstein to ask those questions earlier in Blagojevich's testimony, when the questions focused on Blagojevich's history. Now, as the defense moves to address allegations Blagojevich shook down the CEO of Children's Memorial Hospital, Zagel's again asking Goldstein to narrow his questions.

Goldstein asks his client when he first heard of Children's Memorial.

"On October 14, 1967," he says, earning a quick response from Zagel.

"Don't want to go that far back," the judge says.

Blagojevich tries to get in that his cousin died at Children's Memorial, earning another objection from the prosecution.

"Your honor, it's relevant," Goldstein protests as he tries to ask Blagojevich what the hospital means to him. "It's relevant to what their exact allegations are."

"What I'm concerned about has to do with the open invitation in your questions for a long, narrative answer," Zagel replies. "I really don't want another speech and it's not proper form."

Blagojevich finally gets to answer "yes" when Goldstein asks him if it's fair to say his life experiences shaped his healthcare policies, which were very important to him.

Outside the courtroom before the end of the lunch break, Blagojevich held court in the hallway, chatting it up with reporters and reflecting on his Northwestern days and Elvis Presley.

Reporting with Abdon Pallasch

Rod Blagojevich's testimony turns to his wife, Patti Blagojevich and allegations that he tried using his influence as governor to get her a job.

He praises her a little too much at first, prompting an objection from Judge James Zagel, who says he's the last person "on earth" who would stop someone from going on about his spouse. But stop.

Blagojevich is trying to rebut testimony from John Harris, who said that the governor ordered him to set up meetings between state contractors and his wife.

Harris said that after those meetings went sour, Blagojevich told him to cut off the contractors from future state work.

But Blagojevich said Patti did meet with contractors and they told her she'd have a tough time getting work in using her Series 7 license, to be a financial adviser, because of a potential conflict involving her husband.

"She was going to get bubkis for it. Nada, nothing," he said. Blagojevich denied any retaliation.

Prosecutors stayed away from bringing up Tony Rezko and Patti's job with his firm during this trial.

Today, Blagojevich also stays away from Rezko. But he goes on at length about how he always tried keeping family separate from his administration.

Except he does admit he asked Harris whether he could appoint Patti to the Illinois Pollution Control Board.

"She was not nominated to the Illinois Pollution Control board," Blagojevich said.
"I made a decision to not appoint her."

Lark Turner

Rod Blagojevich attorney Lauren Kaeseberg just complained that the prosecutors -- who directly face the jurors -- are making faces as the ex-governor speaks on the stand.

Kaeseberg said prosecutors were also having "animated discussions" in front of the jury during Blagojevich's testimony.

"We just ask that they stop making faces while he's testifying," Kaeseberg said.

Prosecutors Reid Schar said the team does confer before making objections but he didn't think they were making faces.

"We'll be mindful," Schar said. "I don't think that's the case."

Judge James Zagel said he hadn't noticed anything but: "I'll watch the government very carefully."


Reporting with Lark Turner

Rod Blagojevich continues to attempt to unravel the impact of the prosecution's case with regard to tollway allegations.

Road-building executive Gerald Krozel had testified that Blagojevich hit him up for money at the same time Krozel asked him for a major $1.8 billion tollway improvement package.

"I felt there was a connection between the two," Krozel previously testified in the prosecution's case. "If I couldn't raise money, there wouldn't be a tollway bill."

Blagojevich's explanation, given today, is quite different.

The ex-governor said he simply explained to Krozel in that 2008 meeting that an ethics bill would prohibit Krozel from legally giving him money after the end of the year.

"The good news for you and the bad news for me is that you can't contribute money," Blagojevich said he told Krozel. "Whatever you can do to help us during this campaign fund-raising cycle ... I would be appreciative of it."

"I may have said something like, 'this is your last hurrah,' he continued.
"And he was very supportive and said he'd do the best he can, to raise money."

Blagojevich's lawyer, Aaron Goldstein asked: "During this meeting, did you demand that he fund-raise for you?"
"No," Blagojevich said.
Goldstein: "Communicate that in order for him to get any of these tollway plans he had to fund-raise?"
Blagojevich: "No."

Juror dismissed on Friday

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We're down to 17 jurors today.

The judge dismissed one juror on Friday but did not put it on the record.

There's clearly 17 today, instead of 18.

Blagojevich denies tollway shakedown

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Reporting with Lark Turner


Rod Blagojevich heads into testimony about the third of five alleged shakedown schemes -- this one involves tollway improvements.

He's accused of shaking down road-building executive Gerry Krozel for a campaign contribution in exchange for pushing through a major tollway improvement.

At least part of his defense to this is that Blagojevich really wanted a massive capital bill to pass -- one that would have improved tollways as well as given a lift to other capital projects throughout the state.

Aaron Goldstein plays an Oct. 31, 2008 call between Blagojevich and chief of staff John Harris where the then-governor is heard pushing for this bill. He's heard dropping an f-bomb, and later apologized for it.

Blagojevich smiles, shaking his head a little bit in apparent, disbelief at his caught-on-tape self.

He's specifically talking about DuPage County Bob Schillerstrom, who wanted state funding to build a western access to O'Hare.

Blagojevich is heard saying that if Schillerstrom wanted it, he'd better "bring all their influence to bear" to get House Speaker Michael Madigan to lift a brick off of it in the Illinois House.

"You're a big, tough guy with a lot of influence, get down to Springfield...Lobby your government there," Blagojevich said he wanted of Schillerstrom at the time. "You'll get your western access road and a lot more. You'll get schools and roads and a lot more."

Judge James Zagel again tells Blagojevich he understands there's a tendency to explain how government works in each of his answers.
However, he tells him to instead: "Just answer the questions."

Blagojevich accidentally shuts off his own mic

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Reporting with Lark Turner

Rod Blagojevich is still talking about the racetrack legislation and answering allegations that he tried shaking down a horse-racing exec for a $100,000 contributions.

Aaron Goldstein refers back to a Lon Monk recorded conversation, where he complains that the longer the then-governor took to sign the bill, the more financial harm to the racing industry. The legislation siphoned casino profits and kicked it over to the horse-racing industry.

"Give us the f-ing money, because it's $9,000 a day, for every day," Blagojevich doesn't sign, Monk says in the conversation.

But Blagojevich said he didn't think the track was really losing that money.

"I understood Monk to be spinning, giving the company line," he said.

Blagojevich also tells the jury for the first time, that the legislation has been tied up in litigation since the casinos have long objected to boosting another industry.

We break for technical difficulties, the witness mic is not working and Blagojevich declares: "it's not my fault."

Turns out, the ex-gov's binder was resting on the "on/off switch." Perhaps that same binder would have come in useful when the FBI had its secret mics up and running.

When told, he says: "I misspoke, evidently it was my fault," he says to much laughter.

Blagojevich back in and ready to go for another day

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Lawyers are still doing some housekeeping this morning but Rod Blagojevich is prepared to get back up on the stand for a third day.

Attorneys are now at a sidebar discussing an issue regarding false statements, but they did not elaborate.


Day three of Rod Blagojevich's testimony begins today as the defense continues to give jurors its own take on the prosecution's various shakedown charges.

The government outlined five major shakedown allegations and Blagojevich last week testified about two of them.

The defense has yet to tackle the weightiest charge -- that the ex-gov attempted to sell President Obama's Senate seat. That's likely among the last allegations Blagojevich will discuss.

Last week, Judge James Zagel ruled that Blagojevich could testify that he really wanted to appoint Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to the Senate seat in exchange for a legislative package. But Zagel said he was unlikely to get in any of the recordings that support the theory. Why? Zagel said he didn't believe it. The defense repeatedly argued to get in this point, noting that it wanted the jury to decide whether it was believable.

Whether he plays new tapes -- Blagojevich has much explaining to do when it comes to the Senate seat. He must answer various tapes -- including one where he's heard telling his brother to meet with a donor, and instructing that he wants something "tangible up, front."


Though the jury's left for the day, Judge James Zagel and Rod Blagojevich's lawyers and prosecutors are still holed up in court going over what tapes attorneys can play in Blagojevich's defense.

The defense wants to play a tape where Blagojevich talks to his press secretary, supposedly planting a false trail for the media that he's thinking of appointing Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. to the Senate seat. But it's all a ploy, the defense says: Blagojevich just wants help from the Washington establishment with brokering a deal to get legislation passed in exchange for appointing Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to the seat.

"And he does this not by talking to insiders, but by talking to his press secretary?" asks a skeptical Zagel.

Zagel questions whether that's a good argument to present to the jury. Why, he wonders, would the defense want to paint their client as someone willing to lie and plant false stories to the public? Do they think the jury "will think it's swell"?

"The record should indicate that I've said this in an ironic and jocular tone of voice," Zagel concludes.

By Abdon M. Pallasch

On his way out of the courthouse, Rod Blagojevich shook hands with supporters, signed an autograph for one fan, gave her a big hug and told her "Have a nice holiday!"

Improv comedian and self-described "Fragrance Fanatic" Jay Sukow, 41, handed Blagojevich an orange and asked him to sign it.

Blagojevich thought it was a lemon.

"I never signed a lemon," Blagojevich said, borrowing a Sun-Times pen.

"It's going to make you calmer and friendlier," Sukow said.

Blagojevich carved an "R" onto the orange, but could not make the pen work on the orange's surface. His wife Patti, already in the car with their daughter Amy, shouted at him to get in the car.

"They want me to go," Blagojevich apologized to Sukow. He got in the car and drove off.

"I'm never washing this lemon," Sukow's friend joked.

"It's an orange," Sukow corrected him.

Why didn't he correct the governor?

"I can't correct the governor," Sukow said.

From the time he was a year old and his mother put citrus fruits in his crib to calm him, he has appreciated the calming power of fruit, he said: "Take a smell -- You'll be calmer. Citrus is really good for mood."

Reporting with Natasha Korecki and Abdon M. Pallasch

Rod Blagojevich is giving his version of a phone call with Lon Monk where he "war-games" Monk asking racetrack executive John Johnston for a hefty campaign contribution.

In testimony, Lon Monk said Blagojevich was asking him to exchange signing a bill benefiting Johnston for the contribution. Blagojevich tells it differently.

"One has nothing to do with the other, one is not conditioned on the other," Blagojevich said he was telling Monk in the call. "Again, be careful, follow the law, don't cross any lines."

When Monk calls Blagojevich back to tell him he had the conversation with Johnston, Blagojevich says "Good." Goldstein asks what that means.

"Good," he testifies. "Sounds like you didn't cross any lines."

At that, two prosecutors smile widely, their heads bouncing.

As Goldstein moves to change subjects, Judge James Zagel stops him and looks like he's dismissed the jury for the day -- Fridays are usually an off day for them. Lawyers just went back to Zagel's chambers.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki and Abdon M. Pallasch

Rod Blagojevich is hammering home his point about Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan and Madigan's role in holding up the Racetrack Bill.

Defense lawyer Aaron Goldstein is going over a call with Blagojevich and his friend Lon Monk about the bill. Monk was lobbying for the bill on behalf of racetrack executive John Johnston.

When Monk wonders what the holdup is, Blagojevich tells him on the tape that it's just a "timing issue." Goldstein asks Blagojevich what that meant.

"It was, 'I need time to sort that bill out with all the other issues to see whether there were any Madigan shenanigans with the other bills,'" Blagojevich answers. "Madigan shenanigans," he repeats, earning movement and smiles from jurors.

Goldstein: "Rod, were you holding this bill up to get a campaign contribution?"

"No," he says firmly. "No."

Then he gets to Monk's betrayal. Blagojevich says he "saw Lon as the good son I always thought he was -- I'm sorry, I'm sorry," Blagojevich stops himself.

"See if you can answer the question, yes or no," Judge James Zagel tells him.

Blagojevich, laughing, agrees: "OK Judge, OK," he replies.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki and Abdon M. Pallasch

Even as the defense dives into the government's allegations and gets away from Thursday's biographical testimony, Rod Blagojevich continues to give defense lawyer Aaron Goldstein rambling answers at times.

He's managed to bring up Motorola while testifying about the Racetrack Bill.

"They had a new phone they were gonna come out with that was secret," Blagojevich said.

He later starts answering one of Goldstein's questions, then stops.

"Strike that," Blagojevich says, then pauses. "Can I say strike that? Strike that."

He throws in legal language, and a new word, in a later statement.

"This part right here, I think really encapsalizes my state of mind at this time," Blagojevich testified. The defense is allowed to put in much of its evidence only if it shows Blagojevich's state of mind, the judge has ruled.

Meanwhile Blagojevich's wife, Patti, and daughter, Amy, watch from the bench. At a morning break, Patti pulls out a laminated card of her late mother, Margaret Mell, and looks at it with her daughter.

When the defense plays its first tape, featuring him speaking with legal adviser Bill Quinlan, the ex-governor's potty mouth surfaces: "bulls***," Blagojevich tells Quinlan. Patti looks at her daughter and smiles.

Blagojevich said yesterday that Amy told him to "watch your language" while on the stand as he left for court.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki and Abdon M. Pallasch

On the stand, Rod Blagojevich seems to place the blame for the Racetrack Bill fiasco on government witness Lon Monk and (deceased) former fundraiser Christopher Kelly.

Kelly, Blagojevich testified, was trying to get a presidential pardon for charges leveled against him in a federal indictment. To do that, he was using connections in Florida, which included a tie to the racetrack-owning Johnston family, to try and get former Gov. Jeb Bush to ask his presidential brother for a pardon -- according to Blagojevich. The theory is a new defense from the Blagojevich team.

"What [counsel Bill] Quinlan was telling me was that Chris was pressing him to get me to sign that bill and was angry that it hadn't been signed yet," Blagojevich said. "It was a big, bold red flag to be very careful."

Kelly had been indicted and Blagojevich knew he was under federal scrutiny: "I was very aware that the ladies and gentleman at that table were investigating me," he said, referring to prosecutors.

The defense can't call Kelly to corroborate the theory: he killed himself in 2009 after pleading guilty to fraud charges.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki and Abdon M. Pallasch

Rod Blagojevich is using his time on the stand as an opportunity to level claims against his old political rival, Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan.

Blagojevich said he took so much time to sign the Racetrack Bill (which he's accused of holding up for campaign contributions) because Madigan was slipping in language that would undermine him. The governor's office called the language a "poison pill."

"Madigan's a very crafty legislative leader and he's very good that way," Blagojevich testified.

He also seems to be trying to sweeten the jury on his healthcare initiatives. He said he would get around the legislature to enact legislation like "breast cancer screenings and pap smears for women."

"Objection," prosecutors said. Too late. Blagojevich had made his point.

He also later managed to sneak in that he had used the same power to get seniors free rides on the CTA, bypassing Madigan and the legislature.

But Blagojevich was involved in a court case with Madigan and his daughter, Lisa Madigan, who argued Blagojevich had no such un-checked executive power.

"We might weaken [my General Counsel] Bill Quinlan told me, we could weaken our case in court," Blagojevich testified. "They couldn't stop me. This was a chess game going on between me and Mike Madigan. He's very crafty and effective. I had found a way to get around them."

Reporting with Natasha Korecki and Abdon M. Pallasch

Jumping into allegations Rod Blagojevich shook down racetrack executive Johnny Johnston, the defense is going through government transcripts.

Blagojevich said Johnston had promised a $100,000 contribution early in 2008. He was pressing Johnston to fulfill that commitment, Blagojevich testified. He also says buddy Lon Monk was doing most of the communication between Blagojevich and Johnston.

"My understanding was that he [Johnston] was going to fulfill his commitment and that it was due to arrive sometime before the end of October," Blagojevich said. "That was, in my experience with the Johnstons, they always fulfilled their fundraising commitments in the past."

The government alleges that Blagojevich was sitting on a recently passed bill, called the Racetrack or Recapture Bill, and wouldn't sign it until Johnston paid up. Blagojevich is now testifying that he was just reviewing the bill.

"The legislature would sneak things into bills in the fine print that would undo the things you want to do," Blagojevich said, calling the language a "poison pill."

Blagojevich's testimony is in direct opposition to that of key government witness Monk. In a question-and-answer session with Monk outside the presence of the jury, Judge James Zagel had the following exchange with him:

"Am I correct that your understanding of the governor's conversation with respect to Johnston was that Johnston should understand, even if you did not explicitly say this to him, that a prompter signing of the Recapture Bill would be influenced by the giving and the size of contribution?" Zagel asked.

"Yes," Monk responded, adding that he knew it wasn't legal or proper to do.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Rod Blagojevich's teenage daughter Amy is in court today to watch her dad get on the stand for a second day of testifying in his own defense. She's sitting next to her mom, Patti, on the bench behind the defense table.

As her husband takes the stand, Patti gets situated and puts her arm around her daughter. "Can you see?" she asks.

Both of Blagojevich's daughters showed up for closing arguments in last year's trial, but this is the first day either child has been in court during the retrial.

In an April interview with the Sun-Times, Rod and Patti said their daughters Amy, 14, and Annie, 8, are well aware of what's going on with their dad; "there was no hiding" the allegations against their dad with media camped outside the family's Ravens­wood Manor home after his arrest in 2008. Amy, a high school freshman, was frustrated when the retrial was delayed until April; she "just wants it over with," her mother said at the time.


Reporting with Lark Turner

We're on horse-racing legislation allegation now and right out of the gate, Rod Blagojevich denies any kind of shakedown scheme.

His lawyer Aaron Goldstein asks him specifically: "Did you ever shake down Johnny Johnston?"
Blagojevich: "No."

Prosecutors say the horse-racing legislation is one of the five major shakedown schemes of their case. They say Blagojevich wouldn't sign legislation allowing the casinos to subsidize the racetracks until horse-racing exec Johnny Johnston coughed up a $100,000 contribution.

Blagojevich said he long knew the Johnston family. They are a horse-racing family that owns Balmoral and Maywood Park harness racing tracks.

"They were the most generous in terms of the contributions they could give," Blagojevich said. They donated several hundred thousand dollars from 2002-2008, the ex-governor said.

Testimony ends for the day and we're back up tomorrow 9:30 a.m. -- even though it's a Friday.

The parties are still in court talking about what tapes can be played tomorrow -- including those involving Johnston.

Reporting with Lark Turner


Rod Blagojevich describes his hyper-interest in raising campaign money this way:
"If you're in a strong political position, it gives you the independence to frankly, lose friends. ..and even lose political allies," Blagojevich says.

They talk about ethics legislation of 2008, which has been at issue in this trial. Prosecutors say Blagojevich knew he could no longer take donations from contractors by the end of that year because of that bill. So they allege the ex-gov ramped up his shakedown schemes.

Blagojevich said he saw it a different way. It was still legal to seek campaign contributions until the end of the year.

He says he wanted to kill that bill in favor of another bill that had more extensive legislative reforms, forcing lawmakers also to abide by the same rules as the governor.

He said then-Illinois State senate leader Emil Jones agreed with him. Until later in 2008, "a sheepish Emil Jones" said he had to call the original ethics bill for a vote.

Jones, he said: "I thought was a friend to me, is humiliating me."

"He said he received a call from President-Obama, he asked me to "please call this bill," they're running TV ads against me in Pennsylvania," Blagojevich said of Jones' call to him.

Reporting with Lark Turner

Rod Blagojevich said he was surprised when he first heard that a school in Rahm Emanuel's district hadn't gotten a state grant it was promised.

"What do you mean, I approved the grant a long time ago, I thought he got the money," Blagojevich said he recalls reacting.

Blagojevich says he has only vague recollections of discussions involving Chicago Academy. Except he distinctly recalls someone mentioning the building.
He knew it: "I took the ACT exam there. Twice."

