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.