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

June 2011 Archives

By Lark Turner
Chicago Sun-Times

Chicago's top prosecutor admits he's a "math geek", but told a group of state's attorneys Thursday that until he worked on the Rod Blagojevich trial, he never realized the giant leap between 11 and 12.
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald cracked the joke in reference to Blagojevich's first trial, which ended with a hung jury when one juror refused to convict the former governor on charges he tried to sell or trade a U.S. Senate seat. Blagojevich was convicted of those charges and others Monday when a new jury returned a verdict, finding Blagojevich guilty of 17 of the 20 counts against him.
"I was a math geek and a major in college, and I never knew the difference between 11 and 12 could be so great," Fitzgerald told the laughing crowd attending a State's Attorney's Association conference at Chicago's Westin Hotel, 909 N. Michigan Ave. "Eleven to one, twelve to zero, oh boy, there's a huge difference."
Fitzgerald praised the legal team, noting how hard they had worked on both trials. He said he was "grateful" his prosecutors came away with so many convictions.
Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez introduced Fitzgerald at the conference, asking for a round of applause for his "big verdict." She spoke about her time working with Blagojevich when the two were partners as assistant state's attorneys "way back when," which Blagojevich mentioned on the stand.
"We technically we were partners," she said sarcastically. "I say that because he tended to disappear and you had to do the call without him!"

After weeks in the courtroom and 10 days of deliberations, Kim Spaetti, one of the jurors who voted Rod Blagojevich guilty on 17 of 20 counts against him, said Wednesday U.S. District Judge James Zagel "seemed like he was very much for the government."

"It did seem that he was pro-prosecution," said Spaetti, 31, of Winthrop Harbor, who works at a fruit company. Zagel's perceived bias didn't factor into the jury's deliberations, she said. "None of us were legal experts. We didn't know why they [prosecutors] were objecting so much. We tried not to speculate on why."

Much of the questioning by Blagojevich's defense team was objected to by prosecutors and ultimately blocked by Zagel, in attempts to keep out facts the judge had already ruled couldn't be part of the trial.

Blagojevich's antics on the stand included saying "God bless you" every time a juror sneezed. Turns out Spaetti was the sneeziest juror in the box.

"Yes, I was the sneeze juror," she said, sighing. "He blessed me, god, three or four times. I was the butt of the jokes every time we got back in the jury room. What can you do? He's a funny guy."

Spaetti also said the ex-gov's personal testimony was excessive.

"The whole first day, I really thought it was a waste of our time. I don't think we needed the rags-to-riches story," Spaetti said. "I don't think it pertained to the trial."

Blagojevich spent his first day on the stand talking personal history, including a "man-crush" on Alexander Hamilton, his days wearing polyester as a student at Northwestern University and his first date with wife Patti.

Meanwhile, she said some of the defense's decisions left her puzzled or, in the case of Jesse Jackson Jr., saying, "Oh my god" in shock.

"He humiliated him," Spaetti said.

For all of Blagojevich's time on the stand defending himself -- and in spite of what jurors said seemed like testimony directed toward them -- Spaetti said she had little trouble finding Blagojevich guilty.

"It really wasn't difficult for me. I went in there really headstrong," she said.

She said it could be difficult balancing that with opinions of others in the jury room during the nine substantive days of deliberations before the jury finally announced its verdict: Blagojevich was guilty on 17 of 20 counts and not guilty on one. The jury was unable to reach a verdict on two of the counts.

Maribel DeLeon, another juror on the trial, told reporters she was hoping to find Blagjevich not guilty -- but the evidence pointed in a different direction.

"I'd come in thinking, 'OK, he's not guilty,' and then all of a sudden I'm like, 'Gosh darn you, Rod! You did it again!' I mean, he proved beyond a reasonable doubt that he was guilty," said DeLeon, a mother of three.

For Spaetti, that could be frustrating.

"There were a couple jurors who would frequently would look on the defense side," she said, and other jurors had to constantly remind them to look at the evidence. "Yes, we see Patti in the courtroom crying and he brought his daughter in one day, but you're there to do a job and people are counting on you to put that aside."

Any prison term will have an undeniable toll on Rod Blagojevich's children, say defense lawyers, who say their clients often tell them their kids start faltering in school once they go away.

"No matter what happens to him, they're going to be scarred for life," said federal defense attorney Kent Carlson. "When you're used to having a father to do stuff and he's not there, it has an impact."

Blagojevich will likely want to be placed in a prison camp in Oxford, Wisconsin, to make weekend visits easier on his daughters, 8 and 14. Oxford is among the closest to Chicago.

However, experts say that the length of Blagojevich's sentence could be a key factor in deciding whether the former governor is in a place with guards and bars or in a place with khakis and cards.

Defendants who are sentenced to more than 10 years in prison typically don't get a spot in the more-desired prison camps, said defense attorney Jeffrey Steinback, who is regarded as an expert in federal sentencing and who has testified before the U.S. Sentencing Commission. Read more: Click here

#Blagojevich jury complaint: We gained weight

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Many jurors said the disruption of their routines meant time away from their families.
So when they couldn't celebrate a birthday in person, jurors would call each
others' loved ones on their birthdays, singing to them as a group from the
deliberation room, Juror Rosemary Bennett, 73, of Aurora said.
Bennett even had her own birthday while serving jury duty.
"We became the singing jury," Bennett said with a smile. "I met some very, very
nice people."
Time on the jury meant something else - weight gain.
Juror Jessica Hubinek of Carol Stream said her half-marathon training went out the window.
She didn't have time to swim. Fast food, jury room pastries and treats jurors themselves brought in to celebrate each others' birthdays led to a couple extra pounds over the two months.
Plus, during their 10 days of deliberations, the court sprung for lunch at Lou Malnati's, Corner Bakery or Panera.
"There was lots of food to be had. Carbs. I've probably gained 10 pounds," Juror Maya Moody said. "I just look forward to getting back to my regular routine."

#Blagojevich juror: Ex-gov's testimony was insulting

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Rod Blagojevich's jurors sat down with the Chicago Sun-Times Tuesday and they talked about their take on the ex-governor's testimony.

They didn't believe him.

And Blagojevich's words made one juror, Karen Woj­cieszak, 64, of Tinley Park, downright angry.

"We had heard seven days of Mr. Blagojevich's 'blah, blah, blah,' " Wojcieszak said. "I don't care if he grew up poor on the North Side of immigrant parents. We're all immigrants unless you're a Native American.

"He really cheated the people of Illinois, or tried to," she continued. "He took an oath to do what was best for the people of Illinois and he didn't do it. So we'll have another governor in jail."

Read their full account and click on links to individual juror interviews: Click here

Lone male juror doesn't feel sorry for #Blagojevich

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by Jon Seidel Sun-Times Media

John McParland is "all Boston."

The 53-year-old Villa Park man threw on a black Boston Bruins cap and a Red Sox T-shirt Tuesday, the day after he and 11 other federal jurors convicted former Gov. Rod Blagojevich on corruption charges in Chicago.

The former Juror No. 174 stood outside his red-brick home under a fluttering American flag, and he said he "definitely" feels bad for Blagojevich's two daughters, whose father faces a potentially lengthy prison sentence.

He feels bad for Illinois' former first lady, Patti Blagojevich. Sort of.

But he doesn't feel bad for the former governor.

Read more the of the story here.

GUILTY. Count 1: Wire fraud: Children's Memorial Hospital. This covers an unrecorded, Oct. 17 call in which Blagojevich tells Children's CEO Patrick Magoon an increase in state payments for pediatric doctors would be approved as of Jan. 1. Prosecutors allege Blagojevich was shaking down Magoon for $25,000 in campaign contributions. Maximum penalty: 20 years.

GUILTY. Count 2: Wire fraud: Senate seat. This count covers a Nov. 7 call from Blagojevich to Chief of Staff John Harris and pollster Fred Yang, where the three allegedly discuss requests for personal benefits for Blagojevich in exchange for appointing Barack Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett to the Senate seat. Maximum penalty: 20 years.

GUILTY. Count 3: Wire fraud: Senate seat. In this Nov. 10 conference call, Blagojevich and his advisors allegedly discuss requesting personal benefits for Blagojevich in exchange for the Senate seat appointment. Maximum penalty: 20 years.

GUILTY. Count 4: Wire fraud: Senate seat. In a Nov. 12. call with Fred Yang, Blagojevich discusses the possibility of wealthy Democratic donors setting up a charitable organization, or 501c4, that he could head up, allegedly in exchange for appointing Jarrett to the Senate. Maximum penalty: 20 years.

GUILTY. Count 5: Wire fraud: Senate seat. In this Nov. 12 call to union leader Tom Balanoff, prosecutors allege Blagojevich requested a 501c4 job in exchange for appointing Jarrett. Maximum penalty: 20 years.

GUILTY. Count 6: Wire fraud: Senate seat. In another Nov. 12 call to Balanoff, prosecutors allege Blagojevich was requesting the 501c4 job in exchange for appointing Valerie Jarrett -- and telling Balanoff to be careful about how he made the request on the governor's behalf. Maximum penalty: 20 years.

GUILTY. Count 7: Wire fraud: Senate seat. Prosecutors allege Blagojevich, in this Nov. 13 call with consultant Doug Scofield, requests the 501c4 job in exchange for making a Senate seat appointment. Maximum penalty: 20 years.

GUILTY. Count 8: Wire fraud: Senate seat. Later that same day, prosecutors allege Blagojevich again requests Scofield ask for the 501c4 job in exchange for appointing someone to the Senate seat. Maximum penalty: 20 years.

GUILTY. Count 9: Wire fraud: Racetrack executive. In this Dec. 4 call, prosecutors allege Blagojevich discusses extorting a racetrack exec for campaign contributions with friend and former chief of staff Lon Monk. Maximum penalty: 20 years.

GUILTY. Count 10: Wire fraud: Senate seat. In this Dec. 4 call with Blagojevich, Yang and Deputy Governor Robert Greenlee, the three allegedly discuss getting "tangible, political support" -- which prosecutors say was $1.5 million from supporters of U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. -- in exchange for appointing Jackson to the Senate seat. Maximum penalty: 20 years.

NO VERDICT. Count 11: Attempted extortion: Chicago Academy and then-U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel. Blagojevich allegedly demanded campaign contributions from Emanuel in exchange for making good on a promised state grant to a school in Emanuel's district. Maximum penalty: 20 years.

GUILTY. Count 12: Attempted extortion: Children's Memorial Hospital. In exchange for approving a state payment increase for pediatric doctors, Blagojevich allegedly demanded campaign contributions from CEO Magoon. Maximum penalty: 20 years.

GUILTY. Count 13: Solicitation of a bribe: Children's Memorial Hospital. Alleges Blagojevich was soliciting campaign contributions from Magoon in exchange for the state money for doctors treating Medicaid patients at Children's. Maximum penalty: 10 years.

GUILTY. Count 14: Extortion conspiracy: Racetrack executive. Blagojevich was allegedly conspiring with Monk to get campaign contributions from a racetrack executive by leveraging an unsigned bill on Blagojevich's desk that would grant money to the racetrack industry. Maximum penalty: 20 years.

GUILTY. Count 15: Conspiracy to solicit a bribe: Racetrack executive. Blagojevich and Monk allegedly conspired to get campaign contributions from a racetrack exec in exchange for signing the bill. Maximum penalty: 5 years.

NO VERDICT. Count 16: Attempted extortion: Illinois Tollway. Blagojevich allegedly demanded campaign contributions from road-building exec Gerald Krozel in exchange for giving state money to the Tollway. Maximum penalty: 20 years.

NOT GUILTY. Count 17: Solicitation of a bribe: Illinois Tollway. Prosecutors allege Blagojevich wanted campaign contributions from Krozel in exchange for approving a multi-billion dollar Tollway improvement plan. Maximum penalty: 10 years.

GUILTY. Count 18: Conspiracy to commit extortion: Senate seat. Blagojevich allegedly had an agreement with his brother Robert Blagojevich, chief of staff Harris and others to demand things of personal value in exchange for the Senate seat appointment. Maximum penalty: 20 years.

GUILTY. Count 19: Attempted extortion: Senate seat. Blagojevich allegedly demanded things of personal value in exchange for the Senate seat appointment. Maximum penalty: 20 years.

GUILTY. Count 20: Conspiracy to solicit a bribe: Senate seat. Blagojevich allegedly had an agreement with Robert Blagojevich, Harris and others to solicit a bribe, including an offer of $1.5 million from Jackson supporters in exchange for the Senate seat appointment. Maximum penalty: 5 years.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Rod Blagojevich arrived at a packed courthouse Monday afternoon to hear a jury announce its verdict on 18 of the 20 counts against the former governor. The jury said this morning in a note to the judge that they were unanimous on 18 of the 20 counts and unable to come to an agreement on the remaining two.

Shaking hands with members of the media and greeting ogling spectators outside the courthouse -- including construction workers across the street -- Blagojevich stopped to ask a reporter how she did in a weekend marathon. She said she won.

"I hope I'm as lucky," he said.

He held hands with his wife Patti and the two headed upstairs to Judge James Zagel's courtroom on the 25th floor of the Dirksen Federal Courthouse.

The courthouse was busier than it's been throughout the entire trial, with a media bullpen on the first floor packed with reporters.

The verdict is expected shortly.

Click here for a summary of the charges.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

The jury debating Rod Blagojevich's fate has come to a unanimous decision on 18 of the 20 counts against the former governor. It appears we will have a verdict this afternoon.

They remain deadlocked on 2.

In a note to Judge James Zagel Monday morning, the jury wrote that they were "confident we will not come to an agreement" on the other 2 counts, "even with further deliberations."

The prosecution said Zagel should accept a verdict on the 18 counts and the defense had no objection.

Zagel, who is overseeing another trial in his courtroom, said the verdict will be announced no earlier than 1 p.m.

The jury's communication came on day 10 of their talks and after taking a three-day weekend. They had gone all of last week without saying a word.

The note quickly squashed speculation that yet another jury was hung on the ex-governor's case. Last summer, a panel of six women and six men were deadlocked on 23 of 24 counts, convicting the former governor of just one count.

#Blagojevich jury back for day 10 -- with a question

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We're headed to court now to find out what's going on. Will report back.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Onto day 10.

Former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich will have to wait until at least next week to hear from the jury debating his fate on 20 counts charging him with corruption, fraud and extortion.

The jury ended its ninth day at its usual 4 p.m. Thursday and will be back to deliberating Monday. Their regular schedule is Monday-Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., according to the clerk of court.

Last year, Blagojevich's jury took 14 days to deliberate before letting Judge James Zagel know they were hopelessly deadlocked. It turned out they were hung on 23 of 24 counts against the ex-gov.

The jury deliberating the fate of Rod Blagojevich was spotted Thursday entering a private elevator on its way to get lunch.

About half of the jurors were looking casual and wearing blue jeans, while others were slightly dressier. They mostly talked in small groups, while a couple individuals stood isolated. One whispered in another's ear.

It's day nine of the jury's deliberations and there's been no signal from them all week on the status of their deliberations. The jury has previously sent two notes to Judge James Zagel.

Last year, the jury on Blagojevich's first trial deliberated for 14 days and came back hung on all but one count.

Jurors in the retrial are weighing 20 counts against the ex-gov, charged with fraud, extortion and corruption.

Lawyers appear to be gagged in #Blagojevich case

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Reporting with Lark Turner

There appears to be a gag on lawyers in the Rod Blagojevich corruption case.

Since last week -- and after the jury got the case -- there have been four sealed filings in the case and lawyers tied to the trial who usually freely discuss it are now keeping their mouths tightly shut.

The filings came after media appearances by onetime Blagojevich attorney Sam Adam Jr. who last week, during jury deliberations, went on TV and radio predicting "20 not guilty verdicts" for his onetime client.

The sealed filings began from the prosecution and go back and forth with the defense. "SEALED RESPONSE to sealed document," and so on.

The first of the filings came on June 15th, the day after Sam Adam Jr's appearance on FOX. Adam is no longer on the trial -- but he still has an appearance on file in the case. On June 13, Blagojevich lawyers Lauren Kaeseberg and Aaron Goldstein both appeared on "Chicago Tonight," a public television political show.

There have been no subsequent media appearances by any of those lawyers (with the exception of prerecorded interviews). The defense team, which had been waiting on the verdict inside the courthouse, has moved elsewhere to wait.

On June 16, lawyers were summoned to U.S. District Judge James Zagel's chambers for a private meeting. Also in the courthouse was Adam. Afterward, the typically talkative Adam would not answer questions about the Blagojevich case. A few times when asked a question, he'd put his hand over his mouth.

"I MUST decline to comment," Adam repeatedly said. "I cannot tell you why."

Another defense lawyer, Michael Ettinger, who also still has an appearance on file in the case -- and typically answers questions about the trial -- responded today: "I cannot comment at this time," when asked about strategy in the case.

A U.S. Attorney's spokesman also had no comment on whether there was a gag order.

Last year, during Blagojevich's first trial, prosecutors asked Zagel to gag Blagojevich after he was commenting on witnesses' testimony. Zagel declined to do it.

Some thought yesterday would be the day. Some thought it would have been last week, others were saying next week.

But this morning, I've heard several people give the same reaction: "I'm done guessing."

Here we are, day 9 of deliberations in a case that prosecutors took 11 days to present and no sign from the Rod Blagojevich jury. No note since last Thursday.

We will mention that last year's jury sent out two notes right away, then went eight days without making a peep. On day 11, the panel sent a flurry of notes before concluding they could not come to a consensus on 23 of the 24 counts.