When he heard the school wasn't getting its money, Blagojevich said he then instructed his staff to: "Pay it out, pay it. I told him, pay it as the bills come in," he said.

He's accused of holding up the grant money to the Chicago Academy in Emanuel's district because Emanuel's wealthy brother, Ari, hadn't held a fund-raiser for him.

Blagojevich talks of going to an event at Ari Emanuel's home in Beverly Hills in 2006 and meeting stars like Seinfeld writer Larry David. That's when Blagojevich said he asked John Wyma if he could get the same event. He was eventually told no, and he said he dropped it.

When the ex-governor talked about David, Prosecutor Reid Schar, stares straight down at table, finally stands up to object.

"I knew that was going to happen," Blagojevich says.

Schar,the one who will cross-examine the ex-governor, sits back down, head in hand for a moment.

Blagojevich said he told his staff to pay the school's bills as they came in because he suspected the school was not getting a second grant. He suggests that his onetime deputy governor Bradley Tusk sometimes made decisions without him and may have committed a second grant to Emanuel.

Tusk testified that Blagojevich asked him to hold up the grant money because Emanuel's brother hadn't held a fund-raiser. Blagojevich said that wasn't true.

John Wyma also said the ex-governor told him to hold up the grant.
Blagojevich said that was not true.

The bottom line, according to Blagojevich,
"The Chicago Academy got its money and the football stadium was built," Blagojevich said.

Goldstein: "Did you ever hold up this school grant?
Blagojevich: "No."

Blagojevich questioning moves to substance in charges

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Reporting with Lark Turner

We're starting to get into some of the meat of the allegations.

And Rod Blagojevich's denials are flying.

He addresses Lon Monk's contention that he, Blagojevich, Chris Kelly and Tony Rezko met to discuss how to make money off of state deals.

"I never had a conversation in California, where I talked about I might make money off of state action with those guys, never ever," Blagojevich said.

His lawyer, Aaron Goldstein asks: "Did you take cash from Tony Rezko?"

Blagojevich: "No."

Monk testified he had taken $70,000 to $90,000 in cash from Rezko without Blagojevich's knowledge.

Blagojevich has gotten several warnings from Judge James Zagel to stay on point. He's giving narrative, detailed, sometimes rambling answers to questions.

In front of jury, Zagel looks right at Blagojevich when he tells him to listen to the questions. The ex-governor looks right back at him: "Yes, judge."

At another point, Blagjoevich is rambling again.

Prosecutor Reid Schar stands up, saying nothing.

"Sorry. I'm sorry, judge," Blagojevich says, cutting himself off.

On a break, Zagel tells Blagojevich -- and his lawyer, Aaron Goldstein -- that the narrative is risky. He tells Goldstein to step up.

It's "for the benefit of your client to ask questions quickly," Zagel said, noting that if politicians hear dead air, then tend to fill it. "Because he's pretty much giving you the chance to ask him another question."

Reporting with Lark Turner
Rod Blagojevich's jurors saw the ex-governor sworn in when he was elected governor. Prosecutors showed two videos of each oath.

So now he's asked:

"The oath meant to me, obviously."

Did he follow his oath of office?

"I've made a lot of mistakes in my life. I believe deep in my heart that I did follow that oath," Blagojevich said. He says he believed he stood up for average people. "I protected them from some burdens, like higher taxes."

Reporting with Lark Turner

Rod Blagojevich starts weaving a tale about: "I really liked Jesse Jackson Jr. in the very beginning."

Jurors see a 10-second video of the 2008 Democratic National Convention. It's silent and Jackson is at the lectern and Blagojevich is giving Jackson a hug.

Jackson, of course, just testified yesterday that Blagojevich tried shaking him down for a $25,000 campaign contribution in exchange for appointing Jackson's wife to a state post.

"Jesse Jr. was saying he's not going to rest until Michael Madigan and Rod Blagojevich hug each other," Blagojevich says Jackson was saying at the time of the convention.

Blagojevich talks of earlier times in Congress, when he approached Jackson Jr. about going to Serbia to help free captives.
"I came up with an idea. I saw Jesse Jr. in Congress a weekend or two after the floor. I see your father was trying to go to Serbians. I said: "Jesse, I don't know if it's BS or not," but Blagojevich knew others who would travel to Serbia and help free the men.
"Absolutely," he said Jackson responded. "Call the reverend."
Blagojevich: "You call your dad reverend?"

Blagojevich said he once thought highly of Jackson:
"I saw him, frankly, as Barack Obama. I thought he had the skills, the personality."

On Jackson's contention that Blagojevich snapped like Elvis after a unsuccessful shakedown:

Aaron Goldstein: "Did you request of Jesse Jackson Jr. a campaign contribution.
Blagojevich: "It's like he said, he never gave campaign contributions to others."

Blagojevich said he had "absolutely no recollection of his talking to me, ever, ever of appointing his wife for the Illinois Lottery."

The person he did name, Blagojevich said, was a recommendation by Jackson's father.

Rod Blagojevich describes meeting the woman in a red dress.

He met Patti, the daughter of a powerful Ald. Richard Mell, and fell in love soon after.

Blagojevich takes the tale back to Lon Monk, underscoring a theme he'll develop later about betrayal.

"I flew out to Washington D.C. and spent the weekend with him," Blagojevich said of going to talk to Monk about making the big decision. "Spent the weekend talking about me making the big decision about me getting read to get married."

Blagojevich talks about asking Mell for Patti's hand. It was important to ask Mell, he said. But had he said "no."
"I would have done it anyway," Blagojevich says.

They get married, Monk reads the 23rd Psalm and stands up in the wedding, Blagojevich said.
"Lon was a dear close friend, who, as I said, was two of my best friends in life."

They move to politics. Mell taps Blagojevich, asking him to run for state rep.

"You interested in running, Blagojevich?" he said Mell asked him.
"Her dad liked me," he says. "I had a better shot with Patti."

Blagojevich said he had a question: "Am I free to make my own decision on the issues?"
Mell responded, according to Blagojevich: "I don't give an f-about that."


Rod Blagojevich describes meeting the woman in a red dress.

He met Patti, the daughter of a powerful Ald. Richard Mell, and fell in love soon after.

Blagojevich takes the tale back to Lon Monk, underscoring a theme he'll develop later about betrayal.

"I flew out to Washington D.C. and spent the weekend with him," Blagojevich said of going to talk to Monk about making the big decision. "Spent the weekend talking about me making the big decision about me getting read to get married."

Blagojevich talks about asking Mell for Patti's hand. It was important to ask Mell, he said. But had he said "no."
"I would have done it anyway," Blagojevich says.

They get married, Monk reads the 23rd Psalm and stands up in the wedding, Blagojevich said.
"Lon was a dear close friend, who, as I said, was two of my best friends in life."

They move to politics. Mell taps Blagojevich, asking him to run for state rep.

"You interested in running, Blagojevich?" he said Mell asked him.
"Her dad liked me," he says. "I had a better shot with Patti."

Blagojevich said he had a question: "Am I free to make my own decision on the issues?"
Mell responded, according to Blagojevich: "I don't give an f-about that."


Reporting with Lark Turner

Before jury is back in prosecutors complain about Rod Blagojevich's long-winded answers.

"In an effort, and only an effort to move things along," Prosecutor Reid Schar says Blagojeich should answer in a way that's "maybe more focused and responsive to the actual questions."

Judge James Zagel said if prosecution had objected during testimony, he would have overruled the objections (which is saying a lot for Zagel).

"It's fine," Zagel says. "This is the chance for him to tell his story."

Zagel did make clear that once they enter into substantive questions, about what's charged, Blagojevich will have to cut the narrative.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki and Abdon M. Pallasch

Rod Blagojevich is talking about his fledgling legal career when the testimony comes to a halt. He was working in defense lawyer Sheldon Sorosky's office when, one day, he met Patti.

But he never quite gets her name out when defense lawyer Aaron Goldstein starts to ask him about it. Blagojevich can't speak; he points at his wife, trying to talk. Patti, red-faced, bursts into tears. Her brother passes his hand over her back.

Long pause.

"Let's take a break," says U.S. District Judge James Zagel.

"Oh no, I'm good, Judge, I'm fine," Blagojevich protests.

But the court breaks for lunch.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki and Abdon M. Pallasch

Defense layer Aaron Goldstein is getting Rod Blagojevich to testify about his budding friendship with Lon Monk, who would one day become his Chief of Staff and later testify against him for the government.

Blagojevich says he met Monk while abroad at law school. The two went to Pepperdine in Malibu, California. He said he recognized Monk as a student in the program while touring the city on a double-decker bus. Blagojevich said "hi."

"It didn't take long while we were there in London, what was the beginning of a lifelong, very close friendship," Blagojevich said.

Monk, too, liked to run. On the stand, Blagojevich cops to having "a certain narcissism" when it comes to his need to stay in shape.

Watching her husband testify from across the room, Patti has her hands clasped, nervously fiddling her thumbs. She smiles when he says he could study law better in London.

Blagojevich talks about how he nearly failed out of law school and kept it a secret from everyone but his family. But one day, he told Monk.

"Those are the kind of little things that bond you with someone," he said. "There are friends that you love in a real friend way, not in a, you know what I'm talking about. I love Lon. That's why he was so important to me, that's why he was at my wedding..."

He trusted Monk "infinitely," he adds.

While all this personal history goes on, some jurors react. One looks extremely annoyed by the testimony. Another has her hand on her chin, still engrossed. One is "resting" her eyes.

And one lone juror is taking copious notes. Still.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki and Abdon M. Pallasch

Rod Blagojevich's testimony continues, bordering at times on the absurd. He's diving into his love for history and his post-grad life.

"I had a man-crush on Alexander Hamilton," says Blagojevich, who has a well-known tendency to talk history. He's talking about everything from his Shakespeare class to his poor performance on the LSAT -- he was under the 50th percentile both times he took the test to get into law school, he said.

He talked about his Serbian name, Milorad, which means "happy worker" (his brother's means "God's gift").

He recalls his days as a college student and just after: "Those were the days when your hairbrush was an extension of your hand."

He keeps looking at the jury as he's talking, trying to work them. He's not getting much back.

Blagojevich continues to go off an tangents "just as an aside," but the testimony is mostly moving chronologically through his education.

"Do you want to ask the questions?" he says to defense lawyer Aaron Goldstein after talking for quite a few minutes, as prosecutor Reid Schar's eyebrow raises, seemingly in agreement. "I'm sorry."

Reporting with Natasha Korecki and Abdon M. Pallasch

On his first morning of testimony, Rod Blagojevich says he'll get into talking about his tapes later. But he took a moment to apologize for the profanity on the tapes, saying his teenage daughter told him this morning to watch his language when she wished him good luck on the stand.

"When I hear myself saying that on tape, I'm an effin' jerk, and I apologize," he said. "It makes you wince."

He added that when he transferred to Northwestern University for his final two years of college he was insecure, an insecurity that he testified could at times be a "tremendous flaw."

"I always felt that these kids at Northwestern, they came from wealthier families, they came from better schools, I always felt a little intimidated that they were a lot smarter than me," he said. "I was afraid that I wouldn't measure up to the other kids."

He adds that he was in the "age of polyester" at Northwestern and the other students were walking around in khakis and shirts with alligators on them.

"It was right out of Saturday Night Fever," he said. "You are what you are, but I started wearing less polyester."

Reporting with Natasha Korecki and Abdon M. Pallasch

Rod Blagojevich's biographical testimony continues with an in-depth look at how his Serbian immigrant father influenced him.

"He came to this whole new place and had to start over," Blagojevich told his defense lawyer Aaron Goldstein. "For better or worse, I think I picked up my dad's propensity to dream."

It seems like Blagojevich is trying to draw a parallel between himself and his father, who fought the Nazis in World War II. He said his dad didn't take other people's advice.

"Listening to the advice of someone is a mixed blessing, as I certainly have learned," Blagojevich said, perhaps implying that as governor, his advisers led him astray. It's a defense alluded to several times during cross-examination of government witnesses.

Blagojevich appears to choke up when he tells Goldstein his parents have both passed away.

"I've always felt, always felt that my parents ... helped me from heaven, just sort of helped guide me," he said, pointing up.

He describes a moment when he "thought politics was a safe profession," earning a big smile from a juror.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki and Abdon M. Pallasch

Rod Blagojevich is on the stand and defense lawyer Aaron Goldstein is starting off with Blagojevich's life history. He's laying it on thick.

When asking where Blagojevich grew up, Goldstein corrected himself. "I think I misspoke," he said. "I said house. Did you grow up in a house?"

"No," Blagojevich answered; he grew up in an apartment.

Goldstein first asked his client to introduce himself to the jury.

"I used to be your governor," Blagojevich said, "and I'm here today to tell you the truth."

The courtroom seems puzzled by all the back-and-forth, which has covered topics ranging from Little League, Blagojevich's childhood job as a shoe-shiner, his hoop dreams to his family. The first piece of evidence published by the defense is a picture of Blagojevich's family, where a young Blagojevich, head full of hair, stands next to his older brother Robert who is wearing a checkered jacket.

Jurors seem engrossed in Blagojevich's testimony, staring at Blagojevich without smiling despite the former governor's apparent attempts at jokes.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki and Abdon M. Pallasch

Former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich was sworn in to testify at his retrial moments ago.

When he was called, he stood up, buttoned his jacket, walked over to his wife Patti and kissed her on the head.

After promising to testify in his first trial, Blagojevich rested his defense without calling any witnesses. This time, he made no promises. But defense lawyer Sheldon Sorosky said yesterday he was prepared to take the stand.

Since last week, those close to Blagojevich have said he's been preparing to take the stand. His preparation continued over the weekend and has been more extensive this trial than the last.

Defense lawyer Aaron Goldstein will question his client, while prosecutor Reid Schar will question him once the defense is finished. Last week, Sorosky guessed Blagojevich could be on the stand for a week in total.

Before the jury was called in, Blagojevich, with lots of sighs, sat looking a bit restless at the defense table, moving around unsmiling.

Lawyers spent Wednesday afternoon hashing out what tapes they may play in open court to help their defense. But Judge James Zagel said unless Blagojevich takes the stand, they couldn't introduce most of them.

"What the jury will have is the real person sitting in the witness chair," he said. "Someone who is perfectly capable of speaking for himself."

Reporting with Lark Turner

Rod Blagojevich's lawyers said today they want a mistrial based on Jesse Jackson Jr.'s testimony yesterday.

In a nutshell:

"At sidebar, defense counsel obtained a preliminary ruling from the Court regarding what would open the door to the comment Jackson claims was made by Blagojevich at the Illinois delegation trip in 2003. It was, and is, the defense's position that this claim by Jackson is unduly prejudicial and not relevant to this trial."

The motion says the defense knew about Jackson's allegation and that they didn't make a mistake in putting Jackson on the stand.

"The only decision by the defense that, in retrospect, may have been unwise was to trust the government to abide by the rules and play fair, and to trust that this Court would hold the government to the same standard as the defense," they wrote.

It's the second time the defense has filed for mistrial this week. On Monday, they asked Zagel for a mistrial because of all the objections to their cross-examination of government witnesses. Even as they launched their defense Wednesday, they asked Zagel to acquit Blagojevich of all charges against him.

Lawyer: Blagojevich to take the stand today

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Reporting with Lark Turner

The day may have finally come.

Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who for years has maintained his innocence and insisted he's wanted to testify to it under oath, is set to take the witness stand this morning, according to his lawyer.

"He's prepared to testify tomorrow," lawyer Sheldon Sorosky said late Wednesday.

Those close to Blagojevich had said since last week that the former governor had been prepping to take the stand. His preparation continued over the weekend and has been more extensive this trial than the last.

But Blagojevich backed out at the last minute last trial.

This time, things are different. The prosecution put on a more slimmed down case, but it was more focused.

It didn't help that one of the defense's own witnesses on Wednesday turned around and accused Blagojevich of trying to shake him down. Nor did it help that U.S. District Judge James Zagel refused to allow the defense to play most tapes unless Blagojevich took the stand.

Up today

Sorosky says Blagojevich will take the stand in the morning, likely starting off with some biographical testimony, then perhaps moving to the allegations involving Rahm Emanuel and a school grant. He suggested that there could be more discussions involving tapes in the afternoon and that jurors could be sent home early.

Attorney Aaron Goldstein will question Blagojevich on direct examination. Assistant U.S. Attorney Reid Schar is expected to question Blagojevich on cross examination, which isn't likely to happen until next week.

Reporting with Lark Turner

At a hearing this afternoon, lawyers are discussing possible tapes to play if Rod Blagojevich takes the witness stand.

Since last week, those close to Blagojevich say he's prepared to take the stand and will indeed take it.

This afternoon, defense lawyers were struggling to get in tapes to support a theory that Blagojevich was really about to appoint Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to President Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat.

"This is a red herring," said U.S. District Judge James Zagel. "This deal is a phantom and it remains a phantom ... You keep referring to 'it's the Madigan deal' when it's quite clear there is no Madigan deal."

Zagel scoffed at the deal, saying as far as he knew, it couldn't be true because no one on the other side of the deal knew about it.

Zagel later said he wanted a clear story from Blagojevich: "Not this single, disembodied voice on a telephone that's rarely, if ever, making a decision."

Reporting with Lark Turner


Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich stopped to give a rebuttal to his own defense witness on his way out of the courthouse moments ago.

"With regard to that other thing about Elvis, all I can tell you is that it's absurd, it's not true, it didn't happen," Blagojevich said of U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. testifying this morning that Blagojevich once tried extorting him for $25,000 in exchange for an offer to appoint Jackson's wife, Sandi, to the Illinois Lottery.

Blagojevich, though, held up other statements by Jackson as accurate.

That included Jackson's testimony that the two of them never discussed fund-raising in late 2008 as Jackson sought the Senate seat appointment.

"That was exactly right and that is accurate," Blagojevich said. "Goes to the heart of how I never asked for campaign funds in exchange for the Senate seat."

Court is still in session, with attorneys hashing out recordings. But Blagojevich has left for the day.

Blagojevich retrial: Waiting, waiting

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Supposed to be back at 2 p.m. But nothing public has yet happened.

Rod Blagojevich's defense team filed a motion Wednesday asking that their client be acquitted on all counts against him even as they prepared to launch their defense. That defense called high-profile witnesses Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. to the stand.

"The government has established through its case-in-chief that the purported conversations to which its witnesses testified amount to nothing more than 'hot air,'" defense lawyers state in the motion.

The filing adds that the "parade of government witnesses" didn't prove any crime and that "ideas bounced around" in wiretaps were just that -- ideas..

"...The very most that could be found is that the government may have put in evidence of an attempt to attempt," the filing stated. "That is not a crime."

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

After zipping through just a few minutes of questioning Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the court has suspended until 2 p.m.

No more witnesses are expected today. Instead, prosecutors and defense attorneys will spend the afternoon hashing out legal issues and debating which tapes the defense can play before jurors.

In a statement from Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.'s lawyer Reid Weingarten, the congressman said he had "strong feelings" about Rod Blagojevich's trial, but wouldn't elaborate.

"As you can imagine, I have many strong feelings about this entire matter," Jackson says in the statement. "My strongest feeling, however, is respect for our judicial system. Therefore, I will have no further comment about the case or how it has affected me until there is a verdict."

After testifying that no one ever asked him for anything in exchange for his request to get Valerie Jarrett appointed senator, Emanuel was dismissed as a witness. Prosecutors asked no questions.

Emanuel talks Chicago Academy at Blagojevich trial

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By Abdon M. Pallasch and Natasha Korecki

Defense lawyer Sheldon Sorosky asked Mayor Rahm Emanuel if his job title of "Mayor of Chicago" was recent.

