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

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By Natasha Korecki

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reporting with Lark Turner


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

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

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

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

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

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

Reporting with Lark Turner


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

John Harris is testifying about a conversation with Blagojevich where the two role-played an upcoming conversation with union leader Tom Balanoff on the day after Barack Obama's election.

In the conversation, which was played for the jury, Blagojevich talks to Harris about whether or not he should imply that he's considering Attorney General Lisa Madigan or Senate President Emil Jones for the Senate seat. Harris said he had no knowledge of any possible deal with Madigan.

Blagojevich wanted "to raise the value of the request; in other words, that if the President-elect wants Valerie Jarrett, the governor would be foregoing a possible deal with Speaker [Mike] Madigan, something he valued."

In the tape, Blagojevich says he wants to get the 'eff' out of Illinois. He asks Harris how he can bring it up with Balanoff, Harris testified.

"See, the other thing is, how do I make a play for somethin' in that end over there?" Blagojevich asks Harris on the tape. "How do you bring that up? Do you do it with Balanoff or no?"

In a conversation a few minutes later that morning, Blagojevich continues to run possible job requests by Harris, primarily the position of secretary of Health and Human Services, something Harris tells Blagojevich is probably unlikely. Blagojevich throws out a few different positions he could be appointed to, including the feasibility of him being appointed the U.S. ambassador to India or South Africa.

"Why can't I be ambassador to India?" Blagojevich asks on the tape.

This goes on for several pages in the tape's transcript.

"We went through quite a few alternatives," Harris testified.

One of those alternatives was head of the Salvation Army. In a subsequent, similar call with the two men and Bob Greenlee, Blagojevich's former deputy governor, Blagojevich brings up this possibility and asks if he would have to wear a uniform.

The gallery in the courtroom laughs at that. Patti Blagojevich looks a little tired; she's resting her head on her hand with her eyes closed.

With that tape, court ends for the day.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Continuing to elicit testimony on the Senate seat, the prosecution is playing tapes detailing conversations between Blagojevich, Harris and union leaders Tom Balanoff and Andy Stern. Blagojevich and Harris knew Obama wanted Valerie Jarrett appointed to the seat, but testified that Blagojevich wanted something in return.

"Do they think I'll appoint her for nothing, just to make it happen?" Blagojevich asks Harris on tape.

Harris responds to Blagojevich by saying the President-elect would probably expect some more demands from the governor: demands regarding Illinois' federal government wishlist, like more Medicaid resources.

"I'm simply suggesting [to Blagojevich] that I'm sure they're thinking you're going to want help with your governing agenda, the type of help a president can give in helping a governor get things done," Harris testified.

Harris also discussed a meeting with himself, Blagojevich, Stern and Balanoff where he says Blagojevich suggested he might appoint Illinois Senate President Emil Jones or Attorney General Lisa Madigan to the seat. Harris says Blagojevich suggested appointing Jarrett would be a "significant sacrifice" for him.

At the end of the meeting, Stern and Balanoff said they would go back to Obama and "his people" to make sure Jarrett was his favorite pick for the Senate seat.

As for Blagojevich appointing himself to the seat?

"That was always a possibility, and always in his discussions," Harris testified.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Government witness John Harris has gotten to the Senate seat charges, and just described two meetings with the then-governor, himself and the governor's legal adviser Bill Quinlan where Harris says Quinlan told Blagojevich he could not look for something for himself in exchange for the seat.

"You can't talk about this, you can't even joke about this," Harris said Quinlan told Blagojevich in late October 2008. "He could not talk about the two in the same sentence."

Quinlan's warning to Blagojevich is significant. His lawyer told him not to try and exchange the Senate seat for personal benefits. Blagojevich has long claimed he did not realize he was doing anything wrong or improper and that he acted with the knowledge of his advisers.

The prosecution also showed the jury an internal document Harris wrote with talking points and a plan for appointing a replacement should then-senator Barack Obama be elected president.

The document advised Blagojevich to appoint a team to help choose candidates for Senate.

"I will not turn this into a public spectacle," Harris advised Blagojevich to say in the document.

Harris said the document was only ever used for public talking points.

He's also described a conversation with then-Congressman Rahm Emanuel prior to Obama's election regarding a possible candidate for Senate.

"He told me that Senator Obama had a preferred candidate," Harris testified. " I understood [him] to be referring to Valerie Jarrett."

The prosecution is now playing a phone call where Harris relays to Blagojevich what Emanuel told him. He tells Blagojevich that Obama wants Jarrett appointed to the seat.

Reporting with Lark Turner

Rod Blagojevich's judge, U.S. District Judge James Zagel, today denied the former governor's lawyers access to a report of President Obama's FBI interview.

Agents interviewed Obama after Blagojevich's 2008 arrest. At the time, Obama was President-elect and transitioning into the White House. He was interviewed as part of the investigation into Blagojevich, since the ex-governor was accused of plotting to sell Obama's vacant U.S. Senate seat.

While FBI notes for other witnesses were turned over -- including Rahm Emanuel and Valerie Jarrett -- Obama's were not given to the defense.

Zagel said he read over Obama's report again after the defense made another attempt at seeing them.
"There is nothing in the report that could be used at trial," Zagel said.

Blagojevich's attorneys said they believed that witness Tom Balanoff, a union chief, had testified in last summer's trial to something that was counter to what Obama had said publicly regarding his staff's contacts with Blagojevich's staff.

However, Zagel said he didn't find anything in the report that would help the defense "impeach" Balanoff's testimony when he takes the stand in the retrial.