In the retrial, there are 20 counts the jury of 11 women and one man must ponder. And significantly different this time: Blagojevich was on the witness stand for parts of seven days.

So they're not only weighing witness testimony, transcripts, tapes and documents -- but the defendant's own words.

Blagojevich repeatedly said on the stand that he had never made a decision on who to appoint to the Senate seat before he was arrested Dec. 9, 2008 on charges that he was trading government action for a personal benefit.

The former governor insisted that he absolutely would never have appointed U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. to the Senate seat, even though he's heard on tape talking about the fund-raising that supporters of the congressman had offered in exchange for the nod.

Prosecutors accused Blagojevich of making up testimony "after the fact" so that it fit in with the secret FBI recordings the feds had made.

Rod Blagojevich's jury ends day 8 of their discussions.

The panel of 11 women and one man were spotted briefly today on their way for a lunch break. They were dressed somewhat casually and some of them were joking with each other.

Jurors have been quiet since sending a note last week in which they asked for clarification on 10 wire fraud counts.

In all, they're weighing 20 corruption charges against the former governor.

We'll be back 9 a.m. tomorrow for day 9.

Rod Blagojevich's jurors were spotted today, looking cheery on a break.

Court security escorted the 11 women and one man downstairs through a private elevator at around noon. They were likely on their way to grab some lunch.

The jurors were dressed as they were during the trial, with some wearing business clothing for the occasion and others looking casual. Some were quiet as they filed past, but most were talking or exchanging jokes, smiling.

Defense lawyer Sheldon Sorosky was also briefly on the 25th floor near Judge James Zagel's courtroom, but he quickly headed back downstairs.

It's the jury's eighth day deliberating 20 charges against the former governor who is accused of corruption, extortion and fraud.

The jury is holed up in Judge James Zagel's chambers for an eighth day as speculation grows about what the 11 women and one man are discussing as they debate Rod Blagojevich's fate.

The relatively quiet jury -- read more about last year's jurors here -- has sent two notes to Zagel thus far. Neither have offered much of a clue into deliberations. The more substantive note asked for clarification on the definition of wire fraud.

Zagel declined to give a definition, telling the jurors to read his instructions again and be more specific if they still had a question. They haven't sent a note since.

They're deliberating 20 counts against the ex-gov.

On day seven of deliberations, the jury in Rod Blagojevich's retrial again is silent. So far, the panel of 11 women and one man has been fairly quiet, sending just two notes.

In the most substantive note, sent last week, the jurors asked for clarification on an element of wire fraud, which makes up 10 counts against the former governor. They need to find four elements were met in order to convict Blagojevich of those charges, which mainly involve the alleged sale of President Obama's Senate seat.

Last year's jury went eight days without making a sound.
It turned out they were at war.

Here's a run-down of LAST YEAR'S JURY deliberations, which lasted 14 days:

-- NOTE NUMBER ONE: The six women and six men didn't take long before they had a question.
On day two of their talks, July 29, 2010, jurors made their first request: they wanted a transcript of the prosecution's closing argument. The request was denied because closing arguments are not evidence.
After reading the note, the three prosecutors on the case looked at each other and laughed.
Jury's first note: Click here

-- NOTE NUMBER TWO: The next day, July 30, day three of talks they asked U.S. District Judge James Zagel for transcripts of all the witness testimony. He denied the request but said he may give them specific witnesses. They never asked for more.

-- NOTE NUMBER THREE: Eight days of silence go by without a peep from the panel. Then, on day 11 of talks, the jurors communicate a whopper: They are at an impasse: Click here "We have gone beyond reasonable attempts" to reach a unanimous decision and "now ask for guidance," the panel, headed by James Matsumoto, said in a note. Still, they continue talking.

-- NOTE NUMBER FOUR: The next day, Aug. 12, a Thursday, jurors reveal something else -- on day 12 of talks, they were unanimous on just two of 24 counts. They reveal they couldn't reach consensus on 11 wire fraud counts (there's now just 10 after prosecutors dropped one count.) At this point, Blagojevich is waiting in the cafeteria and can only digest Snapple for lunch.

-- NOTE NUMBER FIVE: The following Monday, Aug. 16, jurors ask for transcript of the testimony of former Illinois deputy governor Bradley Tusk. This happens on day 13 of talks.

-- NOTE NUMBER SIX: The morning of Aug. 17, a Tuesday, jurors ask for two things: a copy of the oath they took when they were seated, and second, instructions on how to fill out their verdict form if they can't reach a unanimous decision on a certain count or counts. It's day 14 of their deliberations.
At about 3 p.m. that same day, the defendants -- brothers Rod and Robert Blagojevich -- were summoned to court.
-- VERDICT: On day 14 of talks, at around 4:30 p.m. the verdict -- or lack of one -- is read. The ex-governor is convicted of just one count -- lying to the FBI. The jury is hung on 23 remaining counts. On the 11 Senate seat sale charges, the jury votes 11 to 1 in favor of conviction with a female hold-out juror who stands her ground. The other counts are more evenly divided, with the men and women sparring.

And day seven is gone. Blagojevich jurors go home.

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Jurors in Rod Blagojevich's case go home after seven days of talks without reaching a verdict on 20 counts.

The panel of 11 women and one man hasn't sent any notes since last Thursday.

They sent a note that day asking U.S. District Judge James Zagel to clarify part of the definition for wire fraud.

During last summer's trial, jurors spent 14 days deliberating and came back hung on 23 of the 24 counts facing the ex-governor, convicting him on a relatively lesser charge of making a false statement to the FBI. This time, Blagojevich faces 20 charges, half of which charge him with wire fraud.

Twelve of the 20 charges relate to allegations Blagojevich was hawking Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat to get benefits for himself.

It's the longest day of the year and the seventh day of jury deliberations in Rod Blagojevich's retrial, and there's been no word from jurors since Thursday.

They sent a note that day asking U.S. District Judge James Zagel to clarify part of the definition for wire fraud.

During last summer's trial, jurors spent 14 days deliberating and came back hung on 23 of the 24 counts facing the ex-governor, convicting him on a relatively lesser charge of making a false statement to the FBI. This time, Blagojevich faces 20 charges, half of which charge him with wire fraud.

Twelve of the 20 charges relate to allegations Blagojevich was hawking Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat to get benefits for himself.

Blagojevich jury ends day six without verdict

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Reporting with Lark Turner

Jurors deliberating Rod Blagojevich's fate left Monday without reaching a verdict.

That concluded day six of their deliberations.

The jury in Blagojevich's last trial deliberated for 14 days before giving up on 23 counts and convicting the impeached governor of making a false statement to the FBI.

After a break Friday, Saturday and Sunday, jurors are back in the Dirksen Federal Courthouse Monday for their sixth day of deliberations.

The jury sent a note to Judge James Zagel Thursday asking for clarification on the legal definition of wire fraud. Half of the 20 counts Rod Blagojevich faces are wire fraud charges, most relating to the Senate seat allegations.

Specifically the jury wanted clarification on one of the four elements necessary to find Blagojevich guilty of the offense: "that the scheme to defraud involved a materially false and fraudulent pretense, representation, promise, or concealment."

Zagel sent a note back to the jury asking them to read over the instructions again and, if they were still confused, to be more clear about their question in a second note. Thursday ended without another note from the jury.

The jury is made up of 11 women and one man; read more about who's in the room here. For more on what the unusually large gender gap might mean for Blagojevich, click here.

Rod Blagojevich's jury has ended its fifth day of deliberations without reaching a verdict.

The panel did send the judge a note asking its first substantive question.

They wanted clarification about the law about wire fraud counts. The judge told them to reread all of their jury instructions and if they still were unclear, to specify what in particular they wanted clarified.

We did not hear back from the jurors again before the day ended.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Jurors have sent a note asking for clarification on a jury instruction involving 10 of the 20 counts against former governor Rod Blagojevich.

They specifically asked about the third part of the instruction which says: "Third, that the scheme to defraud involved a materially false and fraudulent pretense, representation, promise, or concealment."

That's interesting, because to find Blagojevich guilty of wire fraud, jurors must find that the government has proven, beyond a reasonable doubt, all four elements of wire fraud -- including the third proposition that they are asking about.

(Click here to read the proposed jury instructions.)

Blagojevich is charged with 10 counts of wire fraud, nearly all having to do with the Senate seat. The jury instruction in question is about one-third of the way through the 70 or so pages they received.

The jurors will get a note back asking them to further clarify what specifically in that sentence they want detailed.

The note from Judge James Zagel tells the panel of 11 women and one man to review all of the instructions again. Then he said, if still necessary, jurors should specify which part of that phrase they want clarified. He told the lawyers in the parties to stay nearby -- and encouraged them to visit a library -- so if and when jurors want further clarification, it can be offered.

This is the instruction that jurors are reviewing:

Counts 1 through 10 of the indictment charge the defendant with wire fraud.
To sustain the charge of wire fraud, as charged in Counts 1 through 10, the government must prove the following propositions beyond a reasonable doubt: First, that the defendant knowingly devised or participated in a scheme to defraud the public of its right to the honest services of Rod Blagojevich or John Harris by demanding, soliciting, seeking, asking for, or agreeing to accept, a bribe in the manner described in the particular Count you are considering;

Second, that the defendant did so with the intent to defraud;

Third, that the scheme to defraud involved a materially false and fraudulent pretense, representation, promise, or concealment; and

Fourth, that for the purpose of carrying out the scheme or attempting to do so, the defendant used or caused the use of interstate wire communications to take place in the manner charged in the particular Count you are considering.

If you find from your consideration of all the evidence that each of these propositions has been proved beyond a reasonable doubt, you should find the defendant guilty of the particular count you are considering. If, on the other hand, you find from your consideration of all the evidence that any of these propositions has not been proved beyond a reasonable doubt, you should find the defendant not guilty of the particular count you are considering.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Lawyers and prosecutors in Rod Blagojevich's retrial were summoned to court on the fifth day of jury deliberations for an unknown reason. They've just emerged from Judge James Zagel's chambers and court has begun.

All attorneys stepped out from Zagel's chambers smiling. Both sides are now huddling and looking over papers.

No word yet on why the lawyers were summoned to court or what they were discussing.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

On the fifth day of jury deliberations, lawyers and prosecutors in Rod Blagojevich's retrial were summoned to court for an unknown reason.

They're currently in Judge James Zagel's chambers.

It's possible the jury is asking to deliberate Friday after all -- despite originally scheduling to meet for deliberations from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

The jury has sent one note to Zagel so far regarding a transcript discrepancy.

More to come.

#Blagojevich jury ends day four with no verdict

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Rod Blagojevich's jury has left for the day, ending day four of discussions without a verdict.

The jury in last year's trial took 14 days before deciding they were unable to reach a verdict on 23 of 24 counts.

The jury, made up of 11 women and one man, has been quiet since it began its deliberations -- except for just one note yesterday. In it, they indicated they were looking at a transcript involving a Nov. 14, 2008 Senate seat call. If that's any marker, they would have been half-way through the recorded calls that the prosecution gave them.

#Blagojevich jury ends day four with no verdict

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Rod Blagojevich's jury has left for the day, ending day four of discussions without a verdict.

The jury in last year's trial took 14 days before deciding they were unable to reach a verdict on 23 of 24 counts.

Blagojevich jury: It's day four of talks.

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The jury in Rod Blagojevich's retrial is in their fourth day of deliberations.

The panel of 11 women and one man was quiet until Tuesday, when it asked about a transcript of a phone call dealing with the Senate seat. The call is about half-way through the recordings produced by the prosecution -- if that's any marker on how far along they are in talks.

The jury in last year's trial took 14 days before returning hung on 23 of 24 counts. The panel convicted only on the false statement charge, complaining the case was confusing and lacked a "smoking gun."

This time around, prosecutors put on a slimmed-back case and worked to make it more straight-forward. However, Blagojevich also took the witness stand, hoping to throw some doubt into the allegations.

Blagojevich jury gone for the day.

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And day three ends with one small hint, but no verdict.

Jurors are mulling 20 charges, including that Rod Blagojevich tried selling President Obama's vacant Senate seat.

Jurors should be back in by 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Before leaving for the day, jurors sent the judge their first note.

The 12-member jury noticed that not all of them had the same number of pages for one of the phone calls in their transcript binders.

Some jurors noticed that there were nine pages for the phone call but others noticed there were five pages. The jurors all agreed they would not go further with that phone call until they got an answer.

Turns out that they were supposed to only have five pages for that phone call. Court security will go in and remove the pages for those who had the fuller transcript.

It was a good hint of what jurors are up to, however. The phone call in dispute was a Nov. 14, 2008 between the former governor and his brother, Robert. In it, they discuss Dick Durbin as well as fund-raiser Raghu Nayak. Here's the call:
Click here.

On day three of their deliberations, jurors in Rod Blagojevich's retrial just sent their first note to the judge.

They noticed that not all of them had the same number of pages for one of the phone calls in their transcript binders.

Some jurors noticed that there were nine pages for the phone call but others noticed there were five pages. The jurors all agreed they would not go further with that phone call until they got an answer.

Turns out that they were supposed to only have five pages for that phone call. Court security will go in and remove the pages for those who had the fuller transcript.

It was a good hint of what jurors are up to, however. The phone call in dispute was a Nov. 14, 2008 between the former governor and his brother, Robert. In it, they discuss Dick Durbin as well as fund-raiser Raghu Nayak. Here's the call:
Click here.

The jurors in Rod Blagojevich's retrial began their third day of deliberations Tuesday, discussing 20 counts against the former governor who is accused of extortion, fraud and corruption.

The jurors were seated in the order they were picked sequentially, with two exceptions -- one juror who would have been among the 12 was sent home a couple of weeks ago, that brought juror 179, the library science major, into the mix. Then last week, we learned that juror 132, the one who said she was a fan of "Judge Judy," was moved out of order into an alternate position. That brought juror 181 into the mix.

So now, these are the jurors believed to be in the room:

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.

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.

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 Judge James 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.

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.

And these are the likely alternates. One juror was removed from the jury during the trial for undisclosed reasons, so five alternates remain:

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.

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.

The jurors deliberating in Rod Blagojevich's retrial have adjourned for the day, according to the clerk of court.

Jurors have said they will deliberate 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Monday concluded the jury's second full day of deliberations.

Blagojevich's jury, of which 11 members are women and one is a man, picked a foreperson and a schedule Friday, according to Judge James Zagel.

The jury is back Monday for deliberations on the 20 pending counts against Rod Blagojevich.

Jurors have said they will deliberate 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

Blagojevich's jury, of which 11 members are women and one is a man, picked a foreperson and a schedule Friday, according to Judge James Zagel.

The jury deliberates following a week of closing arguments and a defense motion for mistrial denied by Zagel Friday. The defense claimed they received an unfair trial from a judge who had already made his decision in the case.

"Truth is, you may not like us. You may not like our client. You have formed opinions from the first trial," defense lawyer Lauren Kaeseberg told Zagel Friday. "The truth of the matter is we didn't get a fair trial."

The defense also said Zagel misled them into putting Blagojevich on the stand. The judge countered Blagojevich knew testifying was his best choice. He also said he had not formed opinions on the case or the defendant's guilt, telling the defense team that's the jury's job.

The jury deliberates following a day and a half of closing arguments from the prosecution and defense. Prosecutor Carrie Hamilton painstakingly broke down the charges against Blagojevich and the tapes and testimony prosecutors say support their case. They also urged jurors to listen to every tape before finishing their deliberations.

The plea to listen to the tapes was echoed by defense lawyer Aaron Goldstein in his closing argument, who said listening would prove his client's innocence. Goldstein also tried to tear down government witnesses, many of whom received immunity or plea deals, and chalked up much of Blagojevich's talk to normal -- albeit overly chatty -- politicking from a very talkative governor.

"He didn't get a dime, a nickel, a penny," Goldstein said, screaming and pointing at Blagojevich. "He talked and he talked and that is all he did. ... They want you to believe his talk is a crime. It's not."

The last thing jurors heard from a lawyer before heading back to deliberate? These words from prosecutor Reid Schar: "Your verdict will speak the truth. And the truth is he is guilty."

Watch an excerpt from Blagojevich's post-closing argument news conference here.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Rod Blagojevich's jury has finished its first day of deliberations, according to the clerk of court.

Judge James Zagel said in a Friday afternoon hearing the jury that will decide the fate of Blagojevich has picked its foreperson. In that hearing, Zagel denied the defense's bid for a mistrial.

"It seems you were mistrustful of us. Truth is, you may not like us. You may not like our client. You have formed opinions from the first trial," defense lawyer Lauren Kaeseberg told Zagel. "The truth of the matter is we didn't get a fair trial."

The defense had said Zagel, among other things, misled them into believing that putting their client on the stand would be a good thing. They said that Zagel led them to think that case law would allow Blagojevich to testify about what he thought was legal at the time he was discussing the Senate seat appointment.

Zagel said he told the defense: "He could well save himself by testifying...It was an opinion when I uttered it and it is an opinion that I still have."

But he said the decision to testify was Blagojevich's to make.

"He clearly knew it was his best choice," Zagel said.

He also said he never decided guilt or made findings of fact -- that's up to the jury, he said.
"I'm not interested in doing someone else's work," the judge said.

The jury also set a daily schedule for its deliberations, Zagel said. He would not specify what that schedule was except to say the jury will end earlier than is typical. It looks like that may be 4 p.m.; the jury left at about 3:55 p.m., according to a message from Michael Dobbins, the clerk of court.