"Unless your subscription to the newspapers ended recently, yes," Emanuel said to laughter.

Emanuel was asked if anyone ever told himself or his brother to host a fundraiser in exchange for the governor handing over promised grant funds to a school in Emanuel's district. Prosecutors allege that Blagojevich held up the grant to the Chicago Academy intentionally to get Emanuel's brother to raise funds.

"No," Emanuel said.

(Bit more color from Jackson testimony: Jackson sported an angry, vengeful look when he repeatedly snapped his fingers, mocking Rod Blagojevich's Elvis routine.

Blagojevich flushed, shaking his head, looking amazed. He smiled slightly, shaking his head. He looks uncomfortable, shifting in his chair, mouth agape.)

Emanuel takes the stand

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel is taking the stand

Jackson: Blagojevich's alleged Elvis shakedown

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By Abdon M. Pallasch and Natasha Korecki

On cross-examination by prosecutors, Jackson said he was not "on speaking terms" with Blagojevich as he publicly campaigned for the appointment.

"I had no relationship with the defendant whatsoever -- frosty at best," Jackson said.

The two met as fellow congressmen. Jackson initially was going to endorse Blagojevich for governor but did not endorse him in the primary. He did endorse him in the general election.

Former Congressman Bill Lipinski approached Jackson and asked him to donate to Blagojevich's campaign.

"He said Democrats had not had control of the governor's office in 30 years," Jackson said. "He asked for $25,000" for Blagojevich's campaign.

"Did you agree to make a contribution?" Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Niewoehner asked.

"No chance," Jackson replied.

Blagojevich and Mayor Daley came to Washington, D.C. for a visit after the election and Blagojevich approached Jackson, saying, "Let bygones be bygones," Jackson said.

Jackson told Blagojevich that his wife, Sandi Jackson, was interested in working for Blagojevich's administration, Jackson testified.

"I was told to get her resume to Tony Rezko," Jackson said. "I hand-delivered it myself."

"My wife and I were sitting in the living room, watching the governor of the state of Illinois announcing the new director of the Illlinois Lottery, and it was not my wife," Jackson said.

The next time he saw Blagojevich, Jackson said, "I walked in the room and there was a chill in the air. I could see in his face, he wasn't going to be able to do anything for Sandy. The governor came up to me and said, 'I'm sorry the thing with Sandy didn't work out.' I said, 'Not a big deal.'"

Then Jackson dropped the punchline:

"In classic Elvis Presley fashion, he snapped his fingers and said, 'You should have given me that $25,000,' " Jackson testified.

Jackson later put on his best "thank you very much" Elvis rendition to further explain Blagojevich's demeanor.

Prosecutors asked Jackson what he thought Blagojevich meant:

"It became clear to me the governor of the state of Illinois was trading..." Jackson said until he was interrupted by an objection from Blagojevich's attorney.

Prosecutors asked if Jackson took that to mean his failure to contribute cost his wife the appointment.

"That certainly was a factor in the consideration," Jackson said.

By Abdon M. Pallasch and Natasha Korecki

Jackson testified that Blagojevich hinted he did not appoint Jackson's wife as Illinois Lottery Director because Jackson did not donate $25,000 to Blagojevich's campaign for governor.

After apologizing for not giving his wife the post, Blagojevich, "In classic Elvis Presley fashion, he snapped his fingers and said, 'You should have given me that $25,000," Jackson testified.

By Natasha Korecki and Abdon M. Pallasch

Under oath, Jackson says "No I did not" direct or order anyone to offer Rod Blagojevich fund-raising in exchange for appointing him senator.

"I never directed anyone to raise money for another politician in my life, other than myself, in 16 years," Jackson testified.

Jackson started by talking about the steps he took to try to get Blagojevich to appoint him senator.

He walked into the courtroom unsmiling, biting his lower lip. Asked to identify Blagojevich, Jackson smiled and pointed, saying "the guy in the gray suit over there." Blagojevich waved.

He is sitting up straight and testifying very formally.

"I met with editorial boards across the state, instituted a letter-writing campaign of very prominent people to urge him to appoint me. ... Some local newspapers wrote articles telling me to slow down my self-advocacy," Jackson said.

Jackson recalled the half-hour meeting he held with Blagojevich and Blagojevich's chief of staff John Harris at which he made his pitch for Blagojevich to appoint him senator.

"No I did not" offer any fund-raising in exchange for the appointment, Jackson said.

Jackson produced the binder he brought with him to that meeting, showing what he thought were all his attributes that he felt warranted his appointment as senator.

By Abdon M. Pallasch and Natasha Korecki

Judge James Zagel has ruled that both Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Chicago, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel may testify today, though he warned Blagojevich's attorneys not to elicit inadmissible testimony.

Rod Blagojevich walked into Zagel's courtroom at about 9:45 a.m. He walked over and to a staffer for Jackson, smiled and shook hands.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is also "on-call" and prepared to testify.

Jackson "will testify that he never offered or directed anyone to offer any campaign contributions in exchange for the senate seat," Blagojevich attorney Aaron Goldstein said.

Jackson will testify that the two met, Jackson told Blagojevich why he would make a good senator, the two apologized for having a "bad relationship" with each other, Goldstein said.

"Fund-raising was never brought up, never offered, no offers of 'quid pro quos,' " Goldstein said.

Emanuel will testify he was never made aware of any alleged attempt by Blagojevich to get Emanuel or his brother to hold a fund-raiser in exchange for releasing funds for a high school football field, Blagojevich attorney Sheldon Sorosky said.

Emanuel likewise will testify he was not aware of any request he set up a non-profit group for rich people to fund for a Blagojevich job, Sorosky said.

Emanuel will testify that he held a meeting with Sen. Dick Durbin and David Axelrod about brokering a peace deal between Blagojevich and House Speaker Mike Madigan to pave the way for Blagojevich to appoint Madigan's daughter, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, as senator, Sorosky said.


U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. arrived in federal court this morning in preparation for testifying as a defense witness in Rod Blagojevich's retrial.

He's said to be the first witness the defense will call this morning.

Jackson arrived in the courthouse at around 8 a.m.

By Natasha Korecki

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. are expected to be called as witnesses as Rod Blagojevich launches his defense case Wednesday, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

Sources said Tuesday that the most recent game plan was to call the two sitting politicians -- both of whom were contacted by the defense team late last week about testifying this week.

The two remained under defense subpoena since the ex-governor's first trial last summer.

In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times in April, Blagojevich said "in all likelihood" his attorneys would call Emanuel and Jackson to testify.

Blagojevich wants to explore discussions Emanuel had regarding a potential deal to name Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to the U.S. Senate seat. He also expects both Jackson and Emanuel would deny there were any illicit discussions involving allegations that Blagojevich tried selling President Barack Obama's Senate seat.

Emanuel, who was President-elect Obama's incoming chief of staff when Blagojevich was allegedly looking to sell Obama's Senate seat, said Monday he was prepared to testify.

"I'm ready, if asked, to answer questions, as I was in the first trial," he said.

Blagojevich's defense never called any witnesses during the first trial, which ended with Blagojevich being convicted of lying to the FBI, the least severe count lodged against him. The jury deadlocked on the 23 other counts, leading to the current re-trial.

Sources said Tuesday that Blagojevich was preparing to take the stand after other witnesses. Lawyers and the judge must still hash out which recordings would be played during Blagojevich's testimony.

Lawyers are expected to discuss that in a Wednesday afternoon court hearing.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel changed his tune Monday when he was asked whether he'd be called to testify by Rod Blagojevich's defense.

"As you know -- as I've said before -- I'm ready, if asked, to answer questions, as I was in the first trial. . . . In this trial, I'll answer questions, if asked to," Emanuel said.

When asked if he was planning to testify last week, Emanuel simply replied "not to my knowledge."

Sun-Times reporter Fran Spielman has the full story here.

Blagojevich's defense lawyer Sheldon Sorosky said on his way out of the courthouse Monday that Emanuel and U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. are "under consideration" to be called as witnesses in the case. Sorosky didn't mention anyone else by name.

Sorosky last week left open the possibility that Blagojevich himself will take the stand in the case.

Lawyers for Rod Blagojevich filed for mistrial Monday, claiming that the hundreds of sustained objections from U.S. District Judge James Zagel have "impermissibly shifted the burden of proof in this case to unconstitutionally force the defense to put on evidence," according to the filing.

"The presumption of innocence has been decimated," defense lawyers wrote.

Zagel didn't rule on the motion Monday morning, putting it aside so the prosecution and defense could argue over a list of instructions to help the jury decide Blagojevich's fate. Those discussions lasted all morning and continue this afternoon.

Still no word on what defense, forced or not, Blagojevich's lawyers are planning to mount starting Wednesday morning. But lawyers have said they'll call "prominent" witnesses to the stand.

Rod Blagojevich's trial will not happen Monday and Tuesday of next week, afterall. The defense had flagged that the witnesses they want to call are people of "some prominence" and faced scheduling issues.

Initially, Judge James Zagel told the defense to get going Monday anyway.

That apparently changed today.

The Clerk of Court just issued this statement: No trial will be held in the Blagojevich matter on Monday and Tuesday, May 23 and 24. Trial will resume on Wednesday, May 25 at 9:30 a.m.

Rod Blagojevich's lawyer Sheldon Sorosky addressed reporters after a brief hearing Friday as the defense prepares to call witnesses next week.


Rod Blagojevich's defense team will be calling witnesses who were subpoenaed in the last trial and "whose names you have heard," defense lawyer Sheldon Sorosky said Friday morning. He gave no hints as to who those prominent people might be.

Sorosky said earlier there's about 10 potential witnesses on the defense's list. He left open the possibility that Blagojevich will testify.

"In theory, we'll have witnesses to testify on Monday if we could get these witnesses in, because they're all prominent people and have difficult schedules," he said after a court hearing Friday morning where most of the discussion took place in sidebars with U.S. District Judge James Zagel. "Everyone has schedules, and undoubtedly I believe most of these witnesses and their lawyers thought the government case would go longer than it did."

The prosecution and defense also briefly touched on potential jury instructions in the hearing, which they'll discuss in depth on Monday. Though the defense team said yesterday their case could take about three days, Sorosky acknowledged it could be longer.

He briefly discussed strategy, saying that unlike the prosecution, the defense has a harder time putting in tapes because what they elect to play has to get at Blagojevich's intentions or 'state of mind.'

"We cannot cherrypick and say, 'hey, that's a great tape,'" he said. Sorosky chalks up Blagojevich's conversations to unremarkable political posturing. "The fundamental real defense here is, this is not a crime."

With the prosecution's case wrapped up, the defense will be asking Zagel to drop some of the charges in the prosecution's indictment of Blagojevich.

"There were a number of topics in the indictment that the government never mentioned, and our hope would be that the judge would dismiss those, but that has yet to be decided by the judge," Sorosky said.


Lark Turner Reporting

Rod Blagojevich's lawyers were in court today to talk about potential witnesses at trial next week. Defense lawyer Sheldon Sorosky said today the defense has about 10 potential witnesses on its list.

Lawyers have been in a closed sidebar much of the hearing.

Defense lawyers want to bring in some of their own phone calls, not surprising given Blagojevich's repeated mantra that he wants more tapes played.

There's a chance the defense won't get going Monday because of a potential scheduling issue. The defense is saying it will reveal more of their witnesses to the prosecution late Monday or early Tuesday. There is no court Tuesday next week.

There's also been talk about discussing jury instructions in court on Monday, which could eat up a couple of hours.

Today, the prosecution filed its proposed jury instructions. There's 61 of them. There's also a sample verdict form in the document: Click here

Reporting with Lark Turner

Minutes after the prosecution rested, Rod Blagojevich attorney Sheldon Sorosky asked if the defense could begin its case next Wednesday instead of Monday.

The reason: "A number of these witnesses are people of some prominence and activities," Sorosky said without disclosing who they were. Sorosky said he believes the defense case could take just three days.

Judge James Zagel denied the request, saying the case will resume Monday.

Rahm Emanuel was asked Thursday if he or his attorney had been contacted by the Blagojevich defense team about testifying, Emanuel said: "Not to my knowledge."

Prosecutor Reid Schar said the prosecution could protest some defense witnesses but wouldn't fight the defense recalling any government witness.



In a remarkably slimmed down case, federal prosecutors rested this afternoon in the retrial of former governor Rod Blagojevich.

The prosecution, which had publicly estimated it would take five weeks to put on a case, rested after just 11 days of witness testimony.

After hearing from jurors in Blagojevich's first trial, prosecutors reordered witnesses and cut down their testimony considerably. They also eliminated some witnesses all together.

The prosecution ended safely, with Special Agent FBI Dan Cain on the witness stand. They ended not with a spectacular, expletive-laced recording, but with a video of Blagojevich taking his oath of office as governor.
"I will fully discharge the duties of the office of Governor to the best of my ability," Blagojevich says.

The defense opted not to begin its case today. Attorney Sheldon Sorosky said the defense case would take three days.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Rod Blagojevich's former deputy governor Bradley Tusk testified the then-governor told him he was holding up a grant to a Chicago school because he was waiting for then-congressman Rahm Emanuel's brother to hold a fundraiser.

"Congressman Emanuel was upset that the funding had not been released and wanted it to be released," Tusk said in brief testimony. But when he called Blagojevich to find out what the problem was, he testified Blagojevich told him "something to the effect that the grant would not be released unless the congressman's brother held a fundraiser for him first."

"I got off the phone as quickly as I could," Tusk said. He didn't relay the message to Emanuel.

To the jurors' credit, at least six women with front-row seats are spending this morning's at-times dry testimony taking copious notes. When defense lawyer Sheldon Sorosky steps up to cross-examine Tusk, it looks like jurors have a mixture of amusement and annoyance as the 'Sorosky show' ensues.

That includes a lot of back-and-forth between Sorosky and U.S. District Judge James Zagel, who continues to berate Sorosky for making an argument through his questioning.

"Don't do this. Ask the questions, get the answers, don't make a speech," he said, later adding: "If you're done with the cross-examination, just sit down, because this is your closing argument."

Zagel, for the first time, slipped in front of the jury and told Sorosky if he wanted to ask certain questions he could call Tusk in the defense's case. The defense has no obligation to put on a case.

Tusk's testimony has finished up and the prosecutors are edging close to their case's end. They will call Doug Scofield for a follow-up and will bookend their case with testimony from FBI special agent Daniel Cain, who opened testimony.

The defense has yet to say if they'll put on a case or call Blagojevich to testify.The legal teams were pulled into a sidebar with Zagel after Tusk stepped down and are now in two separate groups in the courtroom, with the defense pow-wowwing in a far corner and prosecutors conversing a few feet away.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

After an alleged shakedown victim said he waited for months to receive payments to build an athletic field at a local school, defense attorney Elliott Riebman wanted to know if he wrote Rod Blagojevich a thank you note.

Donald Feinstein, executive director of the Academy for Urban School Leadership, took the stand this morning to testify about a state grant to AUSL allegedly held up by Blagojevich; prosecutors say the ex-governor was trying to leverage fundraising help from then-congressman Rahm Emanuel. The school was in Emanuel's congressional district.

Feinstein testified that the government stalled on giving the school a promised $2 million grant and eventually meted out smaller payments throughout the fall; he said he didn't know what the hold up was. After he got the payments, Riebman asked Feinstein if he wrote Blagojevich a thank you note.

"I'm sure he wrote a thank you note," cut in Zagel. Feinstein said he probably did.

"It'd probably be proper protocol and etiquette to do so," he said.

Next up: Former deputy governor Bradley Tusk, who prosecutors will use to back up the claim that Blagojevich was shaking down Emanuel.


Up today: Prosecution says it'll rest its case, possibly before lunch.
But first, we must hear from:

1. Former Deputy Gov. Bradley Tusk, who will testify about a shakedown allegation involving a school in Rahm Emanuel's district when he was congressman.
2. Donald Feinstein, the executive director for that school, the Academy for Urban School Leadership.
3. Doug Scofield, who will be recalled briefly for a few follow-up questions.
4. FBI special Agent Daniel Cain.

Defense:

Judge James Zagel will give the defense until Monday to begin. There's much flying about what the defense may or may not do. Blagojevich has been prepping to testify since before the trial began, including by mock cross examination from different lawyers. But sources cautioned that discussions could take a sharp turn at any time. Indeed, Blagojevich attorneys were huddling on Wednesday night after court.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Prosecutors trying former governor Rod Blagojevich plan to rest their case tomorrow, they told U.S. District Judge James Zagel after court Wednesday.

The prosecution sliced out huge portions from its case in this retrial, with testimony stretching across fewer than three weeks. Since last week, prosecutors had been dropping hints that they could wrap up by week's end.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Reid Schar said only a handful of witnesses are left in the case and they will take less than an hour and a half on direct examination. Blagojevich lawyer Shelly Sorosky said he doesn't expect long questioning by the defense.

The prosecution finished up with witness John Johnston, a racetrack owner, this afternoon. They told Zagel that tomorrow they plan to call Donald Feinstein, the executive director of the Academy for Urban School Leadership; Bradley Tusk, Blagojevich's one-time deputy governor; FBI special agent Dan Cain; and maybe consultant Doug Scofield, to briefly ask him a few follow-up questions.

Zagel said he thinks it's "extremely unlikely" that the Blagojevich defense will not put on a case; however, they haven't definitively said if they'll call any witnesses. Their case, if any, will start on Monday.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Whew. Rod Blagojevich's one-time close friend and former chief of staff Lon Monk is off the stand, and the courtroom was full of relieved sighs and stretches all around when defense lawyer Sheldon Sorosky told the judge he had no more questions.

Sorosky finished up his questioning by bringing up Monk's guilty plea - though he seemed to have some trouble remembering what exactly Monk pled guilty to. Prosecutor Christopher Niewoehner helped him out, standing up and whispering in his ear.

"....Conspiracy to solicit a bribe," Sorosky finished. "However, you did NOT plead guilty" to taking cash from Tony Rezko, he added.

Sorosky was cut off from saying that, but not before a juror who works as a nutritionist grew wide-eyed and shot a glance at a fellow juror.

The prosecution's follow-up focused on who told Monk to talk to racetrack executive John Johnston and construction consultant Gerald Krozel about donating to the campaign while they waited on certain legislation. "Rod," Monk answers.

"Who was gonna benefit from that contribution?" asks Niewoehner.

"The governor," Monk responds.

Meanwhile, Blagojevich looks from the prosecutor to Monk like it's a tennis match, brows furrowed.

In a session with Monk withiout the jury, where both sides asked him questions so Zagel could see if they were admissible in court, the judge finally stepped in and asked Monk a couple of questions of his own.

"Am I correct that your understanding of the governor's conversation with respect to Johnston was that Johnston should understand, even if you did not explicitly say this to him, that a prompter signing of the Recapture Bill would be influenced by the giving and the size of contribution?" Zagel asked.

"Yes," Monk responded.

"Did you think that this was both proper and legal for you to do?" asks Zagel.

"No," Monk said.

Zagel said he won't allow any of the questioning outside the presence of the jury to be asked in open court.

The prosecution will call Johnston next.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

After having to repeatedly object as defense lawyers questioned key witness Lon Monk this morning, the prosecution has had enough.

"Judge, we've been paying attention," prosecutor Reid Schar told U.S. District Judge James Zagel before the jury re-entered the courtroom after lunch. "There are certain jurors who are actually writing down his questions."

Zagel spent the morning repeatedly blocking Monk's answers because he said the questions were out of bounds, not factual, in violation of his rulings or outside the scope of the prosecution's direct examination.

Schar added that, to defense lawyer Sheldon Sorosky's credit, the method may be working: the jurors could be considering the questions even though Monk hasn't answered them.

