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

Prosecutors: Blagojevich was banking favors, would have remembered school grant

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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.

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This page contains a single entry by Lark Turner published on June 6, 2011 2:20 PM.

Blagojevich: When I said the Chicago Tribune should "lay off," I was talking about firings was the previous entry in this blog.

Blagojevich on campaign funds: 'Not of personal value to me' and just 'political' is the next entry in this blog.

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