Blagojevich himself was in court this afternoon. He just went before Zagel to formally ask to be excused from reading jury notes. That means he won't be required to come in when the jury sends notes to the judge."If it's OK with you, Judge," Blagojevich said.

"Then, Governor, you're excused from coming in," Zagel told him.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

In a hearing this afternoon, Judge James Zagel said the jury that will decide the fate of Rod Blagojevich has picked its foreperson.

The jury also set a daily schedule for its deliberations, Zagel said. He would not specify what that schedule was except to say the jury will end earlier than is typical.

Read more on Blagojevich's jury here.

Zagel will also address a defense motion for mistrial in the hearing, which is still in progress. That motion included a mention by the defense suggesting Zagel misled them into putting Blagojevich on the stand.

The defense contends Zagel told them Blagojevich could talk about his understanding of the law or what was legal, but then Zagel wouldn't allow it.

Jurors in Rod Blagojevich's retrial finally have the case after receiving hard copies of their instructions on the law this morning.

There are 11 women and just one man on the jury.

In court on Friday, Judge James Zagel said he would consider a lengthy mistrial motion that the defense filed. In it, lawyers complained the judge created an unfair atmosphere in the courtroom. Lawyers argued he repeatedly issued "tilted rulings" in favor of the prosecution on an issue, then ruling against the defense on a similar issue.
"There appears to be a double standard with regard to the leeway given to the government throughout the case versus the defense," they wrote.

For example, the defense notes that when the government started cross-examination of Blagojevich, they asked him: "You are a convicted liar, right?"

"And then continued, over objection, with multiple questions of this sort including an improper question inferring that all politicians are liars," attorneys wrote. "Had the defense even come close to questions of this nature, the Court certainly would have sustained government objections and most likely the Court would have harshly criticized and reprimanded the defense."

Defense lawyers said by contrast: the defense asked former state employee and fund-raiser Rajinder Bedi: "so, you're a thief?"
The judge sustained the prosecution's objection.

"The contrast here is striking," defense lawyers wrote. "Bedi was convicted of theft, and a question regarding whether he was a 'thief' was not permitted. Blagojevich was convicted of making a false statement to an F.B.I. agent and an inflammatory, improper question was permitted. Blagojevich was not convicted of 'lying' and he is not 'a convicted liar.'"

To read the whole motion: click here

Watch Rod Blagojevich and two of his defense attorneys, Aaron Goldstein and Sheldon Sorosky, discuss the end of his trial and the upcoming jury deliberations in this excerpt from a news conference after court Thursday, June 9. The comments followed a day of closing arguments from prosecutors and the defense team.

Reporting with Lark Turner

Rod Blagojevich and his lawyers spoke after court today, where they said they had no regrets about the former governor's decision to take the witness stand. Blagojevich said he would have spent two and half years on the witness stand if he needed to "get the full story out."

Here's some of what Blagojevich said in the courthouse lobby:

"For two and a half years this has been a long and very difficult journey for Patti, for our daughters Amy and Annie, for me, of course.
I've waited two and a half years to finally get on the witness stand and tell the truth and to take as long as it takes to answer every question as honestly and as fully as possible, and I would have been certainly willing to spend two and a half year son the stand to get the full story out.
Two and a half years to listen to false misstatements, conversations twisted out of context.

In fact less than 2 percent of the tapes have still only been played in this trial and to the very end the government prosecutor twisting my words and twisting the truth when it comes to some of those issues. But we feel relieved, Patti and I, that we've had our chance. We literally did have our days in court where I had a chance to get up there and answer honestly every single question that I was asked and to answer as fully as I was allowed to answer."

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

It's Rod Blagojevich against 11 witnesses, Assistant U.S. Attorney Reid Schar argued at the tail end of his closing argument in Rod Blagojevich's re-trial.

"This is not some large government frame-up," Schar insists. "Apparently somehow all these people got him back in 2008 to say a bunch of things that are actually incriminating of him."

Schar concludes with a direct address to the jury.

"Right and wrong. That is the power you have. That is the power you have," Schar repeats. "Your verdict will speak the truth. Your verdict will speak the truth. And the truth is he is guilty."

With that, Blagojevich's retrial awaits only the jury deliberations and verdict. Judge James Zagel is now instructing the jury on their responsibilities.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Contorting his arms oddly, prosecutor Reid Schar is telling jurors Rod Blagojevich's explanations on the Senate seat tie him up in knots.

"I keep getting stuck in a pretzel," Schar says, as Blagojevich rests his chin on his hand.

He's addressing Blagojevich's contention that he was using Jesse Jackson Jr. as a fake ploy to scare pols in Washington, D.C. into helping him broker a deal to pass legislation in exchange for appointing Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to the Senate seat.

"Of course you can ask for campaign contributions in the United States," Schar said, referring to defense lawyer Aaron Goldstein's closing argument stating such requests are legal. What you can't do, he adds, if ask for them in exchange for official actions; that's bribery and extortion.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

A bitingly sarcastic Reid Schar is rebutting the defense's closing argument while Rod Blagojevich looks on, sitting with both hands clasped under his chin.

"It's not that he talked too much and so it means nothing," Schar insists. "It's that he talked a lot and it means everything."

Schar started by going through all the decisions the prosecution alleges Blagojevich did in fact make, contrary to defense lawyer Aaron Goldstein's point in his closing argument that Blagojevich never did anything and never made a dime.

"He made decisions and he did take action," Schar said, listing exhaustively the decisions he says Blagojevich made, from asking for a Cabinet post in Barack Obama's administration to deciding against signing the Racetrack Bill.

Schar says Blagojevich was "making it up as he goes," noting he brought up certain things on cross-examination he didn't mention on direct examination with his own lawyer.

Dismissing Blagojevich's argument that he was acting on advice from his various advisers, including his legal counsel Bill Quinlan, Schar points out that in 2008, Blagojevich had a criminal defense lawyer he could confer with.

He lampoons Blagojevich's courtroom behavior.

"He's got four lawyers over there and they couldn't stop him from doing what he wants?" Schar asks, referring to Blagojevich's tendency to talk over his lawyers' own objections. "He rolled right over them. ... He wanted you to hear it."

Not to mention overriding Judge James Zagel, Schar says: "He's a trial lawyer. He knows what the rules are. When a lawyer stands and objects, you stop and wait for the judge.

"This isn't a game," Schar adds, throwing his hands in the air and raising his voice. "There are rules."

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Defense lawyer Aaron Goldstein's closing arguments dismissed the prosecution's headline allegation: that Rod Blagojevich tried to sell Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat.

"Please listen to the words. The words mean what they say," he says, urging the jury once again to listen to the tapes and find his client not guilty.

"The whole case is about his intent," Goldstein argues, drawing an objection from the prosecution.

"The whole case?" asks Judge James Zagel skeptically.

"Ninety-five percent?" Goldstein answers.

Goldstein repeats the suggestion that Blagojevich had not, in fact, decided to accept an alleged $1.5 million offer from fundraisers in exchange for making Jesse Jackson Jr. the senator. Blagojevich was just using Jackson as negative leverage to try and get help passing a legislative package in exchange for appointing Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

"Raise Jesse Jackson up, because no one liked Jesse Jackson," Goldstein says. "No one wanted Jesse Jackson to be the senator."

"This is the last call Rod made before he was arrested," Goldstein says, playing a Dec. 8, 2008 call where Blagojevich discusses his plan to make Madigan senator.

"What happens next?" Goldstein says, as the words appear on screen in all caps and big letters.

The question goes unanswered, but the implication is clear: Blagojevich was arrested the morning of Dec. 9.

"You see right there," Goldstein says, turning and pointing across the room at Blagojevich, drawing the jury's attention. "That's an innocent man. Right there, that's an innocent man."

As Goldstein gestures to Blagojevich, Patti begins crying, and Rod Blagojevich is tearing up, too. Patti and her sister embrace as the jury stands to leave. A rebuttal from prosecutor Reid Schar will start after a short break.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Perhaps they're hoping for another holdout.

As he discusses allegations his client held up a bill to extort a racetrack executive, defense lawyer Aaron Goldstein makes a request of the jurors who will decide Rod Blagojevich's fate.

"Please do me a favor. If you think that man is not guilty, please don't sign a guilty form," Goldstein says. "Please. Too much is at stake here. Don't do it. Don't do it. The words mean what exactly they're saying."

During Blagojevich's last trial, just one juror thought Blagojevich wasn't guilty on the prosecution's Senate seat charges, earning the nickname "the holdout juror" for refusing to side with the others on 11 of the prosecution's 24 total charges. Blagojevich was convicted of just one: lying to the FBI.

Moving onto allegations Blagojevich shook down a hospital CEO, Goldstein has the same message: it never happened.

"He cares about healthcare. There's no doubt," Goldstein tells the jury. "You don't do things that hurt what you love and you care about."

Yes, Goldstein concedes, Robert Blagojevich talked to Patrick Magoon, Children's Memorial Hospital CEO, about fundraising. That, Goldstein tells the jury, is not a crime.

"You're not here to decide whether fundraising is good or bad," Goldstein says. "You're here to decide whether that man committed crimes. And he didn't. He asked for fundraising, which he has every right to do."

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Defense lawyer Aaron Goldstein is countering the prosecution's Racetrack Bill allegations, contending Rod Blagojevich didn't have to sign the bill right away.

"That governor can sign it, can veto it, can do nothing," Goldstein says. "He is not mandated to sign a bill on any timeline whatsoever."

Goldstein's also taking more time to tear down the prosecution's witnesses. Referring to Lon Monk as "good old Mr. Monk," Goldstein brings up again that Monk betrayed Blagojevich by taking cash from Tony Rezko.

Goldstein is referring to a Dec. 3, 2008 conversation between Blagojevich and Monk overheard on an FBI bug in Blagojevich's campaign office.

BLAGOJEVICH: You could say he could sign the bill right after the first of the year. I think you just say that. He's gonna sign all his bills, he's signing all, he's doing all his bills right...
MONK: No. Look, I wanna go to him without crossing the line and say, give us the f---in' money.
MONK: (UI), give us the money and one has nothing to do with the other...
MONK: ...but give us the f---in' money.Because they're losin', they're losing $9,000 a day.

"According to Monk, 'without crossing the line' means crossing the line," Goldstein argues. "According to Lon Monk, 'one has nothing to do with the other' means 'one has everything to do with the other.' ... Look at the words. You're gonna trust Lon Monk, the gift man, walking through that door, saying 'one has nothing to do with the other' means 'one has everything to do with the other?'

"Sometimes, sometimes in the real world, the words you say actually mean what you say," Goldstein said.

He's calling John Wyma "the immunity man."

"That man? That's who we're gonna believe? Come on. Come on," Goldstein says.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Diving into the government's specific allegations in his closing argument, defense lawyer Aaron Goldstein is defending his client Rod Blagojevich's actions as governor, saying actions speak louder than words.

On the prosecution's allegation Blagojevich held back a school grant to squeeze Rahm Emanuel's brother Ari for a fundraiser, Goldstein said the evidence is clear: Blagojevich did nothing but pay up.

"Don't blow up what is very obvious: just a delay, if you want to call it that, in this grant," Goldstein said, attributing the delay to everyday bureaucratic issues with the grant. "Ask yourself over and over and over again," he instructs jurors. They'll find, he says, "nothing, nothing, nothing."

Moving onto the Tollway allegations, Goldstein points out it's legal for politicians to ask for campaign contributions.

"A politician, a governmental official, is allowed to demand, solicit, seek ... campaign contributions," Goldstein told jurors. "We may not like it. We may not like the system. That is what we have. That is politics today, and that is the law. You have the right as a public official to request campaign contributions even if there's official business pending before that official."

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

With his voice hushed for effect, Rod Blagojevich's defense lawyer Aaron Goldstein started his closing argument by calling into question the testimony of government witnesses and chalking up Blagojevich's voice on tape to "a man thinking out loud."

"Let me see if I can sum up what they [the prosecution] just told you," Goldstein said. "You will get nothing and you will like it.' That's what they just told you. ... They want a rubber stamp. Stamp it guilty. Do what we say. That's who they think you are."

Jurors glared back at Goldstein.

Referring to his client repeatedly as "Rod," in contrast to the prosecution's repeated use of the term "the defendant," Goldstein says Blagojevich never took any money from the alleged shakedowns.

"He didn't get a dime, a nickel, a penny," Goldstein says, now screaming, and pointing across the room at Rod Blagojevich. "He talked and he talked and that is all he did. ... They want you to believe his talk is a crime. It's not."

Goldstein calls into question the parade of government witnesses, pointing out Johnny Johnston, an alleged victim of a shakedown, had an immunity agreement with the government. "Why?" asks Goldstein.

"Up means down, blue means green, stop means go," Goldstein said of witness testimony.

He also brings up Lon Monk's "gifts" Monk testified he received from Tony Rezko. Monk admitted taking $70,000 to $90,000 in secret cash from Rezko.

"What made it a gift? He put a bow on it?" asks Goldstein sarcastically as the defense puts up a picture of a FedEx envelope on the screen, then digitally throws a red bow on top of it. There's a few giggles in the courtroom.

The prosecution used the same testimony from Monk in its own closing to try and bolster Monk's credibility, saying Monk wouldn't have mentioned it, or would have implicated Blagojevich in the Rezko payoffs, if he were lying.

Blagojevich courageously took the stand, Goldstein says, which he didn't have to do.

"From that chair, he took a walk that looks pretty short. But it's a walk that took courage," he said.

That walk is "a whole lot different" than the walk of government witnesses from the door of the courtroom to the stand. Goldstein points repeatedly to the door, looking right at it to bring home this point when suddenly it opens. A spectator walks in. "Not her," Goldstein says in a light moment that has everyone in the courtroom laughing -- including jurors and even prosecutors.

Goldstein, who has been keeping his voice so low it's tough to hear him in the overflow room, reminds jurors that the government has the burden of proof in the case. The government said during its opening statement that it is happy to "embrace" the burden.

"They can embrace that burden like it's a long-lost relative," Goldstein says, voice still dripping with sarcasm. "It doesn't matter if they embrace it. They have to prove it. They have to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt."

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

As prosecutor Carrie Hamilton's closing statement finished, she was greeted with silence in the courtroom.

Hamilton finished up where the government began: by bringing up a 2006 statement Rod Blagojevich made when former Illinois Gov. George Ryan was convicted.

"On this statement, I think we can actually all agree with him: he says, 'Today's verdict proves that no one is above the law, and just as important, it proves that government is supposed to exist for the good of the people, not the other way around. And certainly not for the personal enrichment of those who hold public office. The people come first."

Shortly before bringing up Blagojevich's statement, Hamilton played a tape where Blagojevich mentions President-elect Barack Obama: "I mean, you guys are telling me I just gotta suck it up for two years and do nothing. Give this mother f----- his senator. F--- him. For nothing? F--- him!"

"That is, in his mind, his response to the President-elect of the United States: you want something from me? For nothing? For nothing?" Hamilton says, gesturing to herself, her voice rising. The room fell quiet. "The man who is about to be the leader of the free world. His response to him is, 'I get nothing from you?'"

Listen to the tapes, Hamilton directs the jury. It remains silent in the room except for the scribbling in notebooks. "He is detailed, serious," she says. "He is focused. What you hear are the discussions of a sophisticated and very desperate man who tried to get a number of things for himself in relation to his job as governor."

The jury should hold him to his statements on Ryan, Hamilton said.

"What the evidence supports, and what the law commands, is that you find the defendant guilty as charged," Hamilton told the jury. "Hold him to these words: 'The people come first. And no one is above the law.'"

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Contradicting the testimony of six witnesses for the prosecution, Rod Blagojevich told jurors he never intended for road-building exec Gerald Krozel to connect a request for $100,000 in campaign contributions with a $5+ billion Tollway project, prosecutor Carrie Hamilton pointed out in her closing argument, which continues in precise detail this morning.

Blagojevich said he never intended on pushing through that larger Tollway plan and didn't tell Krozel or his bosses that he would. Blagojevich testified he only ever wanted or planned to pass a $1.8 billion Tollway plan and didn't connect any state action to a request to Krozel for $100,000 in campaign contributions.

Hamilton tells jurors Blagojevich lied because he didn't anticipate yesterday's testimony of Krozel's bosses, Erik Madsen and Richard Olsen, who operate a Canadian cement company. The prosecution brought on Madsen and Olsen in their rebuttal case to bolster the Tollway allegation.

"He thought, 'well, it's my word against Gerry Krozel's,'" Hamilton said. "He never planned on Gerry Krozel's bosses coming in here to testify."

Blagojevich's testimony contradicts that of six witnesses for the prosecution, argues Hamilton: John Harris, Krozel, Olsen, Madsen, Lon Monk and John Wyma. Blagojevich flatly denied the allegations on the stand and called Wyma's testimony "bunk."

Hamilton moves on to allegations Blagojevich shook down Children's Memorial Hospital CEO Patrick Magoon for campaign contributions while Magoon waited for Blagojevich to announce a rate increase for pediatric doctors treating Medicaid patients. Though Hamilton says it's "admittedly" the least explicit of all the shakedowns the prosecution outlined, she tells jurors simply that "it doesn't matter."

She points out that the alleged shakedown was happening at the same time as Blagojevich was allegedly extorting Krozel and trying to sell the Senate seat.

"Let's say a driver gets shaken down, and then a week later finds out the same thing happened to the guy in front of him and the guy behind him," Hamilton tells jurors. "Pat Magoon didn't know about Gerry Krozel. He didn't know about Tom Balanoff. But you do. You know about all of them happening at the same time, and you know who's at the middle of all of them: the defendant."