Schar said the prosecution doesn't like cutting off lawyers but doesn't feel like Sorosky's questions should be heard by the jury. He called this position "impossible" for prosecutors and asked the judge to instruct jurors, for the second time, that questions by lawyers aren't evidence and they can't consider them. He also asked Zagel to tell jurors that they can't consider all the sustained objections Sorosky's piling up.

"What you're doing is, you're making this argument in the form of questions, and you've done it persistently and you did it in the last trial, so I'm going to give this instruction," Zagel told defense lawyers. "This is an abusive cross-examination."

If Sorosky continues, Zagel said he'll cut him off --- but added that he'll excuse the jurors first so he doesn't embarrass the lawyers in front of them. Sorosky asks if he can just make a comment on Zagel's ruling; the judge swiftly replied, "No."

"I don't want to hear you speak about it," he said. "I want to see you follow it."

After that thumping, Sorosky walked back to the defense table and handed Rod Blagojevich a copy of his question sheet. After Zagel issued the instruction to the jury to disregard questions and objections, Monk is back on the stand and Sorosky is once again racking up objections.

The courtroom can't help but laugh as Sorosky struggles. Even Monk smiled at one point as he waited for Sorosky to phrase a successful question.

Longtime Blagojevich pal Lon Monk endures a sometimes tough, sometimes comical cross examination this morning, where he's getting hammered for betraying his onetime close friend and for taking cash bribes from Tony Rezko.

At first, attorney Shelly Sorosky tries weaving in some of Blagojevich's political and personal history through his questions, probing Monk about how the two first met in law school in California, how Monk was part of Blagojevich's wedding party.
"Is it fair to say you were the rich kid from southern California and he was the poor kid from the Northwest Side?" Sorosky asked. Sustained.
"Your mother wasn't a CTA ticket agent was she?"
Sustained.

Sorosky manages to get in that Mayor Daley endorsed Blagojevich in his early political years and Blagojevich won his political success without too much help of Monk.
"He was a congressman and you're still trying to hustle contracts ... right?"

Then he turned to talk of Rezko, with Sorosky trying to tie the timing of Rezko's legal woes to Monk beginning to take money from Rezko, implying that it was somehow hush money as a federal investigation ramped up against the North Shore businessman.

Monk, while Blagojevich's chief of staff, has testified he took $70,000 to $90,000 in secret cash from Rezko.
"You start receiving this cash from Mr. Rezko at the same time these controversies began?" Sorosky asked.
Monk: "They started a little bit after that."

Monk said he spent some of the cash to buy groceries.
"Did you not eat before you got this money?"
Sustained.

Monk said he went in to talk to FBI agents back in 2005 where he didn't tell them about taking cash from Rezko.
"You lied to the FBI right?" Sorosky asked.
Pause. "Yes," Monk replies.
He later was campaign manager for Blagojevich, pulling in $20,000 a month, he said.

Monk admitted he kept the cash secret from even Blagojevich.
"He wouldn't have approved of the method in which I was getting the money," Monk said.

Reporting with Lark Turner

In Lon Monk's afternoon testimony, prosecutors worked to crystallize one of the charges against Rod Blagojevich: that he was shaking down a racetrack executive for campaign money.

Monk said he met with Blagojevich in his campaign office where the two engaged in a dress rehearsal of shaking down harness racetrack owner Johnny Johnston. Prosecutors contend Blagojevich was putting off signing a bill to benefit Johnston's two racetracks as he awaited Johnston to kick into his campaign fund.

Prosecutor Christopher Niewoehner: "Did you decide to help the defendant get his contribution in exchange for no longer delaying signing the bill?"
"Yes," Monk said.
"Did you go meet with Johnston to go make that happen?"
"Yes," said Monk.

Niewoehner punctuated those two questions, largely to emphasize to jurors that Monk and Blagojevich did more than just talk about the alleged scheme. Under Blagojevich's directive, Monk drove to the Melrose Park track and asked Johnston to make the contribution.

Minutes after leaving Johnston, Monk is back on the phone with Blagojevich. He's heard relaying what happened in their meeting.
"My point is, it's all got to be in, now," Monk tells Blagojevich that he said to Johnston.

Monk and Blagojevich later spoke again about staying on Johnston for a contribution.

"From a pressure point of view," Monk says on tape, Blagojevich should personally call Johnston.

Reporting with Lark Turner


Rod Blagojevich's running buddy, onetime law school roommate and former chief of staff Lon Monk testified that he took $70,000 to $90,000 in cash payments from fundraiser Tony Rezko.

Monk said he took the money while he worked as chief of staff for Blagojevich and Rezko was a major fund-raiser.

Before his 2008 conviction, Rezko was a major political donor, forging ties with numerous politicos, including one Barack Obama.

The cash payments from Rezko started in May of 2004, according to Monk.

"I'd gone to him to recommend a car dealership where I could buy a particular car," Monk said of Rezko. "He gave me that recommendation and at that time told me he wanted to help me buy the car."

Rezko then helped him buy his car. He continued paying Monk about $10,000 in cash on different occasions. Monk did not deposit it because he didn't want anyone seeing large cash deposits in his bank account.

Jurors heard the disclosure after Monk described how he, Blagojevich, fund-raiser Chris Kelly and Rezko were close and had met on occasion to discuss ways to make money off of state business. Monk's testimony was not as detailed as it was in last summer's trial, when he described Rezko at a drawing board describing ways to divvy up potential state deals.

Monk then turned to the time period under a microscope in this trial, the fall of 2008. He described numerous fund-raising meetings with Blagojevich, painting him as increasingly desperate to grow his campaign treasure chest.

"He was consistently concerned about the amount of fund-raising that was going on," Monk said of Blagojevich in 2008. "It was never enough."

In a recent interview, Blagojevich said of all the witnesses who took the stand in his first trial, he'd like to take Monk aside and look him in the eye.

"Why? You needed money, why didn't you ask me?" Blagojevich said of Monk's testimony about taking Rezko payments. "And you know what Lon, I pretty much let you pay yourself whatever you wanted to pay yourself."

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

To the prosecution, he's the ultimate insider; to the defense, he's the ultimate backstabber.

Rod Blagojevich's former close friend and chief of staff Lon Monk has stepped up to testify in Blagojevich's retrial, and the prosecution is diving into allegations about fundraising and shakedowns in the then-governor's administration.

Monk walked into the courtroom without looking at Blagojevich. Jurors might recognize Monk from opening statements, when prosecutors flashed a photo of the two friends together on the day of Blagojevich's wedding. Monk was part of the wedding party.

Today the relationship looks a lot different. As Monk talks, Blagojevich fiddles with his ring, stealing glances at Monk before staring right back down at the table. Prosecutors have already dived into allegations involving a shakedown of new Mayor Rahm Emanuel when he was a congressman and is moving onto Monk and Blagojevich's contact with Tony Rezko, a current inmate convicted of corruption, and Christopher Kelly, a one-time fundraiser and insider who killed himself in 2009 after pleading guilty to fraud charges.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

A clearly emotional Gerald Krozel struggled through the tail-end of questioning by prosecutors, who asked about the morning of Dec. 9, 2008 when FBI agents came knocking.

Krozel said he was scared for his wife, who was suffering from an undiagnosed neurological disorder, couldn't talk or walk and was helpless without him. After agents showed up at his house 15 minutes after arresting then-governor Rod Blagojevich, Krozel said he was sure they were going to arrest him, too.

"I thought they were coming to take me away," Krozel said, looking emotional and misty-eyed after describing his wife's condition.

He said he lied to the FBI that morning and told agents he hadn't felt pressure to donate to Blagojevich in exchange for the governor passing a $6 billion tollway bill.

Prosecutors are trying to show that Krozel, who is testifying with immunity - meaning he can't get in trouble for anything he says on the stand - has good reason to avoid lying. The only way Krozel could be charged is if he lies during questioning.

Defense lawyer Aaron Goldstein jumped on Krozel's description of the FBI's first questioning.

"You were frightened of the FBI?" he asked a few different times. After answering "yes" more than once, Krozel answered firmly: "I was terrified."

Goldstein's objection-laded questioning has Zagel's hand firmly planted on his forehead at times.

After the defense finished up cross-examining John Wyma Monday morning, the prosecution called up Children's Memorial Hospital CEO Patrick Magoon to delve into allegations of a shakedown for campaign contributions and moved onto current witness, construction consultant Gerald Krozel.

Prosecution: An increasingly desperate Rod Blagojevich used legislation as leverage to try and squeeze campaign contributions out of Magoon and Krozel.

Defense: Magoon earned more than $600,000 a year and had given to politicians in the past. The hospital had plenty of cash on hand even as it wanted a rate increase for its doctors treating Medicaid patients.

Up next: The prosecution will call up Blagojevich's groomsman and former top aide Lon Monk after Krozel steps down, and may even get to racetrack executive John Johnston before Tuesday's end.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

The prosecution closed out the day with questioning of Gerry Krozel, a consultant for the construction industry. Krozel took the stand to discuss alleged shakedowns of the construction industry in exchange for Blagojevich approving a $6 billion tollway bill.

Krozel, testifying under an immunity agreement with the government, said prior to 2006 he helped raise significant amounts of money for the governor each year, climbing into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. But in 2006, that money stopped when word spread of a possible investigation into the governor's administration. Krozel started to explain this but Zagel disallowed it.

In 2008 Krozel said he was rather unwillingly called to a meeting with Blagojevich and some of his associates at Friends of Blagojevich headquarters. Krozel said Blagojevich told him he was publicly announcing a $1.8 billion tollway plan and had another, in the amount of $6 billion, on deck to go into effect January 1. But first, Krozel said he understood Blagojevich wanted him to raise some money for campaign coffers.

"I felt there was a connection between the two," Krozel said. "If I couldn't raise money, there wouldn't be a tollway bill."

A pending ethics bill that went into effect January 1 dictated that Krozel donate any money to Blagojevich's campaign before it became illegal for companies with government contracts to donate at the beginning of 2009.

Zagel ended court a bit early to talk about why he wouldn't allow any of the questions defense lawyer Aaron Goldstein asked Children's Memorial Hospital CEO Patrick Magoon with the jury out of the room, which included details like Magoon's $600,000+ yearly salary in 2008.

Zagel told the defense they "cratered" in their questioning.

"Are we the meteor or the crater?" Goldstein asked.

"Either one," responded Zagel, adding that the defense had elicited "nothing of conceivable use" to their case.

Reporting with Lark Turner


Rod Blagojevich's defense lawyers are working to dampen the government's portrayal of a Children's Memorial CEO as a victim.

Judge James Zagel allowed Aaron Goldstein to ask the hospital CEO Patrick Magoon a series of questions outside of the jury's presence. Zagel allowed this to see how the witness would answer, so Zagel could rule on whether the questions were out of bounds for the trial.

Goldstein's first question was on compensation.

"My base salary is north of $600,000," Magoon said. Magoon said he couldn't recall what his additional incentive package totaled that year.

Magoon also testified the hospital paid lobbyists. One of them was John Wyma, who just testified that Children's paid him more than $100,000 a year. The defense wants this in front of the jury to show that it was flush with cash at a time when the hospital was seeking state help to give doctors who treat Medicaid patients more money.

In questioning with Goldstein, Magoon said he personally donated to Blagojevich every year, about $500 to $1,000 a year. He also said he sat on the board of the Illinois Hospital Association. The IHA has a PAC (Magoon is not on the PAC board) and Goldstein asked whether the PAC donated more than $100,000 to Blagojevich.
Magoon said he didn't know.

In the end, it didn't make much difference to Zagel.
"I'm excluding all of this," Zagel ruled. He said he'd explain later.

Next up now is the second in the government's victims: road building executive Gerald Krozel.

Reporting with Lark Turner

A different witness is up, but government prosecutors are staying on the same theme: Children's Memorial Hospital.

The hospital's CEO, Patrick Magoon, is now testifying about a pediatric rate increase he sought in the fall of 2008. Prosecutors contend Magoon was shaken down for a campaign contribution after he asked for state help at his institution.

In testimony, Magoon said he reached out to then-Gov. Blagojevich via letter seeking the rate increase and heard nothing back. Blagojevich was in control of the rate increase, which went to doctors who treated Medicaid patients at Children's.

He then asked former Cubs manager Dusty Baker to talk to Blagojevich, a Cubs fan.
That got a response and eventually, Magoon got a call from Blagojevich himself in October of 2008.
Blagojevich told him he'd get the rate increase but he asked him not to make the decision public until after Jan. 1 of the following year.

"Only five days had lapsed," according to Magoon, and he got a second call.
This time it was from Blagojevich's brother, Rob, who also happened to be the head of the Friends of Blagojevich campaign fund.

He asked Magoon to kick in $25,000 to his brother's campaign fund. And he asked that it be done before ... Jan. 1st.

"From my perspective, the two were linked and one, in my point of view, was in exchange for another," Magoon told Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Niewoehner.

Magoon said he told Rob Blagojevich to call him on another line, it was inappropriate conversation at work. But he didn't flag to Rob that he wouldn't contribute.

"That would be tantamount to telling him that his brother were doing something inappropriate or illegal," Magoon said. If he spoke up, Magoon said he feared the rate increase "would not have been approved."

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

In an attempt to paint witness John Wyma as a traitorous friend, defense lawyer Sheldon Sorosky is asking some pointed questions. He's referring to Wyma's agreement to cooperate with the government, ultimately leading to wiretaps against his friend Rod Blagojevich.

"So you elected to be a spy against your friend for the government, didn't you?" asked Sorosky, earning yet another objection from the government.

Judge James Zagel, who has already admonished Sorosky numerous times this morning, issued a warning.

"It looks to me like you're done with this witness, because you've already started with your closing argument," Zagel said. "So finish up."

But Sorosky continued with his questioning, continuing to rack up objections. Wyma's now off the stand and court will continue this afternoon with a new witness: Children's Memorial Hospital CEO Patrick Magoon.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

After defense lawyer Sheldon Sorosky tried to say the government intentionally provoked fear in John Wyma when they issued him a subpoena unrelated to Blagojevich, Judge James Zagel dismissed the jury from the room.

"This is completely irrelevant," Zagel said. "We're taking a break."

Now, turning toward Sorosky, Zagel asked what the defense was trying to prove. Sorosky replied that the government, after issuing a subpoena to Wyma on another issue, spent its first interviews with Wyma discussing Blagojevich instead.

Wyma's cooperation led to a court-issued warrant allowing the first bugs in the case.

"That's a factor that colors his credibility and believability," Sorosky argued.

Zagel replied that it would only possibly be relevant if it were true and if the prosecutors were on trial. Prosecutor Carrie Hamilton protested that Sorosky's version of events was "just wrong," and that the defense knew it. Zagel said the defense could file a complaint with the U.S. Attorney's office if they wanted to.

"With all due respect, Your Honor, I'm not putting the government on trial," Sorosky said.

"Oh yes you are," Zagel replied, his tenor rising. "There is a venue for doing that. It's not this trial and it's not this court. Do not do that again."

A clearly agitated Zagel said the defense was trying to falsely mislead the jury. Dismissing the lawyers for a break, the defense said they'll cross-examine Wyma for at most another half hour.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Diving into John Wyma's testimony about an alleged shakedown of the roadbuilders' industry, defense lawyer Sheldon Sorosky is asking a series of comical questions that try to pin-down the meaning of Rod Blagojevich's expletives.

Wyma testified that Blagojevich told him he wanted campaign contributions from the roadbuilders' industry in exchange for approving a $1.8 billion Illinois Tollway plan. Blagojevich, according to Wyma, said, "If they don't perform, f---- 'em."

Sorosky is asking whether Blagojevich specifically said he would hold up the plan if he didn't get contributions. That, Sorosky is implying, depends on Wyma's interpretation of the phrase, "f--- 'em." Sorosky tried to get Wyma to say that he and Blagojevich were just speaking among friends.

"First of all, 'f--- 'em,' it's a profanity, right?" asks Sorosky, only to be blocked by the prosecution.

He tries again: "Would you agree that 'f--- 'em' as an idiomatic expression?"

Judge James Zagel cut him off.

"Beyond his expertise," Zagel said. "You can call somebody to testify to this."

With that, laughter erupted in the courtroom, including most of the jury box.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Defense lawyer Sheldon Sorosky is doing his best to keep prosecutors shaking their heads and on their feet.

At one point, he tries to show that Children's Memorial Hospital CEO Patrick Magoon was part of the Illinois Hospital Association, a major political fund-raiser. Sorosky wants to show -- through questions to hospital lobbyist John Wyma -- that doctors take part in political fund-raising through the IHA, so it wouldn't be that unusual that Magoon get a fund-raising call from the Blagojevich camp. But prosecutor Carrie Hamilton is still on her feet objecting.

Sorosky has moved onto asking about an alleged shakedown of the Illinois roadbuilders' industry, which prosecutors discussed with Wyma Thursday.

Sorosky is focusing on October 2008 when Wyma began cooperating with the FBI. He attended fund-raising meetings with Blagojevich and others in the ex-governor's inner circle.

In one meeting, Wyma says Blagojevich was discussing a possible $1.8 billion plan to improve the tollway and was going to have his adviser Lon Monk hit up a roadway representative for $500,000.

"If they don't perform," Wyma said Blagojevich told him. "F--- 'em."

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

It's just a few minutes into the defense's cross-examination of lobbyist John Wyma, and things are already heating up in the courtroom.

Defense lawyer Sheldon Sorosky asked Wyma, who was a lobbyist for Children's Memorial Hospital, a series of questions that set off U.S. District Judge James Zagel. Sorosky is asking his questions while looking right at the jury.

Sorosky is asking about a rate increase for doctors at Children's. Deputy governor Robert Greenlee testified last week that Blagojevich told him to hold up the increase. The government alleges Blagojevich was trying to get campaign contributions from the CEO of Children's Memorial Hospital.

"Stop, stop, stop, stop," Zagel told Sorosky, who had just asked Wyma if he "could honestly tell the ladies and gentleman of the jury" if he didn't know if requested money from the Illinois government would go directly to doctors or to the hospital itself. "The form is objectionable."

Sorosky charged ahead: "You realize you're under oath, right?" he asked Wyma. Zagel bristled at that.

"You know, that falls in the category of 'do you speak English,'" the judge said, referencing a question defense lawyer Aaron Goldstein asked Greenlee last week. "You owe a certain degree of civility to the witness."

Sorosky apologized to Wyma. But he is raising prosecutor Carrie Hamilton's ire. Hamilton is on her feet constantly.

"We're here to tell the truth," Sorosky said, irritated, after prosecutors objected to a series of questions he asked about what Wyma might have said to Blagojevich.

"We're all here to tell the truth," Zagel said. "There's a time to say that, and now is not it."

U.S. District Judge James Zagel said this morning that there was "no indication" then-President-elect Obama knew about Blagojevich's alleged attempt to trade the vacant Senate seat for an administrative appointment.

The defense had filed a motion asking the judge to check a transcript of an FBI interview with Obama for any evidence Obama knew about any alleged shakedown. But Zagel denied it.

"There's nothing that indicates he was aware of the asks," Zagel said. "And of course legally it's not necessary that he be aware of the asks."

Zagel said Obama might have had other things on his mind in November and December of 2008.

"In all honesty, it's quite possible that the victim of this was busy with other matters at the time," he said. "So basically, your premise that he was aware of the asks is not supported."

Zagel also denied a defense motion that wanted to prevent prosecutors from giving jurors timelines of conversations supporting each of their allegations. The timelines would be provided to the jurors after closing arguments as they deliberate.

The defense said the timelines were unfair, but Zagel disagreed -- prompting further outcry from the defense.