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Prosecutor Carrie Hamilton tells jurors that Lon Monk, a prosecution witness and former friend and chief of staff of Rod Blagojevich, that his testimony can be trusted.

"He has every incentive to tell you the truth, unlike the defendant," Hamilton said. "The defendant has every incentive to come in here and lie. Lon Monk, to save himself, needs to tell the truth, and when you consider all of the evidence -- the recording, the testimony -- the person who's lying about the racing bill is the defendant, not Lon Monk."

She adds that if Lon Monk were really lying on the stand, he could have made up better lies, like saying Blagojevich also received money from convicted former fundraiser Tony Rezko. Instead, Monk said he received the money and never told Blagojevich about it.

Meanwhile, Blagojevich is staring at Hamilton, with his chair slightly turned and his hands folded. Hamilton takes sips from a giant water bottle.

She calls Blagojevich's defense -- that he was sitting on the racing bill to help ensure Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan hadn't slipped in any "poison pill" language -- a lie. His other defense, that old friend Chris Kelly was somehow involved in the bill, doesn't add up, either, Hamilton argues.

Kelly called Blagojevich to discuss a presidential pardon, apparently sparking Blagojevich's suspicions according to his testimony, on Nov. 27. Blagojevich was already sitting on the bill, Hamilton said, pointing to tapes as evidence.

"This is exactly what it appears to be: made up, after the fact, in an attempt to confuse you," she tells jurors.

As Hamilton moves onto allegations Blagojevich was shaking down the Illinois roadbuilding industry, pounding starts outside the courtroom, both loud and obvious. "They're back," Judge James Zagel said of construction crews in the courthouse. The construction isn't the only interruption: the defense is repeatedly objecting, though none have been sustained by Zagel.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

After a delay this morning, jurors are in the courtroom and at least 10 are taking notes as prosecutor Carrie Hamilton resumes the prosecution's closing argument.

Hamilton starts off once again on the Senate seat charges, outlining what's legally required to convict Rod Blagojevich of the different counts against him, beginning with an attempted extortion charge.

"This is an attempt charge," Hamilton explains to jurors. "It's not about the success. It's about the attempt."

She's addressing what's long been viewed as a weakness of the case -- that Blagojevich was all talk and never actually completed the acts.

Hamilton keeps bringing the charges back to what the prosecution has outlined as the main question they think jurors should consider in deciding whether Blagojevich can be convicted: "Did the defendant try to get a benefit for himself in exchange for an official act?"

Moving onto the Racetrack or Recapture Bill, Hamilton asks the same question.

"Has he tied the campaign contribution to when he signed the bill? You know he did," she tells jurors.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

On what will likely be the last day of closing arguments in Rod Blagojevich's retrial, court started about 30 minutes late after torrential rains slammed the Chicago area.

Apparently a juror's train was late this morning. Some Metra trains were running as many as 25 minutes late during morning rush hour.

Judge James Zagel said Wednesday he hoped to start arguments as close to 9:30 a.m. as possible Thursday morning. A half an hour later, jurors still haven't entered the courtroom. That gave Rod and Patti Blagojevich time to hit the Dirksen Courthouse cafeteria to grab coffee with the defense team before the trial this morning.

The government is set to finish off its closing arguments, which began yesterday, followed by the closing arguments from the defense.

Reporting with Lark Turner

Rod Blagojevich's guilt is "overwhelming" when it comes to allegations that he plotted to take $1.5 million in exchange for appointing Jesse Jackson Jr. to the Senate seat, a federal prosecutor said in her closing argument.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Carrie Hamilton pointed jurors to a series of phone calls on Dec. 4, 2008, when the then-governor discussed elevating Jackson with several people, including Blagojevich's brother.

His brother, Robert, was in charge of fund-raising. Blagojevich is heard on tape directing him to meet with Jackson fund-raiser Raghu Nayak. On the stand, Blagojevich admitted that Nayak's offer of cash for the Senate seat was "illegal."
Blagojevich said he was simply telling his brother to meet with Nayak to tell him that Jackson had better advance some good legislation -- including a mortgage foreclosure bill -- if he wanted the Senate seat. Hamilton told jurors that explanation was a "whopper."

"He's the bribe guy," Hamilton says incredulously. "He's not the mortgage foreclosure guy. This is completely made up."

Hamilton said Blagojevich's guilt is right on that tape.

"He's got to see the money. He wants to see the money ...Right there, that moment on the call. (that's breaking the law). He's directing his brother to take a bribe."

"It's overwhelming that the defendant tried to take a $1.5 million bribe if he made Jesse Jackson Jr. senator," Hamilton said.

Reporting with Lark Turner

Assistant U.S. Attorney Carrie Hamilton continues closing arguments by breaking down the charges, beginning with allegations that Rod Blagojevich tried selling President-Elect Obama's vacant U.S. Senate seat.

Hamilton said Blagojevich broke the law when he asked union leader Tom Balanoff about a presidential cabinet position while discussing he would appoint Valerie Jarrett. It doesn't matter that it didn't actually happen.

"This is the policeman tapping at the window, asking for a bribe," Hamilton said. She says Blagojevich is asking for a personal benefit in exchange for an official act.
"He knows exactly what he's doing," she says of Blagojevich. "And he wants it."

Hamilton told jurors not to be confused when Blagojevich says he wanted a political job in exchange for official action. That's still illegal, she said.

"It's not just politics," she says. "This is a politician engaging in criminal conduct."

Hamilton tells jurors to listen to the calls again, not just the transcripts.

"Go through them chronologically," she tells them. "You will have no doubt. It will make the defendant's guilt crystal clear."

Patti Blagojevich, sitting in the front courtroom bench behind her husband, is resting her head on her arm, with her elbow on top of the bench. Rod Blagojevich appears to be really frowning.

All jurors' eyes are on Hamilton. About half of them are taking notes.

Reporting with Lark Turner

Standing stock-straight, and taking on the air of a school teacher, Assistant U.S. Attorney Carrie Hamilton began her closing argument in Rod Blagojevich's retrial.

"You heard him in his own words describe the power he had. He had a U.S. Senate seat and it was effing golden and he decided he was going to cash in on that power for him," Hamilton said.

Knowing that jurors typically don't like incomplete acts -- like the ones charged in Blagojevich's case -- she's taking great care to explain that an attempt to commit a crime is a violation of the law. She says the case boils down to one question: Did Blagojevich try to get a personal benefit in exchange for an official action.

"The law protects people from being squeezed," Hamilton says. "The harm is done when the ask is made because that's the violation of the people's trust."

She likened Blagojevich's scenario to that of a traffic cop who shakes down motorists for $50 after they're pulled over. She tells jurors that it would be "ludicrous" if that cop could only be held responsible when the motorists pay the bribe.

"Or let's say the police officer was caught on tape," she says. And the cop explains: "I just threw that out there, I threw out ideas, good ones, bad ones, ugly ones. I hadn't actually decided," she says, mimicking Blagojevich's testimony that he was doing a lot of talking when he was caught on tape discussing benefits in exchange for the Senate seat appointment.

"Not only is that ludicrous. It doesn't matter," Hamilton said. "The law focuses on the ask, not whether there was a receipt."

Hamilton said the defense strategy consisted of two main themes. One, lawyers didn't want jurors to concentrate on the evidence.

And second: "The defendant lied to you under oath, in his courtroom."

Blagojevich closing arguments to begin momentarily

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Reporting with Lark Turner

Testimony in Rod Blagojevich's retrial has concluded.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Carrie Hamilton is set to deliver closing argument, which will likely take us the rest of the afternoon. Hamilton will give a "summation" or a detailing of each of the charges and how she believes the prosecution proved those charges.

Blagojevich, 54, faces 20 charges.

Prosecutors said they will give a lengthy closing argument to rebut the ex-governor's seven days on the witness stand.

Before closings and outside of the jury's presence, Judge James Zagel said he expected the defense to ask for a mistrial at this point. Or as Zagel put it: "The defense can make the usual motion."

Reporting with Lark Turner

Prosecutors recall Children's Memorial Hospital CEO Patrick Magoon to the witness stand to explain his conversation with Rod Blagojevich back in 2008.

Prosecutors are rebutting testimony from Blagojevich. The ex-governor testified that he called Magoon the fall of that year to tell him the hospital would get $10 million in funding. But Magoon said he was asked that he not disclose it because the then-governor was making an exception by allowing this funding to go out at a time that he was making "wide and thin" budget cuts.

"I was told that we should not bring any attention to the rate increase until after Jan. 1," Magoon said.

Prosecutors contend that Blagojevich was pressuring Magoon to kick in campaign money before the ex-governor would release $10 million in state money for the hospital.

"Did the defendant provide any reason why you shouldn't bring up any reason for the rate increase?" Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Niewoehner asked.
"No," Magoon said. "It was memorable because there was no attention to be brought to a health care matter. That was strange because that's generally not been his practice."

Magoon later told defense lawyer Shelly Sorosky he met again with government last week after his initial testimony.

"Those are hypothetical questions that you are not allowed to ask of this witness," Zagel tells him.

Sorosky is racking up his usual number of sustained objections. He pushes on though, asking questions while looking right at jurors and not the witness.

Reid Schar might be tired of the routine. Shaking his head and rubbing his face.

Patti's brother has his arm around her. Blagojevich is shuffling index cards and looking restless.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki and Dave McKinney

For the third time during Rod Blagojevich's retrial, the prosecution solicited testimony from FBI Special Agent Daniel Cain, the case agent who investigated Blagojevich.

After Cain stepped off the stand, prosecutors said they have one more short witness before they will tie up their rebuttal case. The defense said it will likely not call any more witnesses, though it if decides to do so those witnesses would be short. Closing arguments from the prosecution are expected to begin shortly after a lunch break.

Judge James Zagel said he will allow four hours for closing arguments from either side. Closing arguments will begin this afternoon and likely continue into Thursday. Zagel said Tuesday the entire case could be presented to the jury by Thursday afternoon, and that the jury has agreed to deliberate Friday, which they normally have off.

Cain corroborated FBI supervisory special agent Patrick Murphy's testimony that Blagojevich was asked at the March 16, 2005 FBI interview if he could be recorded, and Blagojevich's lawyer refused on behalf of the then-governor.

At another FBI interview in October 2006 Blagojevich was allowed a court reporter but again refused to be recorded. Prosecutors also brought up the first FBI interview with John Wyma, who, according to Cain, told the FBI about Blagojevich's alleged plans to reward good fundraising from a roadway executive with the announcement of a $6 billion Tollway prorgam.

Defense lawyer Lauren Kaeseberg cross-examined Cain, beginning with: "Hi Agent Cain. We meet again."

Kaeseberg reminded Cain that he didn't know exactly what Blagojevich told Wyma and can only testify about what Wyma told the FBI.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki and Dave McKinney

Patrick Murphy, an FBI supervisory special agent who oversaw the investigation of Rod Blagojevich and investigates white collar crime, has taken the stand in the prosecution's rebuttal case.

Blagojevich was interviewed March 16, 2005. According to Murphy, who also testified in Blagojevich's last trial, the ex-governor said at the March meeting that he put a firewall between politics and government.

"He said he did not track who was contributing to him or how much they were contributing," Murphy said. Blagojevich told him it was "a decision he made when he became governor," Murphy testified last summer.

After Blagojevich was convicted of lying to the FBI -- the only charge of 24 he was found guilty of in the last trial -- he walked downstairs and told reporters the FBI had refused to allow him a court reporter in the interview.

Murphy said he had in fact obtained special permission to record the March meeting and asked Blagojevich if he wanted it to be recorded. Blagojevich's attorney at the time told Murphy the interview wasn't to be recorded, Murphy testified.

At the time, Blagojevich was sitting across from Murphy at a conference table, Murphy testifies.

The charge Blagojevich lied to reporters about the FBI disallowing a court reporter in the interview was one of the first things prosecutor Reid Schar raised in his cross-examination of Blagojevich during this trial.

"Mr. Blagojevich, you are a convicted liar, correct?" Schar asked as his first question. Schar repeatedly asked Blagojevich why he didn't tell the public that the FBI offered to tape the interview. Blagojevich contended a court reporter is different than a recording, and he didn't remember being asked to record the interview.

In cross-examination of Murphy, the defense pointed out that it was Blagojevich's lawyer, Bradley Lerman, who refused the interview -- not Blagojevich himself.

Murphy is now off the stand and, for the third time, the prosecution has called the investigator directly in charge of Blagojevich's case, FBI Special Agent Daniel Cain, to the stand. Prosecutors and defense lawyers are once again in a sidebar.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki and Dave McKinney

In an attempt to bolster witness Richard Olsen's testimony, the prosecution immediately called to the stand Olsen's boss, Erik Madsen, the CEO of Votorantim Cement North America. VCNA acquired the company employing prosecution witness and roadway-building executive Gerald Krozel in 2008.

Olsen and Madsen attended a lunch meeting with Krozel, Rod Blagojevich and Lon Monk in 2008. Prosecutors allege Blagojevich was pressuring Krozel to come up with campaign contributions in exchange for pushing through a $6 billion Tollway plan.

Blagojevich contends he just used the meeting to "talk up" Krozel to his new bosses.

Blagojevich was planning on approving a small Tollway plan of less than $2 billion, according to witnesses on both sides of the case. Blagojevich testified he never intended to approve the larger, $6 billion Tollway plan except in connection with a $35 billion statewide bill benefiting infrastructure across the state. Madsen testified differently.

"My understanding was it was his intention to go forward with both of them in a phased manner," Madsen said.

He told defense lawyer Sheldon Sorosky his impression of the governor was that of a "very interesting person."

Both Madsen and Olsen said Blagojevich did not ask them for contributions at the luncheon. Madsen even appeared annoyed at being asked the question a second time.

Sorosky: "Did he indicate to you he wanted to help?"
Madsen: "I believe the governor wanted to help Illinois."
Sorosky: "He also wanted to help your company?"
Madsen: "The industry, yes."
Sorosky: "He never asked you for any contributions?"
Madsen: "I believe I answered that question. ... He didn't ask for a contribution at that luncheon."

With Madsen off the stand, prosecutors and defense lawyers are in a sidebar with Judge James Zagel. Prosecutor Reid Schar is gesturing emphatically, making quote marks with his fingers.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki and Dave McKinney

The prosecution's first rebuttal witness, Richard Olsen, said at a 2008 lunch meeting with Rod Blagojevich, the then-governor covered a wide range of topics, including himself.

"He said he was the best damn governor in the history of the U.S.," Olsen testified, prompting a laugh from Blagojevich, who glanced at his lawyers.

Blagojevich also discussed how he thought Barack Obama would win the presidential election at the meeting, Olsen said.

The 2008 lunch meeting included Olsen, the CEO of VCNA, Krozel, Blagojevich and Lon Monk in 2008. Prosecutors allege Blagojevich was pressuring the company to come up with campaign contributions in exchange for pushing through a $6 billion Tollway plan.

Blagojevich contends he scheduled the meeting to make Krozel look good in front of his new bosses.

On cross-examination, defense lawyer Sheldon Sorosky claimed the governor was always on the side of Olsen's company.

"Did the governor ever say if you guys want me to help you, I want you to help me?" Sorosky asked Olsen.

"No, he did not," he replied. Prosecutors objected, but the judge allowed the answer.

"And the governor indicated he was sympathetic to the industry and your company?" Sorosky asked.

Olsen: "Yes, he did." Sorosky continued: "You liked him, didn't ya?"

"Yes," Olsen said. He also said Blagojevich didn't bring up fundraising at the meeting, though Olsen told prosecutors he did discuss two plans for the Illinois Tollway at the meeting and, as Olsen could recall, Blagojevich seemed like he wanted to approve both of them.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki and Dave McKinney

The defense has rested its case after calling three witnesses to the stand this morning.

"Your Honor, the defense rests," defense lawyer Lauren Kaeseberg said to Judge James Zagel.

The prosecution has called Richard Olsen, an executive of a cement company that employed Gerald Krozel. The company, Votorantim Cement North America, is based in Toronto and acquired Krozel's employer, Prairie Materials, in early 2008.

Olsen is testifying about a meeting with himself, the CEO of VCNA, Krozel, Blagojevich and Lon Monk in 2008. Prosecutors allege Blagojevich was pressuring the company to come up with campaign contributions in exchange for pushing through a $6 billion Tollway plan.

Blagojevich contends he scheduled the meeting to make Krozel look good in front of his new bosses.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki and Dave McKinney

As its final witness, the defense called Jonathan Rouske, a special agent with the FBI, to the stand to testify about an interview with roadway-building executive Gerald Krozel.

Rouske confirmed Krozel told the FBI on the morning of Dec. 9 that he "never felt the tollway bill depended on his fundraising efforts." The prosecution declined to ask Rouske any questions; the trial is currently on a short break and the defense is expected to rest afterward.

Earlier in the trial during the prosecution's case, Krozel testified he was lying to the FBI that morning. He said he was scared for his wife, who was suffering from an undiagnosed neurological disorder. She couldn't talk or walk and was helpless without him, he said. 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.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki and Dave McKinney

Former congressman Bill Lipinski is off the stand and the defense has called a former state worker to the stand to discuss the Chicago Academy grant.

Sameer Talcherkar worked at the governor's office of Management and Budget when that office was working on funding options for a grant to the Chicago Academy, a school in then-Rep. Rahm Emanuel's congressional district.

Prosecutors allege Blagojevich was holding up the grant intentionally to squeeze a fundraiser from Emanuel's brother, Ari. The defense is countering those allegations with Talcherkar.

Talcherkar said it was "somewhat challenging" for the office to find funding for the grant because of legal issues and research it required. The defense has presented some emails showing the grant began being investigated and research by the office sometime around May 2006.

"We had to, as I recall, get additional information on what sort of school this was. I think it was ultimately identified as part of the CPS system. We then had to determine what the use of the actual funding was for ... those types of details," Talcherkar told defense lawyer Aaron Goldstein.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki and Dave McKinney

The defense quickly finished up its questioning of former U.S. Rep. Bill Lipinski by asking if Lipinski ever asked Jesse Jackson Jr. to give Rod Blagojevich a $25,000 contribution. Jackson's wife Sandi was hoping for a governor-appointed spot at the Illinois Lottery at the time.

Lipinski said he didn't ask Jackson for the money.

Jackson testified that in 2003, Lipinski approached him and asked him to donate that amount to Blagojevich's gubernatorial campaign.

"No chance," Jackson said he told Lipinski.

Six months later, Jackson described seeing Blagojevich again -- after the then-governor appointed someone else to the Illinois Lottery.

"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 Sandi," Jackson said. "The governor came up to me and said, 'I'm sorry the thing with Sandi didn't work out. In classic Elvis Presley fashion, he snapped his fingers and said, 'You should have given me that $25,000,' '' Jackson said.

Prosecutors tried to undermine Lipinski's testimony by pointing out he did not remember the names of people he called for donations when promoting Blagojevich in his race for governor nor did he remember all of his campaign contributions when asked about them this morning.

Prosecutors also pointed out that after Blagojevich was elected, he appointed Lipinski's wife, Rose Marie Lipinski, to the state Court of Claims, which adjudicates financial disputes against the state.

Blagojevich appointed her March 1, 2004, and she left her post in February 2006. Her final salary was $50,893 a year.

In 2002, Lipinski donated $25,000 to Blagojevich's campaign. Prosecutors asked if Lipinski thought Blagojevich was aware of that contribution when the then-governor gave his wife the job.

"I never thought of him being aware of the $25,000 or not," Lipinski testified. "He was certainly aware of my strong support for him during the course of the primary and general election."

Lipinski testified that his wife left the post after the relationship between Blagojevich and himself soured. Lipinski was on the side of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan in Madigan's stand-off with Blagojevich, he testified.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Rod Blagojevich's defense has called former congressman Bill Lipinski to the stand to testify about allegations regarding Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.

Lipinski was a congressman when both Blagojevich and Jackson were in Congress as part of a group defense lawyer Sheldon Sorosky just termed the "Chicago congressmen."

Sorosky asked Lipinski to point out Blagojevich in the courtroom, "just so we're all clear."

"Yes, he's right there. He's got that great smile on his face, as usual," Lipinski replied.

Lipinski said he was the second public official after Blagojevich's own father in law, Ald. Richard Mell, to support the fledgling politician.

By Natasha Korecki and Lark Turner

A newly released transcript shows Rahm Emanuel asked Rod Blagojevich in 2008 to try to find a way to appoint Forrest Claypool to his Congressional post after President-Elect Obama had tapped him to go to the White House.

In the Nov. 8, 2008 call, Emanuel tells Blagojevich in the recorded phone call that he wants Forrest Claypool tapped to fill his position after explaining: "in my interest of, uh, you know, having somebody there you know that doesn't want to make it a lifetime commitment."

At the time, Emanuel was leaving to be White House chief of staff but he was interested in returning to his House seat to possibly rise to Speaker.

Emanuel says that Claypool would only stay in Congress for a couple of years.

"And then he wants to go to the cabinet," Emanuel says on the recorded phone call that was made public this afternoon in a defense filing.

Blagojevich repeatedly tells Emanuel he can't appoint to the post. It's got to be a special election. But Emanuel presses him.

"You would appoint somebody to finish those three weeks," Emanuel says, if he were to leave his position early. "And then he, and then he gets, you know, all we are giving him is three weeks of a head start... it's not like Forest doesn't have a name or anything like that. It gives him a head start and a presumption."

At the end of the excerpt of the call, Emanuel tells Blagojevich: "I will not forget this...
"I appreciate it. That's all I am going to say. I don't want to go, you and I shouldn't go farther."

This precise contents of the call have never been made public before today.
However, the Chicago Sun-Times first reported news of the call in 2009 and, at the time, Emanuel would not comment. Claypool at the time told the Sun-Times he knew nothing of such a request.

Emanuel, now Chicago Mayor, has tapped Claypool to head the CTA.

The call was not played in court today, after prosecutors objected. However, the discussion did come up and Blagojevich said after the conversation, he asked his gubernatorial counsel Bill Quinlan if it were constitutional.

Blagojevich was told he could not appoint to Congress -- even if it were temporary, as Emanuel had asked. An opening requires a special election.

Emanuel refused to answer questions today when asked about asking Blagojevich to make a temporary appointment to his old Congressional seat.

Emanuel again said it took him longer to get to the courthouse and back than it did to testify at the Blagojevich trial and that he's done answering questions about it.

Click here for the transcript

Judge: Blagojevich jury likely to get case Thursday

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Reporting with Dave McKinney and Lark Turner

In a surprise, the judge in Rod Blagojevich's case just said the case could be wrapped up and given to the jury by Thursday.

Judge James Zagel said prosecutors could begin closing arguments tomorrow afternoon after the defense puts on one or two more witnesses.

The defense's closing argument, government rebuttal and jury instructions would then happen Thursday.

Jurors could begin deliberating Friday, Zagel said, after briefly meeting with the panel.

The defense closed out its questioning of Rod Blagojevich this afternoon, with the impeached ex-governor leaving the witness stand and extending his hand to prosecutors.

Following Blagojevich's surprising gesture, Zagel instructed the jury that the lawyers are not allowed to have contact with witnesses and sent the jury home for the day.

Zagel said the defense has two more witnesses to present, which will happen on Wednesday.

The development involving Blagojevich's attempted handshake followed questioning about his timing for filling President Obama's vacant Senate seat.
At one point, Blagojevich said he was contemplating waiting on an announcement until after convicted Blagojevich fundraiser and influence peddler Tony Rezko was expected to be sentenced in January 2009.
Doing so, Blagojevich said, could give him a "clean bill of health" within the political world and enable him to press forward with his intended push for Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
"It could possibly help us get the Lisa Madigan deal done because the cloud would be removed from me, and others would be even more willing to work with me to get the Madigan deal done," Blagojevich said.

Reporting with Dave McKinney and Lark Turner

After 7 days, Rod Blagojevich got off the witness stand and walked over to the prosecutor who had grilled him as recently as this morning.

In front of jurors, Blagojevich tried shaking Assistant U.S. Attorney Reid Schar's hand. Schar wouldn't shake it. Blagojevich even tapped him on the shoulder. He was ignored.

After a brief sidebar, U.S. District Judge James Zagel told the jury that prosecutors are not supposed to have contact with witnesses.

The defense has one maybe two more witnesses and will be back tomorrow.

Dave McKinney and Natasha Korecki and Lark Turner

When it was clear a hospital CEO had rejected fund-raising overtures, Rod Blagojevich said he was "shocked" to later learn the state had not approved a rate increase for Children's Memorial Hospital.

Prosecutors had alleged that Blagojevich held up a pediatric rate increase for the
hospital in a bid to shake down Children's Memorial's Patrick Magoon for a campaign contribution.

Asked by his defense lawyer whether he gave aide Robert Greenlee the order to block the rate increase after being rebuffed by Magoon, Blagojevich answered, "Absolutely not."

In fact, the governor said he did not learn that the hospital wasn't getting its increased cut from the state until after being arrested by the FBI in December 2008.
"It was your understanding the rate increase was going through," Blagojevich lawyer Aaron Goldstein asked his client.
"Absolutely," the ex-governor answered.
"You didn't learn the rate increase was being held up until after you were arrested?" the lawyer asked.
"That's right," Blagojevich said.
"And you said your response when you heard that was you were shocked?" Goldstein asked.
"I was shocked." Blagojevich said.

Blagojevich on tollway shakedown: It's "bunk"

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Reporting with Dave McKinney and Lark Turner

While on redirect, Rod Blagojevich contradicts testimony of two government witnesses.

Both John Wyma and Lon Monk testified that the ex-governor made similar statements to them with regard to tollway funding and whether those executives kick into his campaign fund.

Attorney Aaron Goldstein asks him, if he really told Wyma and Monk about the tollway execs: "If they don't perform, f--- them?"

"No," Blagojevich responds loudly. "I'm absolutely certain I did not make that comment."

Goldstein asks whether Blagojevich said that with regard to tollway executive Gerry Krozel.

"Bunk. It's not true, I never said that."

Blagojevich also denies that he was holding up a $6 billion tollway plan in the hopes that Krozel and others would put together fund-raising for him.

"I didn't have the legislative authority to do it, even if I wanted to," Blagojevich said, adding, "It required toll increases, I was opposed to those. Last...I wanted the Capital bill and I didn't want to weaken the efforts."

Dave McKinney and Lark Turner

Rod Blagojevich began the afternoon Tuesday trying to rebut his tape-recorded words that he was prepared to bestow "a favor worth doing" by following Rahm Emanuel's constitutionally flawed advice to appoint a temporary successor to his vacant congressional seat.

Facing a gentler round of questioning from his lawyer following this morning's close of cross-examination, Blagojevich said he actually never intended to follow through and fill Emanuel's seat, as Chicago's new mayor wanted.
"I did not have the constitutional authority to do what Rep. Emanuel wanted me to do,"
Blagojevich told defense lawyer Aaron Goldstein.

Blagojevich acknowledged having a Nov. 8, 2008 conversation with Emanuel in which Emanuel floated the idea of the governor naming a successor to the vacant congressional seat after he became President Obama's chief of staff.

The governor admitted telling Emanuel, "I'm happy to appoint your guy. If I can do it, I'll do it."

But after that conversation, Blagojevich said he ran the idea past his lawyer then, William Quinlan, and political consultant Fred Yang. Both warned Blagojevich it could not be done under the Constitution, which requires a special election be held.
"I was telling Fred about what Congressman Emanuel was asking me to do. Fred was intrigued Congressman Emanuel was asking me to break the Constitution," Blagojevich testified. "It was his understanding I didn't have the constitutional authority to do it."

Goldstein asked Blagojevich whether he ever appointed anyone to the open 5th Congressional District seat or whether a special election was set. Prosecutors blocked Blagojevich from answering either question.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki and Dave McKinney

Rod Blagojevich's lawyers are challenging the prosecution's contention that Blagojevich was prepared to violate the Constitution to appoint a placeholder to Rahm Emanuel's vacated Congressional seat.

In a phone call with his political adviser Fred Yang, Yang told Blagojevich the move would violate the law.

"Right, he wants you to break the constitution of the United States," Yang says in the call.

Blagojevich responds: "Right, that's a favor worth doing."

With Blagojevich back under his defense lawyer's questioning, the tone of the examination has changed. "Rod, you supported the Constitution and protected the Constitution when you were governor, isn't that right, Rod?" asks his lawyer Aaron Goldstein.

"Yes," responds Blagojevich.

Now the defense is trying to get in a call where Blagojevich talks with Rahm Emanuel, who, according to Blagojevich, called to ask Blagojevich to appoint the placeholder. Blagojevich responds in the call: "I'm happy to appoint your guy. If I can do it, I'll do it," Blagojevich said.

Goldstein contends that was Blagojevich's way of saying he would make the appointment if it were legal.

Zagel said the defense can't play the call, but can ask Blagojevich if he had the conversation and what he remembers saying. But Zagel notes Blagojevich still faces the reality of the Yang tape.

"The real thing he's going to have to cope with is the conversation with Fred Yang," Zagel tells the defense team. "The only defense I can think of is, 'I was just kidding.' But if he wants to say that, he can say that."

An agitated Sheldon Sorosky confronts Zagel about a statement he supposedly made where he acknowledged the difficulty the defense faces in playing its own evidence. Zagel disputes Sorosky's version of the conversation, but says either way Sorosky needs to stop talking.

"I think the discussion has to end because people are hungry," Zagel said.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki and Dave McKinney

Rod Blagojevich is contending he used the word 'tangible' often to describe benefits he might get for citizens.

"I use the word tangible a lot when it comes to good stuff for people, government stuff, getting good stuff for people," Blagojevich tells his lawyer Aaron Goldstein.

Blagojevich is contending he always intended to appoint Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to the Senate seat in exchange for getting her father, House Speaker Michael Madigan, to pass a legislative package.

He was just using Jesse Jackson Jr. as "negative leverage" to get pols in Washington to back him up on the 'Madigan deal,' Blagojevich said. Besides, Jackson was a double-crosser Blagojevich never intended on appointing, Blagojevich said.

He also said he never asked Jackson for any funds.

"Everybody knows he never raises money for anybody," Blagojevich testified.

With Blagojevich once more defending himself, many jurors have started taking notes again. Another yawns.

The defense is wasting no time is racking up objections from the prosecution, nearly all of which Judge James Zagel has sustained so far.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki and Dave McKinney

Rod Blagojevich is back on the stand as his defense lawyer Aaron Goldstein begins a redirect examination.

Prior to letting the jury back in, Judge James Zagel gave Blagojevich another warning that his antics under cross-examination wouldn't fly while his own lawyers questioned him. He's referring to Blagojevich's tendency to talk over his own lawyers' objections and answer prosecutors' questions anyway.

"You did not stop speaking, and that's fine," Zagel tells Blagojevich. "This is not true of opposing council. ... I don't want to have to admonish you about this in the presence of the jury."

Zagel is telling Blagojevich he can't talk over prosecutors' objections in the same way.

"Thank you, judge," Blagojevich responds.

Goldstein is jumping right back into the Jesse Jackson Jr. allegations.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki and Dave McKinney

Prosecutors have finished their first round of cross-examination of Rod Blagojevich, and Judge James Zagel is discussing the trial's next steps in a sidebar with lawyers now.

Defense lawyers told Zagel last week that Blagojevich would not be their last witness, but it's unclear what will happen next and whether the defense will question Blagojevich again on a redirect examination.

Prosecutor Reid Schar finished up questioning of Blagojevich with allegations Blagojevich was hoping to trade the Senate seat to Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. in exchange for campaign contributions.

Blagojevich walked off the stand looking sullen and pensive. He headed straight to his wife, Patti, for a few words. Then they slip into a side room with the defense team, while prosecutors stay seated at their table in the courtroom.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki and Dave McKinney

Prosecutor Reid Schar is breezing through a series of early December calls where Rod Blagojevich discusses an alleged deal with U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. Meanwhile, Blagojevich is spending a lot of time biting his lower lip.

Schar doesn't stop to let Blagojevich do anything but affirm what he said in the phone calls. Prosecutors allege fundraiser Raghu Nayak had offered him more than a million dollars in contributions in exchange for appointing Jackson to the Senate seat. Blagojevich concedes that as of Oct. 31, 2008, he knew of the alleged offer.

First, a call with political adviser Fred Yang: "You use the term 'up front'?" asks Schar.

"That's what I use there, yes," Blagojevich said.

In the next call, Blagojevich discusses the deal again. He tells Schar he's just "conveying what they [Nayak and others] said to us, yes."

When Blagojevich starts explaining a "reference" in a call, Schar snaps: "Listen to my question."

After going through Blagojevich's statements on more calls, Schar brings up Blagojevich's directive to his brother, Robert, to go talk to Nayak -- the same person who allegedly made an offer that Blagojevich himself characterized as "illegal."

Blagojevich, in a call with Robert, tells his brother to be "careful."

Blagojevich, leaning forward, talks over Schar with regard to this statement. Schar contends it means "don't get caught."

Blagojevich disagrees.

Schar also presses Blagojevich on a part of his conversation where he says: "assume the whole world is listening."

"I'm proud of those words," he said, later adding: "With all due respect, Mr. Schar, you're twisting my words."

After Blagojevich finds out the next day that pal John Wyma may have been tipping off the feds about private conversations, he tells his brother to cancel the Nayak meeting. Blagojevich maintains he was too busy to discuss the meeting with his brother.

But Schar brings up a line in that phone call where Blagojevich tells his brother it's "too obvious" to have the meeting after the Chicago Tribune published an article about Wyma.

"Those are your words? Too obvious?" Schar asks.

"Yes, those are my words."

"No further questions for this witness," Schar tells Judge James Zagel.

By Dave McKinney

Prosecutor Reid Schar continues to go after Rod Blagojevich over his alleged plans to appoint U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Obama.

Blagojevich testified that fundraiser Raghu Nayak, a Jackson ally, communicated to him through an intermediary - Rajinder Bedi - that if Blagojevich appointed Jackson senator there would be "accelerated fundraising" on his behalf.

Referring to Nayak, Blagojevich said, "I understood he said if I appointed congressman Jackson, there'd be a bunch of political support and they'd raise $500,000 upfront. There'd be another $1 million from Raghu or the other way around from Jesse Jackson Jr. That was my understanding."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Reid Schar repeatedly peppered Blagojevich with questions about whether he regarded this scheme as a "bribe."

"If you're offering me cash personally, that's a bribe. If you're asking me a question about campaign funds, I'm reluctant to give you an answer. If I'm wrong, I'm not sure what you'll do with that," Blagojevich answered.

"Did you view it as a bribe?" Schar repeated.