"Frankly, that's the prosecutors job in closing arguments, and we have very good prosecutors who I'm sure will give very good closing arguments," defense lawyer Sheldon Sorosky said. "I don't think they should be aided by bringing that argument into the jury room."

Zagel ruled that the timelines could be provided but that the government had to change their names, so "Health and Human Services Timeline," for example, would instead be something like "Timeline 1."

The judge was also in rare agreement with the defense against the prosecution in arguments this morning. They wanted to talk to the next witness, Children's Memorial Hospital CEO Patrick Magoon, about why he stopped fielding calls from Robert Blagojevich asking him for contributions.

The prosecution said Magoon talked to his lawyer and then stopped talking the defendant's brother's calls. But Zagel, in agreement with the defense, said bringing in another lawyer implied an outside legal opinion. Instead, prosecutors could say Magoon talked to a member of his staff.

Blagojevich retrial: Day 15 -- Are we nearing the end?

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The prosecution's case continued at a rapid clip last week, with the government trimming witnesses, testimony and tapes.

The government, having re-focused its case squarely on the Senate seat and four other shakedown allegations, has hinted that it could very well wrap up by week's end.

The major witnesses remaining include racetrack owner Johnny Johnston, road building executive Gerry Krozel and Children's Memorial Hospital CEO Patrick Magoon. We're not likely to see onetime national fund-raiser Joe Cari. If Lon Monk takes the stand, sources said, his testimony would be limited compared to the ex-governor's first trial, with his focus on the racetrack shakedown allegation.

Today: John Wyma's testimony continues. He has yet to undergo cross examination.

Rod Blagojevich's onetime close friend and congressional chief of staff John Wyma took the stand this afternoon and launched into testimony involving pay-to-play allegations.

Wyma testified about Blagojevich's alleged attempts to force then-Congressman Rahm Emanuel to hold a fund-raiser (or have his rich brother, Ari, to hold one) in exchange for releasing state funds to a school in Emanuel's district.

Wyma said Blagojevich's request made him so uncomfortable he didn't do it.

Until he did.

"At some point did you make a request of Mr. Emanuel for a fund-raiser?" Assistant U.S. Attorney Carrie Hamilton asked.
"I did," Wyma said. "Months later ... Because the grant issue had been resolved."

Blagojevich eventually relented, according to testimony, and released the money to the school.

"I felt it was wrong to ask him for money while aid was being, kind of, dangled," Wyma said.

Fast-forward to October 2008 when Wyma, now a lobbyist, was slapped with a subpoena involving his clients.

Wyma said that's when he began cooperating with the FBI. He played phone messages for the feds but refused to wear a wire. He attended fund-raising meetings with Blagojevich and others in the ex-governor's inner circle.

That's when Blagojevich described his take on people who wanted to do business with the state.

"If they don't perform," Wyma said Blagojevich told him. "F--- 'em."

Reporting with Lark Turner


Rod Blagojevich's lawyers are making another run at the FBI report of President Obama's Dec. 2008 interview with federal agents in the ex-governor's investigation.

This time, though, they argue that they want to know if Obama knew that Blagojevich was allegedly trying to shake him down. And if he did know, what did he do about it.
They think it's relevant to determine whether Obama believed what Blagjoevich was doing was criminal.

"The instant request seeks different information as to whether or not President Obama ever reported or caused to be reported any of the alleged 'asks' that the government alleges were part of a 'shakedown' of the President," defense lawyers wrote in a court filing.

Union leader Tom Balanoff testified that Obama called him the day before the Nov. 4, 2008 presidential election to give him the green light in discussing Valerie Jarrett's candidacy for the Senate seat with Blagojevich. Blagojevich later asked Balanoff to send word that he wanted a cabinet appointment and subsequently, asked for a foundation to be set up in exchange for Jarrett's appointment.
Balanoff said he told Jarrett about the cabinet appointment request.

"It is essential for the defense to know whether President Obama, subsequent to the alleged 'ask,' reported it to anyone and that he believed this 'ask' to be illegal or improper. The fact that at the time the President-elect was preparing to become the Chief Executive and an arm of the Department of Justice makes Obama's reporting (or lack of reporting) of the alleged 'ask' highly relevant. President-elect Obama presumably had a duty to report it if he believed it to be criminal."

After Blagojevich's Dec. 9, 2008 arrest, federal agents interviewed Jarrett, Rahm Emanuel and Obama, who at the time was President-elect. While prosecutors have turned over to defense lawyers FBI reports of both Emanuel and Jarrett, they haven't given the defense Obama's FBI report. Judge James Zagel, who said he has read the report, has blocked the defense from access.

Reporting with Lark Turner

The morning after the Chicago Tribune outed that FBI recordings were underway of Rod Blagojevich and John Wyma was cooperating, his brother is heard on the phone talking to the Friends of Blagojevich administrative assistant, Chrissy Jacobs.

"Well, I'm freakin' out," Jacobs is heard saying on the Dec. 5, 2008 recorded call. Jacobs worked out of the Ravenswood campaign offices, along with Robert.
"Well, don't," Robert Blagojevich tells her on the call. "I mean it, there's always somethin' new everyday we gotta deal with."

Jacobs says she wants to talk to him about what was going on. He tells her to hold off until they see each other.

"I'd rather do it on the cell where no one can hear us," she says, now with irony, of course, because her words are being broadcast inside a federal courtroom. At the defense table, Rod Blagojevich is smiling.

"Well, I don't know about that," Robert Blagojevich responds. "Um it, we've had the place swept. I'd rather not talk on the phone."

"...you, you did have it? You did have it? Okay," Jacobs says.

The call is played as FBI Special Agent Dan Cain is back on the witness stand and he briefly talks about sweeping of bugs. He explains that sweeps can happen and the person looking might still not find the listening device.

Cain didn't bring up the Illinois State Police, but the Chicago Sun-Times recently reported that two top State Police officials --Larry Trent and Charles Brueggemann -- aided the FBI's efforts in placing the bugs in the campaign offices. Then, when Blagojevich asked the State Police to sweep those offices, the State Police made sure they weren't detected. Phone records show Trent and Brueggemann were in frequent talks with the FBI during significant dates in the Blagojevich investigative timeline.

The State Police alerted the FBI to the sweep requests, and the FBI
had the ability to make the bugs inert, according to law enforcement sources. In at least one sweep, a State Police technician pretended not to detect a bug during his sweep, the Sun-Times has reported.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

While defense lawyer Aaron Goldstein points to conversations where Blagojevich says Jesse Jackson Jr. is his second choice, the prosecution is trying to show Blagojevich was really considering him -- and had something to hide.

In a Dec. 4 call Blagojevich says he's only pretending to consider Jesse Jackson Jr. to get people in Washington, D.C. to help him strike a political deal to appoint Lisa Madigan.

But Blagojevich calls his brother less than 20 minutes later with a bit of a different story.

"Why the f--- should I send f---ing Lisa Madigan who gets zero support among African Americans, piss off my base," says Rod Blagojevich to his brother Robert.

He continues to talk about a Madigan deal in that conversation, but says he's not going to rule out appointing Jackson Jr. and getting something in return.

"You know, here's f---ing Jesse," Blagojevich says. "The people want him. Tak-, y-, and so do, you know what? You're not giving me s---, so there. And I can cut a better political deal with these Jacksons and, and most of it you probably can't believe, but some of it can be tangible up front."

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Rod Blagojevich's defense lawyer Aaron Goldstein is questioning witness Robert Greenlee's memory of a conversation with Blagojevich about Children's Memorial Hospital.

Greenlee was involved in discussing a rate increase for doctors at Children's. Blagojevich, he said, told him to hold it up. The government alleges Blagojevich was trying to get campaign contributions from the CEO of Children's.Memorial Hospital.

In a Nov. 12 call, Blagojevich asks Greenlee about the rate increase for doctors at Children's.

BLAGOJEVICH: And we have total discretion over it?
GREENLEE: Yep.
BLAGOJEVICH: So we could pull it back if we needed to, budgetary concerns, right?
GREENLEE: We sure could. Yep.
BLAGOJEVICH: Okay, that's good to know.

Greenlee went ahead and stalled the plans to make the rate increase happen. He said he understood that's what Blagojevich wanted him to do. Goldstein seems to imply that Greenlee got it all wrong by calling off the plan, and that Blagojevich never gave him a directive on that call.

"Now Mr. Greenlee, you speak English, is that correct?" Goldstein asks.

"Don't do that," Judge James Zagel says.

Greenlee testifies that Blagojevich often gave him orders in a vague way. In a late November call Blagojevich told him to hold off on the rate increase for the second time -- but there's no recording of that conversation.

Goldstein says Greenlee told the FBI "it was possible" Blagojevich had given him the second directive. Greenlee today says, to his recollection, that it happened.

"Are you sure of your recollection?" Goldstein asks.

The jury in the Blagojevich trial was just escorted out of the courtroom to allow defense lawyer Aaron Goldstein to pursue a line of questioning with Robert Greenlee so U.S. District Judge James Zagel could make sure it was OK.

The exchange was about the morning Blagojevich was arrested, when the FBI also knocked on Greenlee's door early in the morning, played snippets of tapes for him and asked him questions. With the jury out of the room, Goldstein asked Greenlee several times if he was scared.

Goldstein: You were scared?
Greenlee: Yes.
Goldstein: You were worried about being prosecuted?
Greenlee: Yes.
Goldstein: You were worried about going to jail?
Greenlee: Yes.
Goldstein: You were scared because of a lot of potential things that could happen to you and your family, is that correct?
Greenlee: Yes.

Greenlee said he talked with his lawyers and later decided to cooperate with the FBI, which he didn't do immediately.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Reid Schar objected to the repetition of the questions about Greenlee being scared that morning, though Goldstein was allowed to address it once in front of the jury. But Zagel used the opportunity to take a perhaps-professorial tone with Goldstein.

"You ask universal questions that cover the entire range of time from the beginning of the world through today ... My suggestion is that you be more precise," Zagel said. "I can understand why, once in a while, you're fishing for something, but sometimes I think you're just going too fast."

When the audience rose for the jury to come back in, Zagel turned his instruction to them.

"You're standing up too soon," he said.

The prosecution breezed through its questioning of former deputy governor Robert Greenlee this morning in just a few minutes, finishing up with brief testimony on an alleged shakedown regarding the Illinois Tollway. Defense lawyer Aaron Goldstein is cross-examining Greenlee now.

He's just brought up the following exchange from a Dec. 4 call played yesterday:

BLAGOJEVICH: I mean you're contradicting me here, you're, you know. Eh, uh, it's a repugnant idea, but I need to leverage that Jesse Jr. with these f---in' national people.
GREENLEE: I see what your play is.
BLAGOJEVICH: To get the deal for Lisa and they gotta f---in'...
GREENLEE: ...play.
BLAGOJEVICH: ....you follow what I'm saying?
GREENLEE: That's your play.

Greenlee testified that the governor was lying about the play to appoint Lisa Madigan to the Senate seat in exchange for passing policies in Illinois. Instead, he said he understood from a conversation earlier that day that the governor wanted to try and get money from Jesse Jackson Jr. or his supporters in exchange for an appointment. But Greenlee says he lied for a simple reason.

"My goal through all of this was I just really did not want to continue to be on the phone," Greenlee said.

Day 11 in review

Prosecution: By keeping the focus squarely on the Senate seat charges with Wednesday's witnesses, former deputy governor Robert Greenlee and Rajinder Bedi, prosecutors continue to get Blagojevich's voice played in the courtroom debating what to get for the Senate seat. Today mostly focused on one potential candidate: Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr.

Defense: Of all the charges, Blagojevich said after court Wednesday, the allegations he shook down Children's Memorial Hospital hit the hardest because of his commitment to healthcare.

A quote from the tapes: "I f---ing busted my a--- and pissed people off and gave your grandmother a free f---ing ride on a bus, OK? I gave your f---ing baby a chance to have healthcare," Blagojevich angrily tells Greenlee in a Nov. 4, 2008 call. "And what do I get for that? Only 13 percent of you out there think I'm doing a good job. So f--- all of you."

Up next: Greenlee returns to the stand this morning. Defense will likely start cross-examining him sometime today.

Watch former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich as he reacts after court Wednesday to allegations he tried to shakedown Children's Memorial Hospital for campaign contributions.

Blagojevich's former deputy governor spent much of the day on the stand, covering not only the Children's accusation but touching on an alleged shakedown relating to the 'Racetrack bill.' Most of the day, prosecutors quizzed Greenlee on charges relating to the Senate seat.

The prosecution's just played tapes referencing a Chicago Tribune article printed on Dec. 5, 2008 that said John Wyma was cooperating with a federal investigation.

Late on the evening of Dec. 4, Blagojevich gets a call from his spokesman Lucio Guerrero.

"You probably know this," Guerrero says. "Ah, Scofield and I got a call from John Chase about ten minutes ago. Uh, he said they're writing a story for tomorrow's paper that says as part of a federal investigation they have recordings of you and also, John Wyma's cooperating with the feds."

Apparently, though, Blagojevich didn't yet know it.

"They have recordings of me and Wy-, Wyma's cooperating with the feds? Who said that?" Blagojevich responds.

Now the prosecution's moving on to questioning Greenlee about an alleged shakedown of Children's Memorial Hospital.

With Robert Greenlee on the stand, prosecutors are playing tapes from early December where Blagojevich starts debating about his dwindling options for who to appoint to the Senate seat.

Greenlee, Blagojevich's deputy governor, says perhaps Blagojevich should consider going along with a choice that may appease Washington, D.C.: Tammy Duckworth.

Blagojevich snaps angrily at Greenlee.

"Get the f--- outta here Greenlee,I'll f---ing fire you. She's got no f---ing chance," he tells Greenlee."I'm gonna f---ing take hits in the black community for Durbin and f---ing Harry Reid and Rahm, f--- them and Axelrod."

"Yeah, I was just f---ing with you," Greenlee quietly responds.

Greenlee testified that he took Blagojevich's threat to fire him seriously.

Debating between appointing Lisa Madigan and Jesse Jackson Jr. -- who Greenlee says wasn't in consideration at all by the governor before early December -- Blagojevich launches into an analogy.

"If they were both drowning and I could save one, I really think I'd save Jesse," he tells adviser Fred Yang and Greenlee. "He's less objectionable to me than she is."

A poll that morning suggested Jackson Jr. was the most popular candidate in Illinois. Emissaries of Jackson Jr. had approached Blagojevich with offers of campaign contributions, Blagojevich suggests on the call.

Greenlee says he's just "expressing" his concerns when he says, "I don't know how you can, justify, you know, talking about a deal with someone you know will not keep their deal."

But Blagojevich charges ahead.

"Some of that tangible stuff can happen before it all happens. There are tangible things that can happen before," he says.

Testifying today, Greenlee said he understood Blagojevich to be talking about receiving cash contributions in an amount greater than $1 million from Jackson Jr.'s supporters.


More than 40 recordings have been played in Rod Blagojevich's retrial, but today the former governor's potty-mouth still managed to reach a new low.

With former deputy governor Robert Greenlee on the stand, Blagojevich is heard on tape talking about appointing himself to the Senate seat. He says he realizes it'll be an unpopular move, but so few people like him, according to a recent opinion poll, it doesn't really matter anyway.

"I f------ busted my a-- and pissed people off and gave your grandmother a free f------ ride on a bus. OK? I gave your f------ baby a chance to have health care," Blagojevich says, his anger building. "And what do I get for that? Only 13 percent of you all out there think I'm doing a good job. So f--- all of you."

Greenlee also testified that he was ordered to look up ambassadorships for Blagojevich, ones that the then-governor would ask for in exchange for appointing Valerie Jarrett to the Senate seat.

On one call, Greenlee is heard starting to describe the different positions.

But Blagojevich cuts him off. What does it pay? He wants to know.

At that, a couple of jurors are seen smiling.


jacksonethics.jpg

Former state employee Rajinder Bedi testified that hours after meeting with U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill), he approached the brother of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich with a money offer in exchange for a Senate seat appointment.

Bedi, testifying with a grant of immunity, said about a week before the presidential election, he told Robert Blagojevich that a supporter could raise "a lot of money" for the then-governor if he appointed Jackson to Barack Obama's soon-to-be-vacant Senate seat. It was an offer that Robert Blagojevich rejected, Bedi said.

Bedi testified that earlier that same day, Oct. 28, 2008, he, Jackson, and another Indian fund-raiser, Raghu Nayak, met at 312 Restaurant in the Loop. The Senate seat appointment and fund-raising were discussed at the 9:30 a.m. meeting, Bedi said. Then, at about 2:30 p.m., Bedi met with Robert Blagjoevich.

Prosecutor Christopher Niewoehner: "Was there conversation about congressman Jackson's interest in the senate seat?"
Bedi: "Yes"
Niewoehner: "Did Nayak also talk to you about fund-raising?"
Bedi: "Yes he did."

On cross examination by defense lawyer Shelly Sorosky, Bedi talked about what he told Robert Blagojevich hours after meeting with Jackson:
"Did you say that Congressman Jackson was interested in being appointed a senator?"
"Yes," Bedi said.
Sorosky: "Did you say that Mr. Nayak was also interested in Congressman Jackson appointed a Senator?"
Bedi: "Yes."

Sorosky: "Did you also say that Raghu Nayak would raise campaign funds or contribute campaign funds to Blagojevich?"
Bedi: "Yes."
Sorosky: "Did you mention a specific amount of money?"
Bedi: "I said: 'a lot of money.'"
Apparently referring to the last trial, Sorosky asked Bedi if he mentioned $1 million to Robert Blagojevich. Bedi said he didn't remember.

Bedi was put through the wringer since he pleaded guilty to shoplifting at Home Depot last year.
"So you're a thief, right?" Sorosky asked Bedi.
But Judge James Zagel stepped in: "I think you can argue this point without asking him."
Sorosky asked Bedi about other testimony, including that he aided Nayak in a check-cashing scheme to help Nayak evade income taxes.
"So you're also guilty of assisting him in tax evasion, aren't you?" Sorosky asked.
"Yes," Bedi answered.
Nayak is under federal investigation tied to Surgi-Centers he owns, the Chicago Sun-Times has reported.

Last year, Jackson vehemently denied backing any offers made to Blagojevich through Nayak or Bedi. In a radio show, he urged prosecutors to "bring it on."
The Sun-Times reported last year that Nayak told authorities Jackson asked him in a private conversation to approach Blagojevich with a pay-to-play offer for the Senate seat. Jackson called the allegation "preposterous."

A Jackson spokesman on Wednesday had no immediate comment.

Blagojevich retrial: Day 11, f-bomb central

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Reporting with Lark Turner

Day 10 in review:
Prosecution: The broke Blagojeviches were desperate to get Rod out of the governorship and into a better-paying job, and were willing to leverage his power to appoint a senator to get him a better gig. Jurors hear the infamous "f---ing golden" recording and another expletive-laced tirade where Blagojevich angrily lashes out at everyone.
"I feel like I'm f------ my children," Blagojevich is heard saying about trying to make a deal off the Senate seat appointment as wide-eyed jurors listened.

Defense: After court, Rod Blagojevich points to an exchange with consultant Doug Scofield, saying he did not intend do craft an illegal deal:
BLAGOJEVICH: How do you make a deal like that? I mean it's gotta be legal obviously, but... But it's very commonplace is it not? Doin' things like this?
SCOFIELD : Ah, I mean that kind of 501(c),(c)(4) is not unusual.

Watch Rod Blagojevich address reporters beside his wife, Patti, after court Tuesday.

Here's the text from the Nov. 11 exchange with Doug Scofield Blagojevich refers to in the video:

BLAGOJEVICH: How 'bout a 501(c)(4) so I can advocate children's health care? Can't they get like Warren Buffet and some of those guys to put like $10, $12, $15 million dollars in that? Like right away.