"I viewed it as illegal," the ex-governor said. "I never stopped to think about it as a bribe or not a bribe. I thought it was illegal. We rejected it three times. At least."

By Dave McKinney

Prosecutors also focused on another alleged pay-to-play scheme involving Blagojevich and construction magnate and asphalt kingpin Michael Vondra.

Vondra, who was represented by lobbyist and Blagojevich fundraiser John Wyma, wanted state help in bringing a British Petroleum facility to the south side and arranged a meeting on Oct. 6, 2008.

"One of the things you asked Mr. Wyma was whether Mr. Vondra would be help you fundraise," Assistant U.S. Attorney Reid Schar asked Blagojevich.

"Yes," the ex-governor acknowledged.

"This was not long after Mr. Vondra had left asking you for help, correct?" Schar said

"Yes," Blagojevich answered.

The ex-governor said Jack Lavin, Blagojevich's former head of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and now Gov. Pat Quinn's chief of staff, nixed the deal.

Blagojevich's campaign wanted Vondra to raise $100,000 before new state fundraising restrictions kicked in at the end of 2008.

Despite losing out on the BP deal, Blagojevich said he wanted Vondra to know there would be opportunities for him under a $1.8 billion tollway-construction program the governor did on his own plus under a potential $6 billion capital program Blagojevich was eyeing the following year.

Blagojevich also said Vondra had an interest in getting a part of the long-discussed but long-delayed western access to O'Hare.

"Your response was Mr. Vondra should be informed there's work for him at the tollway now, and next year there could be a lot more stuff," Schar said.

"That's right, the capital bill, that type of thing," Blagojevich said.

"Mr. Vondra still had issues of interest with the government," Schar said later.

"I don't dispute that," Blagojevich answered.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki and Dave McKinney

Prosecutor Reid Schar is kicking off a series of testimony about the relationship between Rod Blagojevich and Jesse Jackson Jr.

"Let's talk about Congressman Jackson," Schar said. "Fair to say, sir, that you were not a big fan of Congressman Jackson?"

"Yes," answered Blagojevich.

Schar goes on to ask if Blagojevich promised a job to Jackson's wife in exchange for a campaign contribution, which Jackson testified when the defense called him to the stand early in its case.

Blagojevich leans forward, hands folded, as he answers: "That's absolutely false and not true."

Reporting with Natasha Korecki and Dave McKinney

Rod Blagojevich is on the stand for another day, and prosecutor Reid Schar has kicked off the morning with allegations Blagojevich was shaking down a representative of the Illinois roadway industry using a $6 billion Tollway plan as leverage.

Blagojevich is again resisting 'yes' or 'no' answers to Schar's questions, claiming he always saw the $6 billion Tollway plan in connection with a $35 capital bill for the entire state of Illinois. He also continues to talk over his own lawyer's objections, saying he's "happy to answer" Schar.

In a meeting with roadway consultant Gerald Krozel about fundraising, Krozel testified Blagojevich said he would pass a $6 billion Tollway bill after the first of the year, but only if Krozel would raise him money in the ballpark of hundreds of thousands of dollars. At another meeting with Krozel and two CEOs a week or so later, prosecutors allege Blagojevich mentioned again he would pass the $6 billion plan after the first of the year.

"Separate and apart from the capital bill, isn't it a fact that you told Mr. Krozel [and the CEOs] that you would do the $6 billion after the first of the year?"

"If it was the capital bill, I could have said that," Blagojevich said.

Schar asks two more times. Blagojevich finally answers: "I don't believe I did."

Despite no signals from Krozel he was willing to raise money, Blagojevich kept pushing his team at Friends of Blagojevich to talk to Krozel about fundraising.

"I interpreted his lack of updates as a signal" Krozel wouldn't raise any money, but kept asking to "keep hope alive," he tells Schar.

The prosecutor asks if he kept asking anyway.

"I did, and the answers were bupkis, bupkis, bupkis, bupkis, which is nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing," Blagojevich responds, gesturing emphatically with an 'OK' sign. "But I kept asking, yes."

Blagojevich said he "absolutely" did not try and extort the roadway industry in exchange for going through with a bigger tollway plan.

"According to you, you didn't tell Lon Monk, 'if those involved in the Tollway program don't stop, 'f***' them'?"

"That's false," Blagojevich said.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki and Dave McKinney

While prosecutors try to paint Rod Blagojevich as a do-nothing governor who spent much of his time at home, he's fighting back, saying he was just trying to keep the peace and not disappoint his supporters when he stayed away from the office in 2008.

That's because he was overseeing budget cuts, and didn't want to say no to people asking for exceptions, he said.

It seems prosecutor Reid Schar is trying to paint a rather different picture.

"Isn't it true that you started working largely from your house in the very first year you were governor?" Schar asks.

"Yeah, I read a book about Bill Clinton, that's where the idea came from," he answers, prompting a quick reply from Schar.

"Let's talk about what you did," Schar said, jabbing his finger toward the ex-governor.

Blagojevich said it was easier to dodge people he didn't want to see or speak with from home. Schar seems to find that answer dubious.

"You're the sitting governor of the state of Illinois," Schar tells Blagojevich. "At this time you've been governor for about five years."

"I could turn meetings down, yes, I could do that," Blagojevich finally admits.

Schar brings up that even Blagojevich's brother "from time to time had to go through [Blagojevich's secretary] Mary Stewart." Blagojevich testifies eventually that, barring extreme cases, he decided who he spoke and met with as governor.

Blagojevich again tries to crack a joke with Schar after thanking the prosecutor for letting him answer a question in detail. "My answer was so long I forgot your question. What was it?" he asks. Schar seems unamused.

As Schar finishes up questioning on the alleged Children's Memorial Hospital shakedown and Blagojevich's tendency to stay home as governor, Blagojevich testified he was just trying to appease his public.

"I get requests out here to get people into this courtroom," Blagojevich told Schar. "I was a politician. I wanted to make people happy. I still do."

Reporting with Natasha Korecki and Dave McKinney

Prosecutor Reid Schar is holding Rod Blagojevich's feet to the fire not only on statements made out of court, but also on testimony he made just last week in direct examination by his own lawyers.

Schar has moved to allegations Blagojevich shook down the CEO of Children's Memorial Hospital for a fundraiser while the CEO, Patrick Magoon, waited for Blagojevich to pass a rate increase for pediatric doctors serving Medicaid patients.

On direct testimony, Blagojevich said he told Magoon to keep quiet about the rate increase and made it "clear to him that I was breaking policy, because I was cutting a lot of different things. I was cutting wide and thin ... I asked him not to tell anybody about this because I didn't want the word to get out that I was making an exception."

Schar is now asking whether or not Blagojevich remembers saying that in the conversation with Magoon.

"That's what was in my mind, that I had these budget concerns," he testifies. Schar asks again. "This is the essence of what I was saying to him." He asks again: "I don't want to say that that's a direct quote."

Finally: "I think my best recollection is that I explained it somewhere along those lines." Blagojevich said he doesn't want to give exact words.

"No one's asking you for exact words," Schar told his uncooperative witness. "Did you say any words ... to imply that you were breaking policy?"

"I believe my recollection is I may have done that," Blagojevich responded. "That's two and a half years ago."

Schar rubbed his hand over his face, then planted his hand on his hip. He replied quizzically, "You believe your recollection is, you may have?"

Schar goes on to question how Blagojevich can remember his exact score on a school test, almost the exact day of a fundraiser he attended at Ari Emanuel's California home and verbatim quotes he's able to parrot back in testimony.

"Now you're not certain, one or the other, whether or not you told Mr. Magoon anything about the budget?" Schar asks.

Blagojevich finally says his testimony was perhaps "parenthetical," avoiding stating whether or not he explicitly remembers telling Magoon to keep quiet about the rate increase because of the budget.

"I was speaking, I think, somewhat parenthetically when I was testifying," he said. "This stuff about wide and thin ... I have a tendency to say a lot of different things, to keep talking and try and say as much as I can."

Reporting with Natasha Korecki and Dave McKinney

Moving onto allegations Rod Blagojevich held up signing a bill to extort campaign contributions from a racetrack industry executive, prosecutor Reid Schar is diving into Blagojevich's personal feelings on his campaign funds.

Before Blagojevich's friend, lobbyist and former Chief of Staff Lon Monk headed out to collect a promised contribution from Monk's own client, Johnny Johnston, Monk and Blagojevich went over the conversation Monk would have with Johnston.

Johnston was waiting on Blagojevich to sign a bill on his desk granting the racetrack industry money redirected from casino profits. Blagojevich maintains he was waiting to review the bill alongside others.

Monk said he would tell Johnston that Blagojevich would be "skittish" about signing the bill before getting the money.

"I'm not gonna cross any lines, one's not for the other, and that's what mattered to me," Blagojevich testified. "How he [Monk] decides to deal with his client who's paying him, I trust his judgment at that point, I trusted his honesty and I trusted his self-interest."

Blagojevich said though campaign funds were "undoubtedly" important to him, he was "very scrupulous in never using the campaign funds for personal use," he tells Schar. "I don't view that as a value to me. It was political."

After a few back-and-forths with Schar about the personal importance of his funds, Schar smiles, seemingly incredulous. "It's nice to see you smile," Blagojevich comments, earning laughter in the court and a big smile from one juror. But Schar's smile disappears.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki and Dave McKinney

Back on the stand, Rod Blagojevich is being examined about a grant to a Chicago school he promised to then-Congressman Rahm Emanuel sometime in 2006. Prosecutors allege Blagojevich held up money to the school to get a fundraiser out of Emanuel's brother, Ari.

Prosecutor Reid Schar argues Blagojevich would have remembered a favor he promised to Emanuel. He discusses a phrase Blagojevich brought up on direct, and Blagojevich uses the opportunity to bring up Tom Wolfe.

"That phrase comes from the book The Bonfire of the Vanities..." he begins, before being cut off.

From Wolfe's Vanities: "'...Everything in this building, everything in the criminal justice system in New York' -- New Yawk -- 'operates on favors. Everybody does favors for everybody else. Every chance they get, they make deposits in the Favor Bank.'"

Though Blagojevich remembers the book, he says he doesn't remember every favor he's given.

"It's a human dynamic. Sometimes yes, and a lot of times no," he tells Schar. "I can't say that I had a conscious thing where I said, 'boom, OK, I'm putting that in the favor bank."

Blagojevich testified on direct examination that he thought the Chicago Academy grant was a second grant and suspected his deputy governor of improperly approving it, and that's why it was held up. Now he says he never asked any of his staff to find out whether or not it was indeed a second grant to the school.

He said he would be "eager and happy" to give the grant to the school in his old Congressional district.

Schar brings up Blagojevich testimony where he said he wanted to personally tell Emanuel he had approved the grant in 2006 and probably called him to tell him the good news. Schar is trying to poke holes in Blagojevich's poor memory on the grant despite his alleged apparent investment in favors with Emanuel.

"If there's ever a day, Mr. Schar, when I could do something nice for you, I'd like to be the one to tell you," Blagojevich said, earning a couple of faint smiles from jurors. "And I'm not ruling that out."

Schar finally asks him point-blank: did you leverage the grant to squeeze a fundraiser out of Emanuel's brother Ari?

Blagojevich's lawyer Aaron Goldstein objects, but Blagojevich answers anyway: "Absolutely false." Then he asks Judge James Zagel, "Is that OK, for me to override my lawyer, Judge?"

"You've been doing it all along," responds Zagel.

Goldstein laughs, as does the courtroom gallery. Some jurors are just barely smiling at Blagojevich's cracks, while others don't give away much at all.

Reporting with Lark Turner

Reid Schar brings up the Chicago Tribune portion of the allegations: that Rod Blagojevich, as governor, offered up state help for a renovated Wrigley Field but wanted members of the editorial board fired and more positive coverage.

It turns into a squabble over Blagojevich's use of "lay off," as Schar works to show that when Blagojevich talks to the public, he's not honest.

"You wanted them to lay off of you, right?" Schar says of Blagojevich

"Yeah, and all the other newspapers," Blagojevich said.

But then Schar reads a transcript of a Rachel Maddow interview where she asks Blagojevich if he ever directed John Harris to tell the Chicago Tribune to "lay off" of all the bad press.

"Never directed," Blagojevich tells Maddow. "Never directed to do any of that."

"That was a lie, was it not sir?" Schar says, referring to a recorded call contradicting what Blagojevich said to Maddow.

But Blagojevich says Schar is reading "lay off" wrong.

"I'm talking about firing people at the editorial board, that's what I'm saying there," Blagojevich says.

Schar shakes his head in disbelief.

"Is your testimony that you understood that to mean, lay people off? Yes or no," Schar asks this numerous times.

Blagjoevich: "Fire people at the editorial board," adding, to Judge James Zagel's dismay: "If you'd let me tell the whole story, I think I could clarify this for you."

"I wanted to communicate to them don't be advocating that I should be impeached while I'm going around the legislature, trying to help you guys get refinancing for your ballpark," Blagojevich admits he was telling Harris.

Schar points to an exchange on tape where Blagojevich discusses editorial writer John McCormick, after hearing, falsely, he had been fired.

"Would be great, if that were true," Blagojevich says on tape.

Did he say that?

"Another person I should apologize to," Blagojevich concedes. "Yes."

Reporting with Natasha Korecki and Dave McKinney

Prosecutor Reid Schar and Rod Blagojevich are squabbling over semantics while Blagojevich maintains he never wanted nor decided to exchange the Senate seat appointment for personal gain. Schar has brought up a key day in the Senate seat wiretaps: November 13, 2008, when Blagojevich learns Valerie Jarrett may be accepting a job at the White House.

In calls with his advisers, Blagojevich suggests Jarrett is still interested in the Senate seat. In those same calls he discusses the idea of setting up a nonprofit organization with donations from wealthy donors like Warren Buffett he could head up once he stepped down as governor.

Schar brings up a conversation with Blagojevich adviser Doug Scofield, where Blagojevich directs Scofield to call up lobbyist John Wyma and have him call Rahm Emanuel about the nonprofit organization idea.

BLAGOJEVICH: And I, and, ah, my, my strategic goal would be to have Rahm have it in his head sooner rather than later. Like today, tomorrow. Not in connection with Senate appointment or, or anything in his 5th CD.


BLAGOJEVICH: You know just sort of like hey, this is what, is there a way to help him. You guys get Buffett and Warren Buffett and all these guys to fund it. You see what I'm sayin' Doug?

SCOFIELD: I do, but this, this, we're not talking as part of discussions for anything else.

BLAGOJEVICH: Well, it's unsaid. You understand what I'm sayin'? Yeah. It's unsaid.

Blagojevich says "unsaid" was a directive to Scofield to not connect the charitable organization with the Senate seat appointment. Schar moves on.

"The fact is, sir, that you wanted it [the 501(c)4 idea] communicated quickly because it was in connection with the Senate seat?" asks Schar.

"No, not necessarily," responds Blagojevich, prompting a seemingly incredulous response from Schar.

"I'd made no decision. I didn't know what I wanted to do yet," Blagojevich elaborates.

"On November 13, were you trying to send a message to Rahm Emanuel that in exchange for millions of dollars for a 501(c)4, you would name Valerie Jarrett to the Senate seat?" Schar asks.

"I was not doing that," Blagojevich responds. "I wanted it not in connection with the Senate seat or the Fifth Congressional district issues that Congressman Emanuel asked me to help him with. So the answer is no."

Schar later brings up a conversation Blagojevich said he had with former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert advised him to "get your quid pro quo."

"That, sir, was in relation to discussions about Lisa Madigan and legislative issues?" asks Schar.

"And other things, yes," responds Blagojevich.

By those other things, Schar wonders if Blagojevich mentioned a Health and Human Services position. No, says Blagojevich. How about a 501(c)4? No, Blagojevich answers.

Reporting with Dave McKinney

Before the afternoon break, Assistant U.S. Attorney Reid Schar hones in on a conversation between Rod Blagojevich and union leader Tom Balanoff.

Balanoff is the guy that President-elect Obama had given the green-light to talk with Blagojevich about naming Valerie Jarrett to the U.S. Senate seat.

Blagojevich, who had been hoping for a cabinet post in exchange for Jarrett, has heard that Jarrett is dropping out of Senate seat contention. So he gets on the phone and talks to Balanoff, telling him about the possibility of a 501 c4.

"You tell Tom Balanoff you want $25 million," inthe fund, and then a job there.
Blagojevich:"Possibly work there."
Schar: "You wanted the money quickly?
Blagojevich: "So I could fight for health care and join the fight."

Then comes the point where Schar tries to lower the boom. He repeatedly tries to get Blagojevich to admit that on the call, he's offering the Senate seat appointment in exchange for millions of dollars to be put into a not-for-profit fund where Blagojevich would get a job.

Schar asks the question numerous time. Blagojevich dodges. He says it's a possibility, that he's made no final decision.

After one exchange, U.S. Disgtrict Judge James Zagel tells Blagojevich after the ex-governor drifted off point again and again: "I want you to stop."

"Yes, judge," Blagojevich said.

Schar: "Did you mean to communicate to Mr. Balanoff that you would give Jarrett the Senate seat if you got your funding for your 501c4?"

"No, I didn't mean to do that," Blagojevich finally says.

But then, Schar points to another phone call. One that Blagojevich makes to his wife, Patti, right after talking to Balanoff. Blagojevich relays the possibility to Patti.