SCOFIELD : Well, they probably could. (PAUSE)

BLAGOJEVICH: Then I can, I could advocate children's health care. Use that thing as a, you know as an advocacy tool and, ah... (PAUSE)

BLAGOJEVICH: How do you make a deal like that? I mean it's gotta be legal obviously, but... But it's very commonplace is it not? Doin' things like this?

SCOFIELD : Ah, I mean that kind of 501(c),(c)(4) is not unusual.

Why Blagojevich needed so much bleepin' money

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Reporting with Lark Turner

Jurors just heard ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich say he felt like he was "f---ing my children" because he couldn't provide for them and needed a better job.

Prosecutors show jurors how the Blagojevich household spent its money from 2002 to 2008 and for at least four of those years, the family spent more than it earned.
Here's how they break it down.

10. Medical expense under $50,000
9. Travel $50,000
8. Household help $50,000
7. Retail store purchases, under $100,000 (Target, etc.)
6. Private school under $100,000
5. Groceries/convenience store $100,000 to $150,000
4. House
3. Rental expense condos
2. Mortgage
1. Clothing -- $400,000 from 2002 to 2008

But prosecutors significantly cut out the "beads and bangles" of the presentation after Judge James Zagel told them to trim. The last jury heard about their shopping exploits at Saks Fifth Avenue, about specific receipts, the cost of socks and ties, and about the ex-governor's penchant for fancy, tailor-made suits. All that was gone this time.

Defense lawyer Elliott Riebman tries to ask Shari Schindler whether the Blagojevich's racked up credit just like the rest of America. Or whether Patti Blagojevich suffered from a down real estate market. The judge blocked the answers.


Nothing can awaken a sleeping courtroom like listening to an irate ex-Illinois governor unleash a series of f-bombs, aimed at the media, the president, his faltering political career, his lack of money and just about everything else he can think of at the moment.

His voice rising, Rod Blagojevich says of President-Elect Obama on tape:
"Give this mother f----- his senator? F--- him. For nothing? F--- him!

Blagojevich is on a call with advisers and his wife, Patti. He says everyone's passing him up politically while he's stuck in Springfield with gridlock and making no money.

"I feel like I'm f------ my children. I'm stuck in this f---ing ...
nasty f---ing, s----y f---ing press," Blagojevich is heard saying as wide-eyed jurors listen.

Blagojevich says he needs work that will take "financial stress" off his family. Patti then points to Michelle Obama: "she's making $300,000 at the University of Chicago," she says.

Prosecutors played the tape to set up the next witness. While jurors just heard him complaining he has no money and he's worried about providing for his children, the next witness, Shari Schindler, will talk about what he did with all his money.

He spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on fine clothing -- for himself.

Reporting with Lark Turner


Political consultant Doug Scofield is the second government witness of the day who is heard on tape at times encouraging Rod Blagojevich to try to get something in exchange for appointing Valerie Jarrett to President-Elect Obama's vacant U.S. Senate seat.

Scofield, who has not been charged in the case, said he passed a message along to Obama's camp in mid-November that Blagojevich would like a foundation set up for him in exchange for appointing Jarrett.

In a recorded call, Scofield reported to Blagojevich that he passed a message to John Wyma, a friend of Rahm Emanuel, that the then-governor would still consider Jarrett if someone was able to pump millions of dollars into a foundation that Blagojevich could then head.

Scofield said the message was intended for Wyma to pass to Emanuel.

"I think you should leverage it to what's most helpful to you," Scofield tells Blagojevich at one point.
Blagojevich asks Scofield if he agrees with that.
"I do."

Earlier, union leader Tom Balanoff testified that he, too, agreed to pass along a similar request to the Obama camp. At one point, Balanoff refers to Blagojevich's request as "a great idea."

The defense is trying to use the testimony to underscore their premise that this is nothing more than political horsetrading, and something everyone engaged in.

However, next up is a witness who administers ethics tests for state workers -- including Blagojevich.

A frustrated Rod Blagojevich told advisers in a Nov. 10 call that he doesn't want to appoint Valerie Jarrett because he won't get anything for it from President Obama.

"So then they all leave town and I'm left with gridlock, a f---ing pissed-off speaker, potential impeachment, and a f---ing president who's all take and no give," he tells his wife and a couple advisers in the call, later adding: "You get a president who's selfish and just ditches people, so you get nothing."

Click here to read the transcript and hear the recording.

But adviser Doug Sosnik advises him to tread carefully around Obama.

"If you take a broader horizon, I think you get more out of it by certainly picking an African American and probably not sticking your finger in the eye of the next president of the United States, who's from your home state," Sosnik tells Blagojevich.

Patti Blagojevich chimes in toward the end of the call, expressing her belief that waiting for any kind of political help from Obama later on is "baloney."

"I don't think you live your life hoping that somebody's gonna help you down the line," she says.

Now the prosecution is playing a Nov. 11 call between Blagojevich and Doug Scofield, who's currently on the stand, where Scofield says he wants Blagojevich to get something tangible for the appointment. All the while, a children's TV show plays in the background.

"It's not entirely outlandish to say, look, we're all your friends, who want you to leverage this. I mean the president being grateful is fine. I think everybody would say that's a good first step, but you know for me at least I think you gotta add somethin' to that," Scofield tells Blagojevich. "I mean everybody sees takin' care of Barack's person, there's value in it. But you gotta make the value I think a little more tangible."

"I hear ya," Blagojevich replies.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Doug Scofield hasn't been on the stand for long, but the prosecution is starting off with the infamous "effin' golden" tape, where Blagojevich talks to Scofield about what he might get in exchange for the Senate seat.

He talks again about the Health and Human Services position, though he acknowledges it's a long-shot.

"Health and Human Services, I'd take that in a second. That'll never happen," Blagojevich says. "UN ambassador, I'd take that. 'You Russian m*****f*******s.'"

At that quote, a male juror smiled. He smiled again moments later when the famous quote cropped up.

"I've got this thing and it's f***in' golden, and I'm not gonna give it up for f***in' nothing," Blagojevich says.

"He's not giving up this appointment to the Senate seat without getting something in return," Scofield testifies.

But the transcript's not quite the same as the one the jury heard last year -- it's been cut. A part where Blagojevich talks about how he feels like he "failed" and how Obama is a "demi-god" was redacted.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Union leader Tom Balanoff is off the stand and Blagojevich's one-time deputy governor Doug Scofield is the government's next witness.

The prosecution will play the infamous "effin' golden" tape while Scofield is on the stand.

Scofield said he left his position as deputy governor for Blagojevich early on because his children were young and he was concerned about the influence of one-time fundraisers during the new governor's transition. Scofield later served as an adviser to Blagojevich and worked with SEIU, the union of Tom Balanoff and Andy Stern.

Scofield was present for a Nov. 3, 2008 meeting when Blagojevich spoke with Balanoff and Stern about potential Senate candidates.

"A lot of the discussion was about Valerie Jarrett," Scofield testified, adding that Blagojevich seemed "somewhat skeptical" about a Jarrett appointment but was "interested that it was the President-elect's choice."

In a meeting with Blagojevich directly following that meeting, with chief of staff John Harris and at times Bob Greenlee, Scofield said the conversation turned to talk about a position in the President-elect's cabinet as secretary of Health and Human Services.

"The governor was clearly interested and intrigued by the fact that the President-elect had a preference for the seat," Scofield testified. "He saw this as an opportunity."

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Before finishing up its cross-examination of witness and union leader Tom Balanoff today, the defense went before Judge James Zagel to get permission to include an e-mail Balanoff sent to fellow union leader Andy Stern the day of Blagojevich's arrest.

Defense lawyer Aaron Goldstein said Balanoff sent the e-mail to Stern that morning after he received a call from the FBI concerning the arrest, which said in simple terms that Blagojevich was arrested and "we need to talk."

Zagel wondered why Goldstein wanted to include it.

"The government calls and all of a sudden he has an immediate desire to talk to Andy Stern," Goldstein said. "He's potentially putting together a story."

But Zagel said it would be difficult for a jury to draw any type of conclusion from the e-mail without knowing what Balanoff and Stern talked about.

"There are perfectly innocent explanations as to why he would do that," Zagel said. "It was, as these things go, a fairly garish moment in public life" when Blagojevich was arrested.

When defense lawyer Lauren Kaeseberg protested that the defense doesn't know what was in the phone call because the government's witnesses will not talk to them outside of court, Zagel said if they wanted they could call the witnesses themselves.

"You're not helpless here," he said. "It's their turn now. It'll be your turn later."

Blagojevich retrial: Day 10, Taking off the gloves

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Defense: On day 10 of Rod Blagojevich's retrial, defense lawyer Aaron Goldstein managed to set off Judge James Zagel, who threatened to sit him down in front of jurors.

Zagel, in turn, set off Patti Blagojevich, who went before cameras to protest Zagel's repeated sustained objections. Some reporters counted more than 100 government objections that Zagel sustained. Zagel said Goldstein flouted his repeated rulings so that he could in essence offer testimony through his questions. Zagel repeatedly blocked him, but jurors still heard the questions.

Patti Blagojevich launched a potentially dangerous salvo at the judge, charging his rulings were "a deliberate attempt to hide the truth."

Prosecution:
What will prosecutors do today?
Prosecutor Reid Schar has previously complained to Zagel that the Blagojevich strategy is to make it appear to the public that the government is trying to hide the ball when really, the defense is just being asked to follow the same rules as everyone else in federal court.
While the ex-governor didn't do the talking in the news availability after court, he was standing at his wife's side while she did.

Up next: Union leader Tom Balanoff continues under Goldstein's cross examination.


Click to view picture: Patti Blagojevich delivers an emotional statement after court
Reporting with Natasha Korecki

A visibly upset Patti Blagojevich delivered an emotional statement after court today, saying she was outraged at what she called "a deliberate attempt to hide the truth" after the government consistently objected to (and Judge James Zagel sustained) many of the defense's questions in cross-examination.

"I almost want to cry," Patti said as she stood beside her husband. "I'm no lawyer, but I thought the whole idea of this was to get the truth to come out, and that's clearly not what's happening here."

Zagel forbid the defense to ask many of their questions, only overruling a few of the prosecution's dozens and dozens of objections. The questions, Zagel said, were in "implicit violation" of his earlier rulings on what's allowed in court and went beyond the scope of prosecutors' questioning. The defense is free to call the witnesses up again if they want to ask some of those questions, he said, but warned them that if they continued to ask those types of questions he would 'sit them down' in court.

"I'm coming very close to sitting you down," Zagel warned Goldstein in a tense courtroom moment. "Don't do this."

The warning came after Goldstein asked SEIU leader Tom Balanoff if, in his conversation with Valerie Jarrett pertaining to Blagojevich's request for a cabinet appointment, he conveyed that Blagojevich wanted "one for the other." Then he asked if Balanoff went to authorities after their exchange.

Prosecutor Reid Schar shot up with an objection and Zagel made clear Goldstein was treading on dangerous water.

Zagel already hinted he wasn't liking the questioning before that exchange.

"If this is about the end of your cross, you can sit down now," Zagel told him.

"It isn't," Goldstein said simply, and continued questioning.

When Zagel talked to lawyers after the jury left the courtroom, he became stern and told the defense their questioning was consistently improper and was "implicitly -- and now explicitly -- in violation of my order."

Goldstein asked if he could reply. Zagel cut him off, telling him he'd ruled this way before and he didn't plan on repeating it.

"I want you to understand it and I don't want you to reply to it now," Zagel said. Then, with emphasis: "I want you to comply with it."

The tension between Judge James Zagel and defense lawyer Aaron Goldstein just escalated as the Rod Blagojevich defense lawyer questions a top union leader.

"I'm coming very close to sitting you down," Zagel warned Goldstein in a tense courtroom moment. "Don't do this."

The warning came after Goldstein asked SEIU leaderTom Balanoff if, in his conversation with Valerie Jarrett pertaining to Blagojevich's request for a cabinet appointment, he conveyed that Blagojevich wanted "one for the other." Then he asked if Balanoff went to authorities after their exchange.

Prosecutor Reid Schar shot up with an objection and Zagel made clear Goldstein was treading on dangerous water.

Zagel already hinted he wasn't liking the questioning before that exchange.

"If this is about the end of your cross, you can sit down now," Zagel told him.
"It isn't," Goldstein said simply, and continued questioning.

All day, prosecutors have lodged dozens of objections. Zagel has sustained just about all of them.

After the jury was gone for the day, Zagel told Goldstein it was improper to try sneaking in an advice by counsel defense through his questions and that he was going beyond the prosecution's scope. If he wanted to do that, Zagel told him, he could call Balanoff to the stand.

Goldstein asked if he could reply. Zagel cut him off, telling him he'd ruled this way before and he didn't plan on repeating it.

"I want you to understand it and I don't want you to reply to it now," Zagel said. Then, with emphasis: "I want you to comply with it."


Updating his wife on the latest happenings involving the Senate seat appointment and seemingly out of sorts, Rod Blagojevich on tape says Valerie Jarrett had pulled out of contention. Rahm Emanuel, who previously said he wanted Jarrett, subsequently called John Harris with a new list of potential candidates.

Blagojevich called it a "politically-correct list to cover his a--." He talks about how Emanuel had previously been high on a Jarrett appointment.

"Rahm was pushing her more than others because he wanted to get her out of the White House," the ex-gov tells his wife, Patti Blagojevich.

That CYA list included Tammy Duckworth, Dan Hynes, Jesse Jackson Jr. and Jan Schakowsky, according to the recorded phone calls played in court.

"So what's your next move?" Patti Blagojevich asks her husband.

The conversation circles back to the then-Gov. discussing appointing himself for U.S. Senate. That's a move Blagojevich said at a news conference that he would not make. He repeatedly said publicly that he would do what was best for the citizens of Illinois.

On tape, the conversation goes another way.

"It opens up opportunities for you that we don't have now," Blagjoevich is heard saying. "Financially for us. I'm gonna get working on that now."

Patti: Yeah. I don't know.
Rod Blagojevich: What's best for us - first and foremost. On the legal front, on the personal front and political front. In that order."
Patti: "Right."
Rod: "Right?"
Patti: "Right."


Under direction from President-elect Obama, union leader Tom Balanoff met with then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich two days after the presidential election to talk Senate seat appointment.

That's when Blagojevich offers a proposal.

"Tom, my real passion is health care. If I can be the Secretary of Health and Human Services, then I can live out my passion," Balanoff said Blagojevich told him in a Nov. 6, 2008 meeting at the Thompson Center. "I understood that if he could be appointed to that position then Valerie Jarrett could be appointed to the Senate seat."

Balanoff said he warned Blagojevich that wouldn't happen. But Balanoff passed it all on to Jarrett in a meeting the next day, he said.
"Well, he said some goofy stuff," Balanoff said he told Jarrett. "At one point he told me his real passion was health care and if he could be the Secretary of Health and Human Services he could really live out his passion."

The next week though, Jarrett pulls out of Senate seat contention. Blagojevich calls Balanoff now, asking him if it's true. He then offers another idea: set up a 501 c (4) not-for-profit so Blagojevich could head it and he would appoint Jarrett. Blagojevich is heard on tape suggesting that millionaires could pour cash into the fund to get it off the ground.
"I think it's a great idea," Balanoff says of the foundation, which prosecutors have said is part of the plot to sell the Senate seat post.

Just minutes into his testimony, union leader Tom Balanoff talks about a surprise phone call from the would-be president of the United States.

Then-Senator Barack Obama was calling the union leader the night before the 2008 presidential election.

Balanoff said he ignored the call.

"It said 'unknown' on it, and I didn't know who it was," Balanoff testified.

Balanoff, who also testified about the call during the last trial, said Obama left a brief message: "Tom, this is Barack. Give me a call."

After tracking down one of Obama's aides, Balanoff said he would take the call if Obama got a hold of him again; and he did, while Balanoff was pumping gas later that day in downtown Chicago.

After discussing the coming day's election briefly -- Balanoff, an SEIU union leader, said he promised Obama that they planned to help "bring it home" in Indiana -- Obama brought up the Senate seat, Balanoff testified.

"Tom, with regard to the U.S. Senate seat, I have two criteria: one, that they be good for the citizens of Illinois, and two, that they can be reelected," Balanoff said Obama told him.

Valerie Jarrett met both of those criteria, Obama said, though he didn't plan on endorsing any particular candidate and would prefer for Jarrett to serve in the White House under him.

"But she would like to be the Senator and she met both those criteria," Balanoff said Obama told him.

Balanoff said the next night at Obama's election rally, he happened to bump into Gov. Rod Blagojevich and told him he wanted to talk more about the Jarrett matter. The two had already met and discussed the possibility.
"Great," Blagojevich told him. "Gimme a call."

By putting Balanoff on the stand right after former chief of staff John Harris, prosecutors are continuing to hone in on the Senate seat allegations in the case. Balanoff worked as an emissary from Obama's camp to Blagojevich, discussing Jarrett's appointment. Blagojevich is heard on tape hoping to win everything from a cabinet appointment to an ambassadorship in exchange for appointing Jarrett.

Defense lawyer Aaron Goldstein has finished up a heated cross-examination of government witness and former chief of staff to Blagojevich John Harris. Union leader Tom Balanoff is next to take the stand.

Throughout the cross-examination, Goldstein earned almost objection after objection from the government, eventually leading into repeated scoldings from Judge James Zagel.

Balanoff and the SEIU labor union he works for helped President Obama's campaign and discussed his preferences and Obama's preferences for the vacant Senate seat with Blagojevich.

Prosecutor Reid Schar is questioning Balanoff about the Senate seat allegations now.

If defense lawyer Aaron Goldstein is trying to paint current witness and former chief of staff John Harris as the devil, Judge James Zagel isn't having it.

In a call with Blagojevich, Harris and political consultant and pollster Fred Yang, Yang and Blagojevich joke about Harris, with Blagojevich calling him the "Price of Darkness." Yang also acts mockingly surprised that Harris came up with a "good" idea -- that Blagojevich be given a position in charge of a union's advocacy organization in exchange for appointing Valerie Jarrett to the Senate seat.

"Are you aware of what the term 'Prince of Darkness' is?" Goldstein asks Harris.

Zagel wouldn't let Harris ask that question, nor a subsequent question asking about a comment where Yang that Harris was where "good ideas go to die."

When Goldstein read aloud from a transcript incorrectly, Zagel stopped him and asked him to read it again.

"Forgive me," said Goldstein, who went home sick Thursday. "The cough and the head, it's all over the place."

The objections keep coming from the prosecutor's table. In another conversation, Blagojevich asks Harris about finding "an African American Tammy Duckworth" for the Senate seat.

"Had you been looking for an African American Tammy Duckworth?" asked Goldstein.

This, too, was rejected by the judge. Zagel's also scolded Goldstein a few different times for his repeated attempts at asking what he deems inappropriate questions, saying, "I don't want an argument disguised as a question."

And later: "You have other avenues here, and this particular one, you shouldn't go down. And I think I made it clear."

Goldstein continued to start some questions with the phrase "are you aware?" which Zagel doesn't seem to like too much.

"You're talking about, is he aware of any conversation after this with anybody in the whole world," Zagel said. "Don't do that."

Under cross-examination, former chief of staff John Harris said he told his boss Blagojevich that his chances of becoming U.N. ambassador were "extremely remote," even though that wasn't the case.

"I actually thought it would be no chance," Harris said.

So, Goldstein wondered, why did you tell him it would be extremely remote?

"It seemed more polite," Harris responded, and Goldstein replied, "I understand."

The defense is getting its questions in, but it seems like most of them aren't being answered.

Goldstein continues to rack up a slew of objections in the cross-examination, which has ranged this morning from questions about alleged shakedowns of the horseracing industry and a Chicago school to allegations about the Senate seat.

Goldstein has repeatedly implied that Blagojevich wanted to appoint himself to the Senate seat all along and that at times Harris and Blagojevich were "just shooting the breeze about politics."

Goldstein also brought up Harris' legal background and tried to get him to say part of his job as chief of staff was advising the governor, lines of questioning that were rejected by the judge. The defense is trying to imply that if anything the governor did was illegal, his legally-trained advisers should have told him so.

The court's now breaking for lunch.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Defense lawyer Aaron Goldstein is racking up objections in court today as he begins his questioning of Blagojevich's former chief of staff John Harris by asking him about his plea agreement with the government.

"You'd do anything for your family, right?" Goldstein asked Harris, earning another objection.

Goldstein's trying to imply that Harris is fabricating his testimony in order to get the best deal possible with the government, but Harris is resisting, saying he's agreed to be truthful and cooperate with the government: two things he says are one and the same.

Harris' testimony kicked off with an admission: when he was first arrested, Harris said he lied to the FBI, though was not specific about what he lied about.

Harris is currently an apprentice electrician in order to help "provide for his family," in Goldstein's phrasing. He asked about the possibility that Harris might end up on probation, and whether or not that was something Harris wanted.

"You don't want to be incarcerated, right?" Goldstein asked.

"No, of course not," answered Harris.

Now Goldstein is questioning Harris about allegations that Blagojevich held up a promised grant to the Academy for Urban School Leadership as part of a shakedown.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

After going home sick early Thursday, defense lawyer Aaron Goldstein is ready for court today, though still coughing, while a decent-sized crowd assembles to watch the defense take on the government's first big witness.

Other members of the defense team are looking different than they did Thursday, too: Blagojevich and his lawyer Elliott Riebman look like they've both had haircuts.

The prosecutors examined Blagojevich's former chief of staff John Harris for most of last week.

Harris Thursday testimony finished up with a discussion of an alleged scheme to sell President Obama's Senate seat to Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. in exchange for a $1.5 million campaign contribution. Harris spent much of his time on the stand testifying about the Senate seat allegations.



Rod Blagojevich trial proceedings have ended for the day -- and the week -- as one of his lawyers suddenly went home sick.

Defense lawyer Aaron Goldstein, who appeared ghostly this morning, went home after lunch break.

Prosecutors concluded their questioning of chief of staff John Harris -- and Goldstein was the person who was to cross examine him.

Judge James Zagel agreed to reconvene on Monday.

Testimony concluded with prosecutors exploring an alleged scheme to appoint U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. to the Senate seat in exchange for a $1.5 million contribution.

To read more: Click here

Reporting with Lark Turner

Yesterday, Rod Blagojevich's jury heard the former governor describe Jesse Jackson Jr. as a "repugnant" option for the U.S. Senate.

Today, things have changed.

Prosecutors just played a recording where Blagojevich tells his chief of staff John Harris that Jackson is now at the top of his list.

Harris at times laughs in the conversation, pointing to the then-governor's flip-flopping.

Blagojevich gives him a reason:
"Well, he's come to me with, through third parties, you know with offers of campaign contributions and help...You know what I mean? 1.5 million. They've, they're throwin' numbers around."

Harris: "Well, I mean that's not the factor."

But Blagojevich steams ahead, saying that he has to consider Jackson if he's considering Lisa Madigan, the daughter of his political nemesis. And he says a Jackson pick will play well in the African American community.

"That, that, you know if that's the case then why should I beanything but f---in' strengthen, you know, my position with my base. I mean among blacks that, that'll be the best pick won't it?"

Noting that Blagojevich a week earlier yelled at Harris for suggesting Jackson as a candidate, Assistant U.S. Attorney Carrie Hamilton asked Harris if anything had changed in that period.

"A specific amount of campaign contributions that were being ... offered to the governor," Harris said.
Hamilton: "In exchange for Congressman Jackson?"
Harris: "Yes."

Prosecutors contend that Blagojevich plotted to appoint Jackson the Senate seat for a $1.5 million campaign contribution. Jackson supporters had approached the Blagojevich camp with the offer. Jackson has denied wrongdoing.


By Lark Turner

Rod Blagojevich was just talking to a bunch of kids, like 20 of them, who were outside the courtroom.

They're checking stuff out but there's not enough room for them in the courtroom. Blagojevich tells them:

"I'm not the governor anymore. When I was governor I could've gotten you in."

He asked if any of them wanted to go into politics. When a couple kids raised their hands, he told them it's a "dangerous profession" and advised them to pick a different career.

He also said about the trial: "it's just as uncomfortable as the first one"

And as a sendoff:
"Be sure to tell your mom or dad I never raised their taxes."

Reporting with Lark Turner


We're back in this morning with John Harris on the stand, and a slew of recordings that delve deep into the Senate seat negotiations that were in full force in the fall of 2008.

On tape Rod Blagojevich is talking about what's next and how he can transition into the private sector while remaining politically viable.

Harris tells him he will be disappointed if he doesn't keep working for stuff he believes in.

Blagojevich has another take: "You have to understand it's very important for me to make a lot of money."

Blagojevich went on to talk about his family and how vulnerable he's making his family--wife and daughters--and how Amy will be 14 and then be off to college.

In court, Patti Blagojevich purses her lips; at end of conversation about paying for Amy's college he turns to Patti with similar look (pursed lips, disappointment).

In a recent interview, Patti and Rod said they drained Amy's college fund to pay bills, following the ex-governor's impeachment and Patti losing her job.


Reporting with Lark Turner

John Harris testifies that on Nov. 10, 2008, lobbyist John Wyma called him with a message from President-Elect Obama's camp.

Harris, of course, doesn't know that Wyma at this point had been secretly working with the feds for at least a month in the Blagojevich probe. Wyma, former congressional chief of staff to Blagojevich, was also close to Rahm Emanuel.

"(Wyma) told me he had a message to deliver to me from Rahm Emanuel, who was trying to get a hold of the governor. And John Wyma was trying to get a hold of the governor, but they could not get through. I understood they knew each other well, Wyma was chief of staff," to Blagojevich Harris testified. It does not appear that the Wyma/Harris phone call happened on a wired line.

The message Wyma passed along?
"That the President-elect would be thankful and appreciative if the governor would appoint Valerie Jarrett to the Senate seat," Harris said. "I said I understood and I would deliver the message."

On Nov. 11, Harris relays the message to his boss. This time the call is recorded.

"We know he wants her, they're not willing to give me anything, just appreciation, f--- them," Blagojevich says on tape.

The next day, Valerie Jarrett pulled out of contention for the Senate seat post.


John Harris is still on the stand and we're listening to a conference call with Harris, Rod Blagojevich and gubernatorial advisers.

Adviser Fred Yang tells Blagojevich who he should not put in the Senate seat.

Yang: "The only option you should not consider is the appointment of Jesse Jackson Jr."
Blagojevich:"You and Obama agree on that one," he laughs. "Tell me why."
Yang: "I don't think he deserves to be in the United State Senate, number one, I don't think he can hold a Senate seat.

"Not to mention number 3," Blagojevich interjects: "He's a bad guy."
He's really not the guy I hoped or thought he was. He's really bad.
That's highly, highly, highly unlikely."

Jackson once burned Blagojevich when, in a gubernatorial primary, he backed Roland Burris after promising Blagojevich he'd get the endorsement.

Blagojevich: Can I be governor forever?

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Reporting with Lark Turner

We're back up and running this afternoon as prosecutors weave a tale, through recorded tapes, of a governor desperate to get into a high-paying job and out of Illinois.

Rod Blagjoevich is on a conference call with advisers where he's heard complaining about President-Elect Obama's political ascension.

"Obama has put a ceiling on me now ... Can I be governor forever?" Blagojevich said on the recording played in court.
Blagojevich appears to feel hemmed in after the 2008 presidential election, lamenting there was no room for his own political movement. He wonders what's better than governor? Mayor of Chicago?
"What else would you want to do if you're governor of Illinois? How long do you want to be governor?" He later adds: "Look at Obama, I believe I'm more pristine on (convicted businessman Tony) Rezko than him."

With John Harris still up on the stand, Assistant U.S. Attorney Carrie Hamilton tries to go in for the kill on the allegation that Blagojevich was attempting to leverage his power to appoint someone to the U.S. Senate to get a personal benefit.

"In the end, he wanted one for the other," former chief of staff John Harris says of Blagojevich's talk regarding Valerie Jarrett, Obama's pick to replace him in the U.S. Senate in 2008.

Hamilton: "To be clear, he did in fact ask for the position of Health and Human Services in exchange for making Valerie Jarrett Senator?
Harris: Yes.

They also touch on the Lisa Madigan deal, which is discussed on tape. Blagojevich repeatedly raises Madigan on tape as a way to scare Obama's people into thinking if they don't give Blagojevich what he wants (a job, ambassadorship) then he'll appoint Madigan.
Outside of court, Blagojevich has repeatedly said that he seriously considered a deal to appoint Madigan to the Senate seat so that he could move his legislative agenda through the Springfield stalemate.

Hamilton asks Harris if the Madigan deal was realistic.
"No one had approached Lisa Madigan there was no steps in that direction, other than discussing possible lists of items that might be in a legislative package," Harris said.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Wednesday morning brings more testimony from John Harris, who's being asked about pay-to-play allegations and Blagojevich's attempts to find a job for his wife, Patti, after news of a federal investigation adversely affected her work in real estate.

In a tape from the morning of Nov. 6, 2008, Blagojevich and Harris are talking about an upcoming meeting with SEIU union leader Tom Balanoff, where Blagojevich plans to ask him about possible positions in exchange for a Senate seat. Harris testified that Balanoff told him President-elect Barack Obama wanted Blagojevich to name Valerie Jarrett to the Senate seat.

As part of a discussion with Harris about what well-paying positions or jobs he might be able to get, Harris suggested to Blagojevich that he could be head of SEIU's "Change to Win" campaign.

"I tell ya, it's f---ing a great idea," Blagojevich tells Harris. "It's a great idea."

Harris testified that if Blagojevich didn't get the job he wanted in Obama's administration -- Secretary of Health and Human Services -- he told him maybe Balanoff would be willing to give him or his wife a position on SEIU's "Change to Win" campaign.

He wanted a job for Patti because the family's finances were in trouble, Harris said. She's currently in the hallway; she has been asked to leave when there's testimony about her.

Perhaps it's a good thing she's out of the room: prosecutors just played a tape where Patti and her husband get in a fight about the merits of the "Change to Win" position.

"How about I hang up on you. What are you doin'? What is this?" Blagojevich asks Patti on the phone when she suggests the SEIU job might not pay well. But the two make up before the end of the call.

"I gotta stop swearin'. I gotta stop swearin'," he tells Patti.

"It's terrible," she says. "Total gutter mouth."

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

A bizarre phone call was just heard in Judge James Zagel's courtroom -- and it had nothing to do with Blagojevich.

"Hello? Helllllooooo?" a man's voice could be heard coming through the courtroom's sound system in an apparently live call, interrupting testimony from John Harris. The caller whistled, wondering why nobody was answering. "Anybody home?"

"We're going to take a short break," Zagel said as everyone in the courtroom looked around and laughed, including the jurors. One Zagel staffer ran out of the room, presumably to get some help with the issue.

"All rise!" the marshal said, clearing the courtroom.

With everyone out of the courtroom, Zagel and his staff are trying to figure out how the call was broadcast over the sound system and what phone might have caused the interruption.

Rod Blagojevich retrial: Day 9, John Harris

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Highlights:

Prosecution: Prosecutors delved right into the Senate seat allegations by putting former Chief of Staff John Harris on the stand as their first
substantial witness. In last summer's trial, Harris didn't appear for
several weeks.

Defense: Though Judge James Zagel cut them off, the defense managed to ask an FBI agent several questions Zagel had previously blocked. The questions
implied the FBI could pick and choose when to secretly tape the former
governor.

Up next: John Harris' testimony continues today and we expect to go through dozens of more conversations and recordings.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

John Harris is testifying about a conversation with Blagojevich where the two role-played an upcoming conversation with union leader Tom Balanoff on the day after Barack Obama's election.

In the conversation, which was played for the jury, Blagojevich talks to Harris about whether or not he should imply that he's considering Attorney General Lisa Madigan or Senate President Emil Jones for the Senate seat. Harris said he had no knowledge of any possible deal with Madigan.

Blagojevich wanted "to raise the value of the request; in other words, that if the President-elect wants Valerie Jarrett, the governor would be foregoing a possible deal with Speaker [Mike] Madigan, something he valued."

In the tape, Blagojevich says he wants to get the 'eff' out of Illinois. He asks Harris how he can bring it up with Balanoff, Harris testified.

"See, the other thing is, how do I make a play for somethin' in that end over there?" Blagojevich asks Harris on the tape. "How do you bring that up? Do you do it with Balanoff or no?"

In a conversation a few minutes later that morning, Blagojevich continues to run possible job requests by Harris, primarily the position of secretary of Health and Human Services, something Harris tells Blagojevich is probably unlikely. Blagojevich throws out a few different positions he could be appointed to, including the feasibility of him being appointed the U.S. ambassador to India or South Africa.

"Why can't I be ambassador to India?" Blagojevich asks on the tape.

This goes on for several pages in the tape's transcript.

"We went through quite a few alternatives," Harris testified.

One of those alternatives was head of the Salvation Army. In a subsequent, similar call with the two men and Bob Greenlee, Blagojevich's former deputy governor, Blagojevich brings up this possibility and asks if he would have to wear a uniform.

The gallery in the courtroom laughs at that. Patti Blagojevich looks a little tired; she's resting her head on her hand with her eyes closed.

With that tape, court ends for the day.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Continuing to elicit testimony on the Senate seat, the prosecution is playing tapes detailing conversations between Blagojevich, Harris and union leaders Tom Balanoff and Andy Stern. Blagojevich and Harris knew Obama wanted Valerie Jarrett appointed to the seat, but testified that Blagojevich wanted something in return.

"Do they think I'll appoint her for nothing, just to make it happen?" Blagojevich asks Harris on tape.

Harris responds to Blagojevich by saying the President-elect would probably expect some more demands from the governor: demands regarding Illinois' federal government wishlist, like more Medicaid resources.

"I'm simply suggesting [to Blagojevich] that I'm sure they're thinking you're going to want help with your governing agenda, the type of help a president can give in helping a governor get things done," Harris testified.

Harris also discussed a meeting with himself, Blagojevich, Stern and Balanoff where he says Blagojevich suggested he might appoint Illinois Senate President Emil Jones or Attorney General Lisa Madigan to the seat. Harris says Blagojevich suggested appointing Jarrett would be a "significant sacrifice" for him.

At the end of the meeting, Stern and Balanoff said they would go back to Obama and "his people" to make sure Jarrett was his favorite pick for the Senate seat.

As for Blagojevich appointing himself to the seat?

"That was always a possibility, and always in his discussions," Harris testified.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

In the same phone call where John Harris tells Blagojevich that Obama wanted Valerie Jarrett appointed to the seat (a desire relayed to Harris through Rahm Emanuel, Harris says), Blagojevich asks Harris what appointment he might get in the President-elect's cabinet.

"What other cabinet position would be not stupid?" Blagojevich asks Harris, throwing out the possibility of being appointed the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Harris tells him it's unlikely.

"Ridiculous?" Blagojevich asks. "S---, that'd be cool."

On the call, the two men laugh. In court today, Blagojevich smiles with his head down.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Government witness John Harris has gotten to the Senate seat charges, and just described two meetings with the then-governor, himself and the governor's legal adviser Bill Quinlan where Harris says Quinlan told Blagojevich he could not look for something for himself in exchange for the seat.

"You can't talk about this, you can't even joke about this," Harris said Quinlan told Blagojevich in late October 2008. "He could not talk about the two in the same sentence."

Quinlan's warning to Blagojevich is significant. His lawyer told him not to try and exchange the Senate seat for personal benefits. Blagojevich has long claimed he did not realize he was doing anything wrong or improper and that he acted with the knowledge of his advisers.

The prosecution also showed the jury an internal document Harris wrote with talking points and a plan for appointing a replacement should then-senator Barack Obama be elected president.

The document advised Blagojevich to appoint a team to help choose candidates for Senate.

"I will not turn this into a public spectacle," Harris advised Blagojevich to say in the document.

Harris said the document was only ever used for public talking points.

He's also described a conversation with then-Congressman Rahm Emanuel prior to Obama's election regarding a possible candidate for Senate.

"He told me that Senator Obama had a preferred candidate," Harris testified. " I understood [him] to be referring to Valerie Jarrett."

The prosecution is now playing a phone call where Harris relays to Blagojevich what Emanuel told him. He tells Blagojevich that Obama wants Jarrett appointed to the seat.


Reporting with Lark Turner

A plain-spoken and straight-faced John Harris is walking us through the Rod Blagojevich years and thus, is touching on a series of alleged crimes.

Yesterday, prosecutors told jurors their case is divvied up into five major shakedown schemes.

Harris has already touched on three of those -- and is now getting into the Senate seat sale allegations. After Barack Obama's ascension to the presidency in November of 2008, Harris says talk about the seat increased.

Before that though, Blagojevich once offered the seat to Illinois Senate president Emil Jones.

"If you want it, it's yours," Blagojevich told Jones, in front of Harris. Jones expressed no interest, Harris said.

After Jones helped pass ethics legislation in the Senate -- a bill that significantly hampered Blagojevich's fund-raising, Jones appeared to be cut off.

Then something happened, a change that Harris said he found significant and memorable.

The two of them were in a car and Blagojevich turned to Harris.
"What do you think I can get for this?" Harris said Blagojevich asked him during the Oct. 6, 2008, conversation.
Harris said he was taken aback.
"Well, for you nothing," he said he told the then governor. "But you can reward an ally or make an ally."
At that point, Blagojevich turned away and dropped the talk, Harris testified.

"I found that to be a new turn of events," Harris. "(He) was thinking of something he could get for himself."

In court, Blagojevich appears irritated at times, shaking his head. All the while, he's furiously scribbling notes.



Onetime Blagojevich Chief of Staff John Harris has taken the witness stand and is giving an overview of interactions with his onetime boss.
Blagojevich told him to hold up grant money that was to go to a school in then-Congressman Rahm Emanuel's district, he says. That sets the stage for an attempted extortion allegation.
He's also talking about Blagojevich's financial motivations in 2007 and 2008.
"He was very concerned about paying off those bills and dwindling the balance in his campaign fund," Harris said of the then-governor's mounting legal bills.
Harris said Blagojevich was working to build his campaign warchest even though he didn't plan to seek another term.
Money was symbolic of Blagojevich's power. At odds with Springfield at the time, Blagojevich needed to show he had some backing.
"People were shying away from the governor, both personally and in terms of financial support," Harris said, referencing the indictments of two top fund-raisers, Tony Rezko and Christopher Kelly.
Having Harris on first is a change-up. Prosecutors are putting him on as the first overview witness, perhaps viewing him as the least tainted insider.
That's a change from last trial when Lon Monk (who had more issues to contend with) was tapped to go first.
Some insiders point to Harris, 49, as among the tragedies in the Rod Blagojevich case.
Harris is a former military man who worked in city government, he was the go-to guy on the O'Hare Modernization Project and eventually landed a mayoral appointment as budget director.
Then he went to work for Blagojevich.
Harris became Blagojevich's chief of staff in 2005. He resigned in Dec. 2008, three days after he was arrested. He's pleaded guilty to conspiracy to solicit a bribe. He's hoping for probation and now works as an electrician.