Reporting with Dave McKinney

Assistant U.S. Attorney Reid Schar is peppering Rod Blagojevich with the ex-governor's own words on tape. Schar is trying to weave a theme that Blagojevich kept trying to craft different deals but no one would bite.

Both are more calm and measured today than they were last week, during their one-hour fiery confrontation.

Schar reads back numerous exchanges on Blagojevich, including one where the ex-gov says he has the Senate seat "tightly wrapped in my arms."
"I'm willing to trade the thing I've got tightly held with her who doesn't have it held so tightly," he says on tape.

"You're the one who used the word 'trade,' isn't that right, Mr. Blagojevich?" Schar asks.

Then comes the pivotal question: If Valerie Jarrett had been willing to make a deal with the then-governor: "You would have named Jarrett senator," Schar says.

"I'm not sure what I would have done," Blagojevich insists on the witness stand.

Reporting with Dave McKinney

We're back in this morning and prosecutor Reid Schar brings up a Nov. 2008 conversation with Rod Blagojevich and Rahm Emanuel -- an exchange that the Chicago Sun-Times has detailed in the past.

House vacancies are not filled by appointment, but require a special election to appoint a replacement. Emanuel was trying to find a way to get around that, Blagojevich said.

Schar asks Blagojevich if he took an oath to uphold the constitution.

"I wouldn't knowingly violate the law whether it was written into the Constitution or the statutes of the state," Blagojevich says.

Schar then asked Blagojevich if in November of 2008 whether then-Congressman Emanuel "raised the issue with you of naming an interim to his seat until a special election was held?" Blagojevich agreed and Schar continued. "That would have given an advantage to the person before the special election was held, would it not?" Schar asked.
"This is what Congressman Emanuel was asking me to do," Blagojevich responded.
The Sun-Times has previously reported that Emanuel in that conversation raised the potential of Forrest Claypool getting named.

Blagojevich said he asked his lawyer about it, who shot down the idea as unconstitutional.

"Yet on Nov. 10th, you talked to (consultant) Fred Yang about naming a replacement. In that conversation, Mr. Yang also indicated to you that naming a replacement would violate the constitution," Schar told Blagojevich.

Blagojevich: "Cong. Emanuel said his lawyers were finding ... legal ways to ... accomplish that."

Schar, though, reads from a transcript in which Blagojevich in heard talking to Yang after his attorney told him he couldn't do it:
Yang on tape: "Right, he wants you to break the constitution of the United States."

Blagojevich: "Right, that's a favor worth doing."

Schar said that Blagojevich went on to say on the tape that by the time anybody sued to stop him, Emanuel's candidate would be off on their special election.

"Isn't that what you said?" Schar said.
"Yes," Blagojevich said.

The prosecution is trying to counter testimony from Blagojevich that he acted with his attorneys advice. In this sequence, they're trying to show that Blagojevich sought advice and ignored it.

But Blagojevich will likely later argue that ultimately, despite his words on tape, he never appointed anyone to Emanuel's post.

Reporting with Lark Turner

Rod Blagojevich and Reid Schar continued battling until the end. Blagojevich answered few questions easily.

Schar brought up Tony Rezko, noting that Blagojevich once said he would wait until after Rezko was sentenced before he appointed someone to the Senate seat.

Blagojevich managed to interject, however, that he heard Rezko was put in solitary confinement, then wrote a letter to a judge saying he felt pressured to lie about Blagojevich as well as about Barack Obama.

Schar jumped around chronologically all afternoon, seemingly by design.
Blagojevich repeatedly asked him to allow him to read a whole transcript or see what Schar was referring to before he answered.

After court, Schar was asked how long cross examination could take.
"If it continues the way it's continued, the leaves will start turning," before it's over, he said.

Schar did note that the prosecution had a rebuttal case. And Blagojevich lawyer Shelly Sorosky said there are a couple of more defense witnesses who are brief.

Prosecutor digging, Blagojevich wriggling

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Reporting with Lark Turner

Reid Schar is like an animal let out of a cage. He's dancing all around Rod Blagojevich, peppering him with questions. His voice firm at times, high-pitched at others and dripping with sarcasm the next.

First, Schar stays on the lying theme, asking Rod Blagojevich if he ever revealed to the public he was trying to get something for himself in exchange for Senate seat.

"Ever tell the public you had your staff doing research on ambassadorships?"
"No," Blagojevich said.

Schar tries throwing Blagojevich off balance, jumping around chronologically.

Now we're on Dec. 8th, where the defense just left off and Blagojevich said he hadn't yet made up his mind on his appointment. But he was leaning toward appointing Lisa Madigan.

Schar resurrects Blagojevich's book and selects an excerpt regarding Dec. 8th.

"Over the phone," Schar read. "I informed my chief of staff I had selected my first choice."
"That's not true," Schar says firmly.
"That is true," Blagojevich says.
"Selected her," Schar specifies.
"She was my first choice," Blagojevich says. He selected Madigan as his first choice, he says.

Schar asks Blagojevich to specify where in the transcripts he directed John Harris to move on the Madigan deal. Blagojevich suggests the two could have met.

Schar and Blagojevich still trying to find their places. Schar gradually less argumentative. Blagojevich, well, still working on yes or no answers.

Blagojevich vs. Schar. The dance begins

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Reporting with Lark Turner

The federal courtroom has turned into a chaotic, fast-moving place.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Reid Schar and Rod Blagojevich are sparring, talking over each other. Judge James Zagel is trying to interject. Blagojevich's lawyers are objecting but their own client is ignoring them and answering anyway.

It takes a good 10 minutes for Blagojevich to answer the first question. He keeps squabbling.

"Mr. Blagojevich You are a convicted liar, right?" Schar asks. "It's fair to say, within hours of being convicted you went and lied again."

Schar said after his conviction on just one count, Blagojevich marched downstairs and gave a press conference where he said that he was convicted of lying to the FBI after he was interviewed and not given a chance to have a court reporter. Schar repeatedly asked Blagojevich why he didn't tell the public that the FBI offered to tape the interview.

Schar said Blagojevich wanted to communicate to the public that his conviction was unfair.
"I had a strong opinion about it if you want to hear it," the ex-governor says.
"This is why we have appellate courts ... there's a process that will still unfold."

Blagojevich: "What is your question again?"

Schar: "You wanted people to believe that the process that led to your conviction was unfair."
Blagojevich: "No, that is erroneous."

"What kind of recording equipment was it? I just don't remember seeing recording equipment," Blagojevich said.

Blagojevich says he has no recollection of the FBI offering to record. Schar needles him, in a high-pitched sarcastic tone, recalling Blagojevich's hyper-detailed testimony including, times, places and dates, but now he couldn't recall something he witnessed in an interview.

Jurors aren't taking notes. Their eyes are glued on Schar.

Reid Schar was given the option to begin now or wait.

Let's go, he said.

Schar appears ready in the courtroom. His fellow prosecutor is clearing defense stuff off the witness stand.

It came after the final thread from defense. They play a call from Dec. 8, 2008 8:43 p.m. where Blagojevich is talking to his aide, Bob Greenlee about how Rahm Emanuel agreed to be a go-between and broker a deal with the Madigans to get the Illinois Attorney General appointed to the Senate seat in exchange for a Blagojevich legislative package.

Last question from the defense: "Rod, were you arrested the next day?"
Blagojevich: "Yes"

Schar has about one hour, the judge says. The prosecution will have the last word before the three-day weekend for jurors.

Reporting with Lark Turner

The defense played a call jurors have not heard before. It wasn't played in the first trial, either.

It was taped Dec. 8, 2008, the day before Rod Blagojevich was arrested.
"Right now if I had to pick I'd say Gery Chico. And we'd call him an Hispanic, right?"
he says to his chief of staff John Harris.

In the call, Blagojevich brings up the Lisa Madigan deal, saying he would like to tap Rahm Emanuel to construct such a deal.

"If you're picking today, who you picking?" Blagojevich asks Harris. "Do we ever make the move with Madigan, or do we forget the whole thing? The question is how do you do it? Get Rahm to go in," Blagojevich is heard on the call telling his chief of staff.

The defense is trying to use the recording to bolster Blagojevich's repeated contention that at the time of his arrest, he had not made a decision on who to appoint to the Senate seat.

The prosecution will no doubt point out that the discussion came after Blagojevich learned through a newspaper report that federal authorities were secretly recording him.

He was arrested Dec. 9, 2008.

Reporting with Lark Turner

Rod Blagojevich tiptoes around the trickiest call. In a Dec. 4, 2008 call, he's telling his brother to meet with a fund-raiser, Raghu Nayak, who had already offered $1.5 million in campaign fund-raising in exchange for a Jesse Jackson Jr. appointment.

Dec. 4 call with Robert

"If there's tangible political support like you've said, start showing us now," Blagojevich tells his brother.

Blagojevich on the stand explains that if he's going to elevate Jackson, then he needs to see "political support up front." And insists this is all still a play against the Washington establishment that didn't want Jackson. Blagojevich wanted to put Lisa Madigan in the seat to get a legislative
"I wanted to see him publicly advocating my stuff now," Blagojevich said. "I liked that because that would send a signal to Washington that Jesse Jackson Jr. and I were resurrecting an old political alliance."

Blagojevich also says on the call to his brother: "You gotta be careful how you express that, that the whole world is listening."

But he's not referring to secret FBI wiretaps, he says.
"The whole world is listening, is a phrase I use all the time," Blagojevich says on the stand. "When you talk to assume everybody's listening."

Blagojevich says he was hoping Jackson would agree to back a mortgage bill that the then-governor supported. Though this shows up nowhere on the recording.

"In my mind, that day and the day before, we were working on a mortgage foreclosure bill that passed the Senate. In my mind that day was a desire to pass a mortgage foreclosure bill," Blagojevich said. "This wasn't even said because my words were outpacing my ideas."

Even after all these phone calls and arrangements to meet with a Jackson donor, Blagojevich stays on one point:
"I was never going to appoint Congressman Jackson," Blagojevich says.

Reporting with Lark Turner

Rod Blagojevich treads into among the most dangerous recorded conversations -- where he discusses getting "tangible, up front" "concrete" support from U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.

Blagojevich testifies that when he's heard on tape in Dec. 4, 2008 call, saying he can get tangible support from the Jackson he's talking about political support. The fact that he also brings up a $1.5 million offer from Jackson's supporters was just his way to disclose to advisers that he had been approached by Jackson's supporters in the past.

Prosecutors say that Blagojevich is talking about wanting the $1.5 million when he says "tangible, up front." But Blagojevich testifies he's referring to "up front" political support from Jackson.
"That would be the African American, elected officials, state Sen. Meeks a couple of state reps," Blagojevich testifies. "The African American community as a whole would be pleased with me ... I would build a political alliance."

Blagojevich insists that at this point, he still had Lisa Madigan at the top of his list.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Rod Blagojevich said he had a conversation with Senate Majority Harry Reid about the Senate seat appointment because he wanted help getting Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan to pass legislation if he appointed Madigan's daughter, Lisa Madigan, to the Senate seat.

"This is a thankless job you have," Blagojevich testifies Reid told him. "Governors have it tougher ... We in the Senate, we don't have those kinds of decisions."

The defense "refreshed" Blagojevich's memory on the call by handing him a transcript of it. But the tape was not played in court.

Blagojevich said he needed people like Reid "to broker it [the Madigan deal] for me, to monitor for me." He testifies that he didn't trust Michael Madigan to uphold his end of the deal.

But Reid said he "didn't have a dog in the fight," meaning he didn't care who won, so long as that person could be reelected to the seat, Blagojevich said. That sentiment was repeated in a conversation Blagojevich said he had with Sen. Robert Menendez.

Menendez told him, "said they generally don't get involved in local fights like that, but this would be an important one."

Blagojevich said he was "in love with the idea" of the Madigan deal but didn't want to make strides to do it until he had the backing of people in Washington, D.C. Lisa Madigan was the "overwhelming frontrunner" in early December, Blagojevich testified.

"We're all Democrats," Blagojevich said he wanted to tell 'the Washington establishment,' implying that the initiatives were of Democratic interest. "Get it [the deal] done, and no promises taken on faith. Get it done."

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Well, the Navy SEALs have taken care of it now, but in 2008 Rod Blagojevich had discussions with advisers about appointing himself Senator, heading to Afghanistan and hunting down Osama bin Laden, he testified.

Blagojevich's lawyer, Aaron Goldstein, is likely trying to point out the absurdity and far-fetched nature of his discussions.

Goldstein asks if Blagojevich talked about appointing himself "in exchange for going to Afghanistan and hunting down Osama bin Laden."

"Yes," Blagojevich replies.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

The defense is cruising through a series of calls played by the prosecution where Rod Blagojevich chats with advisers about what to do with his Senate seat appointment.

In one Nov. 12, 2008 call, Blagojevich's Chief of Staff John Harris reports on a meeting he had with Emil Jones -- a meeting that Blagojevich ordered him to set up and attend, according to Harris' testimony. The prosecution alleges that Blagojevich wanted Jones' campaign funds in exchange for making him senator.

In the call, Harris says he told Jones, "I said, 'and what about this big bucket of money?' You know. I said 'you're gonna help like minded candidates, right?" And he said, "yeah, I'm gonna stay politically active.' Anyway, I'll tell you more in person on that."

Blagojevich's take: "[Harris] teased Emil Jones about his campaign fund. Harris must have felt he had a lot of money in his campaign fund. ... I didn't instruct Harris to talk to Emil about big buckets of money."

As he goes through the calls with lawyer Aaron Goldstein, Blagojevich repeats the point that he urged his advisers not to promise anything to anybody, because he had yet to make any decisions.

Take the following exchange from a Nov. 13, 2008 call:

BLAGOJEVICH: And I, and, ah, my, my strategic goal would be to have Rahm have it in his head sooner rather than later. Like today, tomorrow. Not in connection with Senate appointment or, or anything in his 5th CD.


BLAGOJEVICH: You know just sort of like hey, this is what, is there a way to help him. You guys get Buffett and Warren Buffett andall these guys to fund it. You see what I'm sayin' Doug?

SCOFIELD: I do, but this, this, we're not talking as part of discussions for anything else.

BLAGOJEVICH: Well, it's unsaid. You understand what I'm sayin'? Yeah. It's unsaid.

"Unsaid, don't say that this is connected to a Senate appointment, and don't say that it is connected," Blagojevich testifies. "Don't say it, don't promise it, don't condition it, don't connect it. Because I didn't want him to to convey something that I wasn't prepared to do, that I hadn't decided to do. I didn't want him to give the impression that I was promising something."

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

A hypothetical healthcare-advocacy organization funded by major Democratic donors was never meant to pay him a big salary, Rod Blagojevich testified Thursday.

In a Nov. 12, 2008 call with his Chief of Staff John Harris, Blagojevich discusses the idea of getting people like Warren Buffett to put millions of dollars into an organization he could chair when he was finished being governor.

"Yeah, I would stay as governor oh yeah, don't get me wrong," he says. "But it'd be, we'd have this organization, the board of directors, we'd control it. And it'd be sittin' there waiting."

Blagojevich testifies it was another idea he first had in early- to mid-2008, one he never acted on, to promote healthcare.

"Get this organization up and running while I was governor, so I could go out and use this as a vehicle to promote healthcare," he tells lawyer Aaron Goldstein. "The money was going to be used to advocate healthcare, not to pay me. This was Isaiah from the Old Testament: get the rich to help the poor, that was the thinking."

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Rod Blagojevich is trying to once again to make the argument that he wanted any decision he made about the Senate seat to be "legal, obviously." Judge James Zagel doesn't want testimony about legality, but Blagojevich manages to introduce it again Thursday morning.

He's referring to a Nov. 11, 2008 call with his adviser Doug Scofield where the two have the following exchange:

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.

On the stand, Blagojevich testifies he was talking about the Senate seat.

"Any decision I would ultimately make on the Senate seat had to be legal, obviously," Blagojevich says clearly and slowly into the microphone, leaning in. He glances at the jury.

The prosecution objects and Zagel sustains it. Blagojevich goes on to say Scofield and his other advisers were pushing him to exchange something for the Senate seat.

"[Scofield] was advising me to leverage it for whatever was most helpful to me," Blagojevich testifies. "He was giving me his view on what my friends thought I should do with this, that I should leverage the Senate seat."

Watch Blagojevich argue the point after court in early May, when prosecutors first played the tape, here.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

As he debated with advisers over who to appoint to President-elect Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat, Rod Blagojevich testified Thursday that he spoke with Obama's adviser Rahm Emanuel about his ideas.

On one day in early November, Blagojevich said he talked to Emaunel three times.

"Did you discuss the Senate seat?" asks lawyer Aaron Goldstein.

"Yes," Blagojevich answers. He says he brought up the idea of appointing Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to the seat, and he thought Emanuel approved of that idea.

"He said something like, 'So, you're really playing with the idea of Lisa Madigan?' And I said, 'Yes.' I think I said something along the lines of ... 'How much do I love the people of Illinois, could I hold my nose and do it?'"

Emanuel's response?

"He was not against the idea," Blagojevich testified. "I interpreted him to think he thought it was an alright idea. I also interpreted him to mean he was surprised that I would even consider her. I took it that he was pleasantly surprised that I would consider her."

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

On a November 7 conference call with his advisers, Rod Blagojevich tells them if he's appointed secretary of Health and Human Services, he would appoint Valerie Jarrett "in a heartbeat."

"And if I'd get that, and, and, and if, if that was somethin' available to me and maybe it's really unrealistic, but if that was available to me I could do Valerie Jarrett in a heartbeat," Blagojevich says on the tape. He's relating to his advisers what he told Barack Obama's emissary, union leader Tom Balanoff, in a meeting.