Well, that didn't take long. After just one witness, the government's top prosecutor, agitated and angered, was on his feet lodging a complaint with the judge.
"It looks like we're hiding the ball because we're objecting. It's inappropriate." said Assistant U.S. Attorney Reid Schar. He talked outside the jury's presence.
The issue: defense lawyer Lauren Kaeseberg asked FBI Special Agent Dan Cain a series of questions that the judge had already ruled the defense could not ask.
The questions were about the FBI's wiretapping. They included asking if agents decided when to turn on and off the taping.
Schar was incensed because he had to stand up and object to a series of questions that raised questions over whether the FBI was picking and choosing what to record in the 42 days of wiretapping the former governor.
Judge James Zagel interjected in front of the jury, giving a lengthy legal explanation of the rules involving wiretapping, that it's allowed by Congress, etc.
Outside the jury's presence, Zagel warned the defense they were out of line.
He said if the defense wants to preserve their record, they could question Cain outside the jury's presence -- that would not violate his ruling.
"I don't want to be sustaining objections to stuff that I clearly ruled on," Zagel said.
"If I made a mistake and this ends badly for your client, there's a place you can go."

Blagojevich retrial agent: FBI describes "Wire Room"

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Dan Cain is now on the stand for the prosecution. He's the FBI guru who's been on the state corruption investigation since 2003 -- long before Rod Blagojevich was a target.

With secret recordings playing such a huge role in this trial, and a constant source of dispute, Cain is describing how the FBI took the evidence.

Cain, an accountant before he joined the FBI, explains this methodically.

Interception of calls happened at a secure FBI office in the Chicago area, Cain says.
It all went down in "The Wire Room," a secure location in an FBI facility where the listening equipment is located.
The calls are transmitted from telephone lines, the computer system captures it. The agents record the calls. The calls are recorded onto discs digitally. One disc is marked "original." One is marked "working copy." A disc was sealed and brought to a judge after 30 days. A federal judge has to oversee a wiretapping investigation. In this case, several extensions were granted from Oct. 22 to Dec 9, 2008.

Important point: Cain explains that the number of "sessions" of recordings is different than the number of conversations recorded. That's big because the defense has made much hay over the "thousands" of conversations that had been recorded but just a fraction were played at trial. Cain explains that the numbers could be deceptive: one conversation could get several session numbers. If a call was interrupted by call waiting, it would get a new number.


We're back in this morning with a brief argument before the first witness, FBI Agent Dan Cain, is called to the stand.
Lawyers are arguing over whether the prosecution can have Cain talk about a newspaper article published right after the conviction of former governor George Ryan.
In that article, Blagojevich condemns Ryan's actions.
"This one actually goes to the intent of the defendant at the relevant time period," prosecutor Reid Schar tells the judge.
Attorney Shelly Sorosky says the article is predjudcial and shouldn't be introduced.
But Judge James Zagel says he'll allow it.
"There is a flavor of not being fully cognizant of the conduct in which he's accused ... that this conduct was maybe not fully realized to be wrong," Zagel says. "This is not a governor saying: "well it wasn't so bad, he's doing what any other governor would do."
Prosecutors said they'll refer to the article without saying it is about Ryan, but a public official.

They helped secure Rod Blagojevich. Then they helped secure his demise.
Two top officials with the Illinois State Police, Director and Rod Blagojevich appointee Larry Trent and deputy director Charles Brueggemann -- were in covert conversations with the FBI in the fall of 2008, letting them know when Blagojevich wanted sweeps of his campaign office, as well as other help, according to sources and phone records obtained by the Sun-Times.

When it was revealed in last summer's trial that the State Police had swept Blagojevich's campaign office, the agency was criticized for allowing the former governor to use them at his disposal.

Turns out, they were in on the investigation.
Brueggemann's phone records show a flurry of phone calls back and forth with the FBI and its special-agent-in-charge, Robert Grant, before and after several of the critical dates in the timeline that led to Blagojevich's Dec. 9, 2008 arrest. Brueggemann sometimes followed the talks with calls to Trent's home phone, records show.

The information provided by the men helped hasten the investigation as well as aid in the FBI's delicate late-night bug installation into Blagojevich's campaign headquarters -- timed to happen before an Oct. 22 meeting between Blagojevich and his inner circle, according to sources.

John Wyma
, a lobbyist and Blagojevich pal who was secretly cooperating, told the feds he was to meet with Blagojevich at his Ravenswood campaign office on that date to discuss fund-raising. The feds at the time were probing pay-to-play allegations.

The State Police also relayed to the FBI that Blagojevich's camp wanted an Oct. 22 sweep, sources said. From Oct. 17 to Oct. 24, 2008, Brueggemann's phone records show 16 calls to or from the FBI. On the eve of the Dec. 9, 2008 arrest, Brueggemann talked to the FBI for at least 35 minutes, the records showed. The State Police swept the campaign office that day, according to Robert Blagojevich's testimony at trial. That was three days after a Chicago Tribune article revealed the feds were listening in on Blagojevich.

Blagojevich retrial: Day 8. Bring on the witnesses.

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Opening highlights

A pared down version of Rod Blagojevich's case was delivered to a newly-minted jury panel in the former governor's retrial Monday. The jury is made up of 15 women and three men.

Prosecution: The government took heed from jurors who sat in last summer's trial and sliced off significant portions of their case in their initial remarks, which lasted less than an hour. They focused on five shakedown schemes, focusing on the alleged sale of President Obama's Senate seat. Patti Blagojevich was unscathed this time around in openings, with no allegations involving her being a ghostpayroller for convicted businessman Tony Rezko.



Defense:
For its part, the defense told jurors to ask themselves after every witness testifies and every tape is played, what ended up happening in the alleged scheme.
"Rod gets nothing. Rod does nothing," defense lawyer Aaron Goldstein said.

WITNESS LIST

1. FBI Special Agent Dan Cain. He will give an overview of the case and tease to the hundreds of secretly recorded conversations.
2. John Harris: In a change, the former chief of staff will be the first insider to take the witness stand. Last year, the government headed off with Lon Monk. By comparison, Harris has more Boy Scout qualities, giving off an aura of someone trying to do the right thing while having a boss he couldn't quite control. Monk, on the other hand, had admitted to taking cash bribes from Rezko. Harris was arrested the same day as Rod Blagojevich. He's pleaded guilty.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Toward the end of his opening statement, defense lawyer Aaron Goldstein asked the jury to "have the courage to look at this case and make sure they prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt."

"Have the courage," he repeated. The prosecution objected and Judge James Zagel agreed, saying, "I don't think it's a test of courage, and if you think it is, you're going to have to introduce some evidence that proves it."

Goldstein also suggested President Barack Obama was involved in who would be picked for the Senate seat.

"The president, the soon-to-be president of the United States was sending messages to Rod to appoint Valerie Jarrett," he said

Coming as a surprise to no one, Goldstein said, was that Blagojevich likes to talk -- and talking, he added, is not a crime. Using Goldilocks-style phrasing, he said jurors were not there to decide whether Blagojevich "felt too much, too little or just right about the people of Illinois."

"If you do that," Goldstein said, finishing his argument, "If you give this man a fair trial, you'll see sitting before you an innocent man, and what you'll see after all is said and done, you'll see there is a whole lot said but nothing was done."

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

In a sometimes heated monologue, defense lawyer Aaron Goldstein took issue with the opening statement delivered by prosecutors earlier today.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Niewoehner said in his opening statement that while Blagojevich was governor he had power over the everyday lives of everyone in Illinois, including those of sick children.

"They told you whether a sick child got healthcare was in his hands," Goldstein said angrily, his tenor increasing and his arms crossed. "No. Say what you want about Rod, no one cared about healthcare more than that guy right there. Sick children were cured because of him!"

"Objection!" came the reply from the prosecutor's table.

"Sustained," replied Judge James Zagel, upholding the prosecution's objection.

It's a back-and-forth that's happened a few times throughout Goldstein's speech, but he continues to charge ahead.

"We'll see what the evidence is," Goldstein retorted.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Paraphrasing William Shakespeare, Blagojevich's lawyer Aaron Goldstein told the jury in his opening statement that the trial is "a tale of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

"Nothing": It's a word Goldstein, who, like Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Niewoehner, is wearing a navy blue suit and red tie, is repeating throughout his statement.

"Don't be fooled. Don't be intimidated. Don't get sucked into their 'throw everything against the wall and see what sticks' approach," Goldstein is telling the jury. "After each witness testifies, after each recording is played and after each issue is discussed, ask yourself one simple question: what ended up happening? Time after time after time, you'll be left with the same answer."

There he paused to get water, commenting, "There's so much nothingness, my mouth is dry."

Now Goldstein is describing Blagojevich's relationship with government witness Lon Monk, his former close friend and one-time chief of staff, displaying a picture of Blagojevich, his wife Patti and Monk at the Blagojeviches wedding, where the two ex-friends are dressed in tuxedos.

Blagojevich looks for just one important quality in people, Goldstein said: trust.

"If Rod trusts you, you're in with him," he said. "And Rod trusted Lon, and Lon betrayed Rod."

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

That didn't take long: Blagojevich's famous caught-on-tape quote about the "effin' golden" Senate seat has already been presented to the jury during the prosecution's opening statement, given by Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Niewoehner.

"You're going to hear him say, I've got this thing and its effin' golden, and I'm not giving it up for effin' nothing," Niewoehner said, while Blagojevich shifted in his chair. "It was his thing, his golden thing. He was going to get something for himself in exchange for it. And you're gonna hear him set out to do it."

While he discussed the quote, the prosecutors displayed it to the jury on a large screen.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Niewoehner is delivering the prosecution's opening statement, which is clear, concise and aided by overhead pictures linked to the different alleged shakedown schemes. It appears the government is responding to complaints by last summer's jury that they were not clear enough in their presentation.

Niewoehner is emphasizing five shakedown schemes and laying them out in simple terms. Perhaps addressing what some jurors called a lack of a "smoking gun," Niewoehner is describing each alleged shakedown and ending with this: "And right there, the crime was complete: state action for personal benefit."

As soon as Blagojevich made the demand, Niewoehner is arguing, a crime was committed. He said sometimes Blagojevich was subtle; other times, he was less so.

"Sometimes he was subtle as a freight train," Niewoehner said, describing an alleged shakedown of a Chicago school. "He just laid it out: personal benefit for state action."

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

In a change from last year, Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Niewoehner is delivering the prosecution's opening statements. Assistant U.S. Attorney Carrie Hamilton delivered the statement in the first trial.

While Blagojevich watches seriously with hands clasped, Niewoehner, dressed in a navy suit and red tie, is standing right in front of the jury box, pacing and pointing.

"The governor of Illinois was shaking people down," Niewoehner said. "He was abusing his power as governor to get something for himself, and every time he tried to shake someone down, he violated the trust of the people of Illinois, and he violated the law."

Niewoehner said he'll spend the next 45 minutes describing what the government will show in court and how it will prove its case.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Blagojevich stood up and watched solemnly while his jury filed in, with three men next to each other in the jury box and 15 women filing in after them. After they were seated, Blagojevich sat down, hands folded, and looked them over.

The 12 jurors and 6 alternates have been sworn in and opening statements are about to start.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Carrie Hamilton delivered the prosecution's opening statement last summer and will probably do so again now. During last year's statement, Hamilton began with the story of Blagojevich's alleged shakedown of Children's Memorial Hospital and moved from there to stories about the AUSL School, the Illinois Tollway and finally to the charges relating to President Obama's vacated Senate seat and the FBI recordings.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Finally, a jury of 12 regular jurors and six alternates has been selected in former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's retrial.
If the jurors are seated in order, just one man will be among the 12 regular jurors. Even if they're not, it's a female-heavy panel -- out of 18 people, just three of them are male. It's tough to know who that benefits, but defense lawyers with experience with jury selection have said that female jurors are good for Blagojevich, arguing that men don't like him.

Here's the jury, selected in this order:

103 A female bartender, Juror 103 has also worked at a database management company and said she's a "weekend warrior" when it comes to a sideline photography gig. She said she remembers last trial's verdict, but not much else: the televisions at work are normally tuned to sports channels.

120 This juror is a young woman who administers pensions, she said. In her spare time, she likes to hang out with her kids.

124 This woman used to work for a food service. A widow, she said she likes to listen to classical music. Her father served in the Navy.

125 This woman knows how to weld horseshoes together and worked for 23 years as a computer technician for a junior college. She likes photography and spending time outdoors.

131 This woman moved from California to Chicago because "you follow your love sometimes," she told the judge. A dietician, she works for a food company with a focus on bananas, and said she recalled parts of last year's trial.

132 This middle-aged woman reads her local paper and helps run a small video store. She said she sometimes watches Judge Judy, and Zagel warned her that the case would likely not be so dramatic. She has no preconceptions about the case.

136 This female juror, an African American, used to serve in the Navy and said she didn't pay attention to last summer's trial. Her child once visited a doctor at Children's Memorial Hospital. A part-time caterer, she's hoping to go into nursing, she told the judge.

140 A third and fourth grade teacher who said she loves her job, this juror usually just reads headlines in the Daily Herald. She's acted as a learning coach to other teachers, but wasn't a supervisor.

142 This juror does sterilization and lab work for a dental office in her brother's practice, a job she's been doing for the last nine years after raising her children. She's served on a jury multiple times in the county where she lives.

146 This middle-aged woman has been practicing music since she was in junior high, and worked as a choral director until her recent retirement. She said she believes most politicians are good and said "since public officials are human, some may consider their own interests, and you'd hope that they would place their duties of office first."

149 This 40-something mother of three was recently laid off from her job as director of marketing and sales for a manufacturing company, a field she's worked in for most of her life. She didn't care, one way or the other, about the last trial, and told Zagel she could be a fair juror.

174 This father of two with a slight Boston accent said from what he read, "I figured he was possibly guilty, but that was just a guess." It's an opinion he said he could put aside, though that didn't stop the defense from trying to kick him off for cause. He works in a distribution company and reads the Chicago Tribune on Sundays.

If seated in order, these are the alternates:

179 This librarian has a master's degree in library science and does social networking for the small- or medium-sized library where she works. She likes to swim and knit, and said she read up on Blagojevich after she got the summons because she was curious.

181 This older female said she didn't form an opinion on Blagojevich because she didn't care much about the news. She's been retired for almost a year and donates to Goodwill and her church.

184 This 30-something male service representative for McDonald's Corp. talks to employees around the country about their benefits and used to work for the Chicago Park District as a lifeguard.

190 This woman's husband did some campaign work for Blagojevich when he was running for congressman, but doesn't talk about it much and said he only met Blagojevich once or twice. She has an accounting degree and works between technology and corporate departments at her company. The couple have two kids ages 9 and 6 and sometimes tune into The Daily Show and The Colbert Report on Comedy Central.

191 This mother of three's youngest is about to graduate high school. The former PTA vice-president is active in her Greek Orthodox church and only reads a little news, though she's skeptical of politicians.

192 This juror said he doesn't believe everything he reads. He makes aerosol cans and used to work in a steel factory. He said he spends much of his time chasing after his three young children.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Judge James Zagel denied a motion by the defense to scrap the jury and start over, saying that if the jury pool was contaminated, it was mostly because Blagojevich wouldn't stop talking to the media and "invited juror opinion."

"He was asking them to have an opinion, and I think under these circumstances much of the dilemma he faces here was created by himself," Zagel said.

He added that jurors who were grouped with Juror 101 (who told a radio station she thought other jurors were biased) were largely excused for cause because they had strong opinions.

U.S. District Judge James Zagel denied two motions by Blagojevich's lawyers this morning to limit what prosecutors can argue in court.

The defense wanted to limit prosecutors from asking witnesses what they "understood" from conversations with the then-governor. They also wanted to bring into evidence the fact that Blagojevich eventually signed the Racetrack Bill, saying the jury will assume he didn't if it's not brought up in testimony.

But Zagel said there was never any question about whether the bill was signed. Instead, prosecutors are arguing that the signing of the bill was delayed while Blagojevich allegedly demanded campaign contributions in exchange for signing it. Zagel accused the defense of twisting the prosecution's argument.

After discussing the two motions, Zagel briefly began addressing a motion from the prosecution before suddenly suspending the hearing to deal with "another matter." It's unclear what that might be.

He hasn't yet addressed defense lawyers' Sunday motion to scrap jury selection and start over because of "overwhelming bias."

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

The courtroom's still waiting for jury picks this morning, and the left side of the courtroom, where media usually sits, has been cleared to prepare to seat the 40+ potential jurors.

This caused Blagojevich, who is seated at the defense table on the right side of the room, to turn toward members of the media now sitting behind him and smile.

"It's nice to have you on my side for a change," he said to laughter.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

While courtroom spectators and a pool of just over 40 potential jurors wait, Blagojevich lawyers and prosecutors have been in discussions behind closed doors this morning.

Both parties just re-entered the courtroom and exited again, presumably to begin discussing who to cut from the assembled pool of potential jurors. Upon re-entering the courtroom after discussions in Judge James Zagel's chambers, lawyer Lauren Kaeseberg gave Blagojevich a faint smile and quick eyebrow raise, while prosecutor Reid Schar pointed to a top FBI agent and called him over.

Then lawyers exited to the hallway, where they are likely discussing jury picks.

Defense attorneys for Rod Blagojevich filed a motion Sunday asking U.S. District Judge James Zagel to scrap a week and half of jury selection and start over due to "overwhelming bias" in the jury pool. Otherwise, the motion says, Blagojevich "cannot possibly receive a constitutionally fair trial."

The entire panel is "tainted," the motion argues, referencing an interview with a booted juror on WBBM radio. In the interview, the woman, Juror 101, said potential jurors were discussing the trial despite being specifically told not to, and said she believed Blagojevich "definitely" would not get a fair trial.

The motion argues potential jurors were more honest in the questionnaires they filled out than they were while being questioned in court by Zagel. The defense argue that though many jurors said they would "try" and believed they "could" put aside any bias if seated on the jury, that is "simply not enough."

The filing even references a post from this blog referencing the significant number of jurors who said they believed Blagojevich was guilty, three of whom remain in the jury pool: "Think Blagojevich is guilty? Join his jury!"

If Zagel doesn't grant the request and start over, the lawyers asked to move the trial to a different federal courthouse, possibly one in Hammond, Ind., "where perhaps the venire pool may be drawn from a group less hostile to Blagojevich."

Blagojevich retrial: Day 7. Opening statements

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Opening statements are expected today in Rod Blagojevich's retrial, right after the final jury is picked.

Today: Parties are to meet at 9 a.m. and each side will exercise its peremptory strikes. The defense has 13 strikes, the prosecution 9. They will seat 12 regular jurors and six alternates.
Opening statements: Prosecutor Reid Schar said the government should take less than an hour. Same for the defense, with Aaron Goldstein delivering remarks.

Witnesses: FBI Special Agent Dan Cain will be the government's first witness.

Last week's highlights:

Jurors: A ticket to the Oprah show got one person excused from duty but at least three others who said they thought Blagojevich was guilty remain in the pool.

Judge ruling: A significant, but overlooked ruling from Judge James Zagel means that jurors won't hear about Blagojevich's acts that happened after his arrest. The ruling means jurors won't hear that he signed horse-racing legislation and allowed pediatric rate increases for Children's Memorial Hospital. That's a big deal, since the ex-governor is accused of shaking down a racetrack owner and Children's CEO for campaign contributions in exchange for acts. Now, his defense can't argue -- as they did last trial -- that those entities got what they wanted, so no harm, no foul. That is, unless Blagojevich takes the witness stand.

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