Today Blagojevich tells his lawyer Aaron Goldstein that he never said that to Balanoff.

"'I never told him that," Blagojevich said. "I floated the idea. He thought it was an idea that was going nowhere."

Instead, Blagojevich said he was simply excited by the idea of helping promote healthcare nationally.

It was "a thought that was evidently in my mind at that particular time, being able to play a role, to replicate across America what we did," Blagojevich testifies. He was saying, "It sure would be nice to be the Health and Human Services secretary. ... It's sort of like, if I could play center field for the Cubs, I'd do that in a heartbeat, too."

The prosecution took 11 days to put on its case. If Rod Blagojevich remains on the stand for the entirety of the day today, he'll match almost half of that (though on Friday, he went only half of a day).

Still, the ex-governor has one of the toughest parts of his testimony ahead of him: the Jackson allegations. He's heard on tape in early December saying he wants something "tangible, up front" from a supporter of U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. who earlier had approached the Blagojevich camp with such a promise. But there's also a recording in early December where Blagojevich tells his brother he's playing Jackson. He's argued he was doing that so the Washington establishment will help him craft a deal to appoint Lisa Madigan and get legislation passed through the Illinois House.

Judge James Zagel has said he'd give prosecutors a chance to dig into Blagojevich today even if his lawyer takes all day to question him.

They might just take it.

At a break, Assistant U.S. Attorney Reid Schar asked if the trial schedule could be changed so that the prosecution could begin on Friday. Zagel said "no."
But it's a clear sign: the prosecution's ready.

Reporting with Lark Turner

The Judge James Zagel lecture series continued this afternoon with the judge scolding the defense for using stall tactics.

"I do believe now ... that you are trying to run the clock," Judge James Zagel tells Aaron Goldstein after dismissing jurors.

This comes not long after Rod Blagojevich expounds about an ambassadorship to Macedonia, which he mentions on a recorded call.
"Macedonia is great. I'm not here to say anything bad about Macedonia," Blagojevich says. "There was no place for me even there. The home of Alexander the Great."

Zagel complained that the defense asked the same question three or four times. Goldstein again and again asked Blagojevich after specific phone calls whether he had, at that point, made a decision about the Senate seat.
"This is a ...stalling tactic, I don't want to see that," Zagel said, calling it inappropriate.
"I also don't believe this is helping with the jury."

"I'm not uncertain about my conclusion that you're running the clock here," Zagel said.

Goldstein asked if he could respond. Zagel said to take the night to think about what he was going to say before he said.
"I know what I will tell you today, tomorrow, and the next day," Goldstein snapped back.

Zagel zinged: "Ok, you can tell me tomorrow morning."

Blagojevich fatigue affecting ... Blagojevich?

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Reporting with Lark Turner

It's late afternoon and either Rod Blagojevich is growing tired on the witness stand or he and his attorney are simply out of sync.

"I don't know what I'm saying. What am I talking about here?" Blagojevich asks Aaron Goldstein at one point. "Can you help me?"

At least half a dozen times this afternoon, Blagojevich asked Goldstein "where are you?" or "do you have a question for me?" or seems to lose his train of thought.

They are continuing through the transcripts and Blagojevich seems to keep losing his place.

It is Blagojevich's fourth day on the witness stand.

Goldstein had asked Judge James Zagel to break 15 minutes earlier, but the judge wants the defense to wrap up its direct questioning by tomorrow. So we're still at it.

Reporting with Lark Turner

Rod Blagojevich testifies that Barack Obama's emissary looked embarrassed when the then-governor "floated the idea" of getting a cabinet post in exchange for appointing Valerie Jarrett.

Blagojevich described his one-on-one meeting with union leader Tom Balanoff, the same man Obama called and gave the green light to talk to the then-governor about appointing Jarrett to the U.S. Senate.

In the meeting, which happened right after Obama's Nov. 4, 2008 election, Balanoff said he was a major supporter to both Obama and Blagojevich and he wanted to work out something for Jarrett.

Blagojevich said he hesitated and explained his own personal, political predicament if he appointed Jarrett and he got nothing.

"You all go to Washington D.C. doing all this historic, beautiful stuff on health care and I'm left behind. I gotta consider those dynamics, too," Blagojevich said he told Balanoff. "He said he understood."

Then Blagojevich made the ask: Could he possibly get a cabinet position, specifically, be named to head up Health and Human Services.

"You could just see the embarrassment in his face," Blagojevich said of Balanoff.
"You have no chance at that. It's not going to happen for you. ...I felt so uncomfortable for how he looked."

Blagojevich described the conversation as a bad try. He denied ever pushing it any further by saying he'd only appoint Jarrett if he got something in return.

"I did not want to convey a promise to Tom Balanoff ... I floated the idea," Blagojevich said. "He was quick to honestly reject it as being unrealistic."

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

It's the "phrase heard 'round the world," Rod Blagojevich testifies.

But when his lawyer Aaron Goldstein asks his client what he meant in the 'effin' golden' tape, a usually chatty Blagojevich hesitates.

"I've got this thing and it's f***in' golden, and I'm just not giving it up for f***in' nothing," Blagojevich says in the tape.

"Well, that's the, that's, uh, the Senate seat," Blagojevich stumbles. "I was saying that this opportunity is effin' golden and that's what I was saying, and I don't want to give it up for nothing, so we had these discussions."

Goldstein presses him: what did he mean?

"I'm afraid to answer this," Blagojevich responds. "I'd like to answer it. I'm not sure how to answer it."

Goldstein tells him to do his best.

"In my mind, I didn't know," Blagojevich said. "I had no idea, other than all these different ideas that we were throwing around, and I was trying to figure out what, if anything, could possibly be part of a deal for the Senate seat. And I didn't know and that's why I was talking about it."

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

As President-elect Barack Obama and his soon-to-be Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel prepped to leave Illinois for Washington, D.C., Rod Blagojevich testifies that he felt left out. That's why he wanted a position in Obama's administration, Blagojevich says.

"Again I'm in this process of trying to gather options," Blagojevich explains. He felt "a sense of loneliness and envy that they were all going off to Washington to do all these great things."

While he discusses a November 2008 meeting with union leader Tom Balanoff, Blagojevich explains that appointing Obama's apparent choice, Valerie Jarrett, to the Senate seemed like a giveaway.

"I was going to make Obama's choice for senator, if indeed that was his choice, and they'd all be on their merry way," he said.

Meanwhile, he said he would be stuck back in Illinois with House Speaker Michael Madigan blocking his every move.

And he felt it would only get worse if he didn't name Madigan's daughter, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, to the seat.

"I'd be worse than a lame duck, because in addition to the existing gridlock, I wouldn't have made his daughter a senator," he said.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Continuing with his defense that he was simply following the advice of trusted advisers, Rod Blagojevich testifies that former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert told him to get something for himself in exchange for the Senate seat.

"Get your quid pro quo and make it a two-fer," Blagojevich alleges Hastert said to him.

What Hastert meant, Blagojevich continues, was that he should appoint someone like Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White or Attorney General Lisa Madigan to the Senate seat, so he could also appoint a replacement for their positions -- thus getting a "two-for-one" appointment.

Blagojevich said he had a "very close relationship" with Hastert, who he saw as a "seasoned veteran" and "the coach you wanted to always impress."

Blagojevich is also suggesting that up to a certain point, he really wanted to appoint himself Senator, which he had the power to do -- but his advisers urged him against it.

Doug Scofield "consistently had the position that this was a bad move for me," Blagojevich testifies on appointing himself to the seat.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Rod Blagojevich is testifying uncomfortably about a phone call where he delivers an 'f--- you' to Illinois voters, with whom he had a low approval rating.

"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 in the November 2008 call, 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."

On the stand today, facing his jury, Blagojevich again apologizes for his profanity and contends he was just expressing his love for the people of Illinois.

"Again, I apologize for the language. It really looks bad and sounds bad when you hear it and see it," Blagojevich testifies. "This is a classic case of unrequited love. This was me venting."

By Abdon M. Pallasch

Blagojevich talked about pinch-hitting for State Sen. James Clayborne, D-Belleville, to get elected State Senate president when Blagojevich's often-ally Emil Jones was retiring from the post.

Blagojevich toyed with the idea of appointing Jones to Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat as a caretaker for two years. That would satisfy Blagojevich's African-American base of supporters, Blagojevich testified.

He also thought about appointing Attorney General Lisa Madigan as a way to broker some peace with her father, Blagojevich's nemesis Mike Madigan. But that would not make African-American voters happy, Blagojevich said.

State Sen. John Cullerton, D-Chicago, the front-runner and eventual victor in the battle to succeed Jones, was considered more likely to cooperate with Madigan than with Blagojevich.

So to help counteract Cullerton's fund-raising advantage over Clayborne, Blagojevich testified he asked Jones to help raise money for Clayborne.

"Cullerton was raising a lot of money and was giving it to Democrats," Blagojevich said. "I asked Emil to raise money for Clayborne."

Blagojevich's testimony had once again strayed too far from the issue of whether he was selling Barack Obama's senate seat, so prosecutor Reid Schar once again stood and Judge Zagel once again encouraged Blagojevich's attorney to ask more focused questions.

Reporting with Abdon Pallasch

Judge James Zagel once again cleared out the jury then told defense lawyers they better wrap up their direct questioning of the ex-governor by the end of the day. Maybe one hour tomorrow, he said.

Zagel said it would be "better for the administration of justice" if Rod Blagojevich's lawyers got him to answer more pointed question.
"There are some things now that have been repeated for the 15th and 16th time," Zagel said. "There's a certain flavor of campaign speeches here."

Zagel said he's given the defense extraordinary leeway.
"I've permitted you to do something that's rarely done with a defendant in a criminal case. I've permitted you to lead him," Zagel said. "This repetitiveness will diminish the attentiveness of the jury."

He suggested that attorneys skip lunch and instead work with their client on giving more concise answers. Blagojevich has repeatedly been cut off from tangents, history lessons, etc.

"I'm not of the view that you're trying to run out the clock," Zagel said. Zagel believes the defense is trying to get Blagojevich to talk and talk so jurors are more familiar and comfortable with him. But he said it's time to stop.

Reporting with Abdon Pallasch

Rod Blagojevich on the witness stand suggested that the government deleted portions of recorded phone calls that were favorable to him.

That caused Judge James Zagel to clear out the jury. He then turned to Blagojevich and his lawyers, telling him he thought it was "entirely inappropriate" to make such a suggestion in front of the jury. Zagel said he ruled on the same matter already since Blagojevich took the stand and that now, he saw the ex-governor as flagrantly violating his orders.

"This is a deliberate effort by this witness to raise something that he can't raise, to (suggest) something that was good was eliminated," Zagel said. "This is not fair. This is a repeated example of a defendant who want to say something, smuggling them in. He did that yesterday, day before yesterday. This is not right, I am going to give an instruction to the jury that he is not to refer to stuff that's been deleted on the witness stand in the presence of the jury."

"Do you understand what I have just said?" an irritated Zagel asked. "Is that clear?"
"It's clear," one of Blagojevich's lawyers, Lauren Kaeseberg said.
"Do you think it's possibly clear to your client?" Zagel said. At that, Blagojevich raised his hand next to his face, as if to say: 'yes.'
"I'm sure it is," she said.

Zagel complained that yesterday Blagojevich purposely inserted a reference to his 12-year-old cousin who died of Leukemia at Children's Memorial Hospital. Zagel said Blagojevich did this even after Zagel told him he couldn't do it.

The jury's back in.

Reporting with Abdon Pallasch

Rod Blagojevich on the witness stand suggested that the government deleted portions of recorded phone calls that were favorable to him.

That caused Judge James Zagel to clear out the jury. He then turned to Blagojevich and his lawyers, telling him he thought it was "entirely inappropriate" to make such a suggestion in front of the jury. Zagel said he ruled on the same matter already since Blagojevich took the stand and that now, he saw the ex-governor as flagrantly violating his orders.

"This is a deliberate effort by this witness to raise something that he can't raise, to (suggest) something that was good was eliminated," Zagel said. "This is not fair. This is a repeated example of a defendant who want to say something, smuggling them in. He did that yesterday, day before yesterday. This is not right, I am going to give an instruction to the jury that he is not to refer to stuff that's been deleted on the witness stand in the presence of the jury."

"Do you understand what I have just said?" an irritated Zagel asked. "Is that clear?"
"It's clear," one of Blagojevich's lawyers, Lauren Kaeseberg said.
"Do you think it's possibly clear to your client?" Zagel said.
"I'm sure it is," she said.

Zagel complained that yesterday Blagojevich purposely inserted a reference to his 12-year-old cousin who died of Leukemia at Children's Memorial Hospital. Zagel said Blagojevich did this even after Zagel told him he couldn't do it.

The jury's back in.

Reporting with Abdon Pallasch

Rod Blagojevich may not get to tell the jury that he thought what he was doing was legal, but he's repeatedly brought up his gubernatorial attorney, Bill Quinlan.

Blagojevich said he talked to Quinlan about the Senate seat appointment: "Constantly ... repeatedly and repetitively."

His calls with Quinlan averaged about three times a day, including on the weekends, he said.

He said that his conversations with Quinlan included talking about getting President-Elect Obama to funnel billions in aid to Illinois in exchange for appointing Obama's candidate to the Senate seat. Blagojevich said his talks with Quinlan helped frame his state of mind as he was deciding what to do with the Senate seat.

Blagojevich testified that at the time of his arrest, he didn't make a decision about the appointment.
"I never got there," he told his lawyer Aaron Goldstein.

"Did you ever attempt to shake down anyone for the Senate seat?" Goldstein asked.
Blagojevich: "Absolutely not."
"Ever demand anything in exchange for the Senate seat?"
Blagojevich: "Absolutely not."

Blagojevich's analogies not analogous, Judge says

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By Abdon M. Pallasch and Natasha Korecki

Asking President Obama or his allies to have rich people create a non-profit to hire Blagojevich at comfortable salary in exchange for a senate appointment is not the same as horse-trading votes, Zagel said.

"That's money in his pocket, not just changing his vote in exchange for political support," Zagel said.

"That's not entirely true," Blagojevich's attorney said.

"My ruling is: Opinions about the legality of something are out," Zagel said, also admonishing Blagojevich's lawyers: "I don't what to see that by implication ...He's perfectly free to say 'I thought it was OK to do this cause I didn't think it was one for the other.'"

When Blagojevich was on the stand, he was saying that because all that historical precedent was on his mind and his advisors including his lawyer were not telling him it was illegal, that Blagjevich did not think it was illegal to trade a senate appointment for a job for himself.

"My desire was to comply with the law," Blagojevich said. "I was particularly careful, I thought, [I had] a full desire [that] whatever idea was brought to me, was discussed by all my senior advisors and Mr. Quinlan was among them. No one ever said, 'You can't do that -- it was illegal.' I was determined to make sure I followed the law when I made my ultimate decision."

By Abdon Pallasch and Natasha Korecki

When it came to the sale of the U.S. Senate seat, Rod Blagojevich said he believed that trading his power to appoint for a personal benefit was perfectly legal.

"Did you honestly believe that what you were talking about was legal?" Blagojevich's attorney, Aaron Goldstein asked without the jury present.

"Yes I did," Blagojevich said.

"Did you honestly believe that exchanging the senate seat for [a cabinet post as] Health and Human Services was legal?" Goldstein asked.

"Yes, I did," Blagojevich said.

Or a non-profit position or an ambassadorship?

Yes, Blagojevich answered.

Why did he think it was legal? He starts ticking off historical political deals.

According to Doris Kearns Goodwin's "Team of Rivals," Abraham Lincoln made a deal with the governor of Pennsylvania to make him secretary of war in exchange for his support fort president, Blagojevich said.

Blagojevich said Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton made a deal for him to give $10 million in campaign funds to help her retire her campaign debt -- and to appoint her secretary of state in exchange for her pulling out of the race for president. That charge has not been documented.

When President Kennedy gave up his senate seat, he put a place-holder there until his brother Ted was old enough to run for it, Blagojevich said.

Former Judiciary Chairman Henry Hyde asked Blagjevich to support an Alabama judge being able to post the 10 Commandments in his courtroom in exchange for approving a post office named for a slain police officer in Blagjoevich's district when Blagojevich was in congress.

Judge James Zagel was skeptical: "His historical recitation involves some things historcally accepted as true, some things [that are] speculative," Zagel said. "The stuff about his experiences actually doing things in political life, is not analogous to the issues were are dealing with here ... it's just a bunch of irrelevant stuff."

Blagojevich keeps mentioning that he discussed all of this with his senior advisors including his general counsel Bill Quinlan.

Prosecutors called that a "back-door" attempt to introduce the argument that Blagojevich was not guilty because he was relying on the advice of counsel, an argument Zagel has already said he can't make.

Now, they are arguing about whether or not his belief in his actions' legality is relevant.

By Abdon M. Pallasch, reporting with Natasha Korecki

Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich is citing all the historical precedent on his mind when he sought an ambassadorship or a non-profit post in exchange for appointing President Obama's close friend Valerie Jarrett to Obama's senate seat:

President Ford offered Ronald Reagan two cabinet positions and an ambassadorship not to run, Blagojevich said.

Dwight Eisenhower offered Earl Warren a seat on the U.S Supreme Court in exchange for his support...

The jury is not hearing any of this -- this is Blagojevich seeking Judge Zagel's permission to make this argument to the jury

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