Written by Lark Turner

As it prepares for Rod Blagojevich's impending retrial, the government is looking to spare jurors from hearing superfluous exchanges caught on tape -- including a conversation between the former governor and his brother regarding their signature locks.
The defense has objected to omitting the call, where Robert Blagojevich references a donor's wife.
"She loves our hair, by the way," Rob tells his brother, according to the transcript. "Loves your hair and loves my hair and because it's all real."
The two go on to discuss travel over Christmas and upcoming fundraisers.
Prosecutors proposed tossing out sections from three other calls -- including one involving President Obama. In a call between Blagojevich and lobbyist and consultant Doug Scofield, Blagojevich complains about the position he is in following Obama's victory in 2008, calling Obama a "demi-god." The defense though wants jurors to hear that section.
In another call, prosecutors moved to block out a discussion of Blagojevich's possible impeachment on a conference call and what positions Blagojevich could ask Obama to appoint him to in exchange for naming Valerie Jarrett to the Senate seat.
The final redaction objected to by the defense deals with a discussion of Rahm Emanuel's appointment as Obama's Chief of Staff and what will become of his congressional seat.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Prosecutor Chris Niewoehner opens his cross-examination of Robert Blagojegich by asking the veteran whether he thought it would be fair if, while in the military, he quashed an investigation in exchange for getting a job.

The question clearly throws Robert Blagojevich, who asks the prosecutor to repeat it several times.

Niewoehner then turns to a Nov. 5, 2008 transcript.

"If you can get Obama to get (U.S. Attorney Patrick) Fitzgerald to close the case on you, it provides you total clarity," Robert says on that tape. He is heard urging his brother to "horse-trade" with Barack Obama to get the feds to stop investigating him.

Niewoehner: "That's what you wanted to have happen?"
Robert: "As a brother, of course I did."
Niewoehner asks if he wanted that in exchange for Rod appointing Valerie Jarrett to the Senate. Robert forcefully says no.
Niewoehner: "Barack Obama was just going to do that for nothing?"

The prosecutor then runs down a list of not-so-hypothetical hypothetical situations.

Niewoehner: "You know it'd be wrong for your brother to ask for cash for his family in exchange for some political action?"
Robert: "Yes."
Niewoehner: "You know it'd be wrong for your brother to take some governmental action in exchange for somebody else taking millions of dollars and putting it into some organization your brother controls?"
Robert: "If he directly agreed to that? Yes, that would be improper."
Niewoehner: "Whether it's a campaign contribution or cash, that doesn't matter, does it?"
Robert: "Not in my mind."

Niewoehner asks if Robert would think it was wrong if someone walked into a room with Rod Blagojevich, dropped a bag of $100,000 in cash and asked to be named senator.

"He'd tell the guy to pick up the money and walk out with it," Robert Blagojevich testifies.

Sitting at his defense table, Rod Blagojevich looked touched, gently smiling and nodding his head.

Judge James Zagel has adjourned court for the day. Cross-examination will resume at 9:30 tomorrow -- with Rod Blagojevich expected to take the stand later in the day.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki


When Valerie Jarrett was still in contention for the Senate seat in early November 2008, Rahm Emanuel called longtime Rod Blagojevich friend John Wyma.

Emanuel wanted Wyma to deliver a message to Blagojevich.

Wyma, a state lobbyist, just testified that Emanuel told him to call Blagojevich and express something on behalf of the President-Elect.

"He said the President-Elect would value and appreciate Valerie Jarrett in the Senate seat," Wyma said.

Wyma said he then tried to call Blagojevich at home but "missed him."
He then called Blagojevich chief of staff John Harris.

Wyma said he passed on Emanuel's message.
"I told him it would make sense to have Valerie as a pick," Wyma said.

Harris told him he would give the message "unabridged and unedited" to the then-governor.

The significance here is Wyma had been cooperating with the government for several weeks. He made a call on Emanuel's behalf at the time that the then-Governor was hoping to get something in return for the Senate seat. The week before that phone call, Blagojevich had expressed his interest in a cabinet position in exchange for the Senate seat.

While the prosecution played a recording of Robert Blagojevich's call to Wyma asking for funds from Children's Memorial Hospital, Wyma admitted to attorney Michael Ettinger that he didn't know whether Robert Blagojevich also knew that the hospital was at the same time seeking state monies.

Now Blagojevich's lawyer, Sheldon Sorosky is questioning Wyma: "You don't mind if I call you John, do you?

Wyma: "Do you mind if I call you Shelly?" He says to much laughter in the courtroom.

Sorosky: "Not at all."


Reporting with Natasha Korecki


Deputy Gov. Robert Greenlee said that before Election Day, he worked out a deal with Barack Obama's campaign to invite Rod Blagojevich to his Election Day rally.

Greenlee said he "suggested" to Obama's people that Blagojevich wouldn't actually show.

That way, when the media asked, Blagojevich wouldn't have to say he was snubbed by the politician from his own state. But by not showing up, Obama wouldn't suffer the embarrassment of actually having the tarnished governor at his historic rally.

Then the plan changed. Blagojevich changed his mind, Greenlee said.

"That day, Election Day, Gov. Blagojevich decided he did want to attend the rally," Greenlee testified.

When they went to obtain credentials: "the Obama campaign raised red flags," Greenlee said.

Obama staffer Anita Dunn reached out to Blagojevich consultant Bill Knapp in an email entitled "WTF." Knapp, in turn, reached out to Greenlee.

Greenlee said the best he could do is suggest to Obama's people that
"I couldn't be sure he would show up."

Blagojevich did ultimately attend the historic rally.

Blagojevich trial: Day 19 and last week's recap

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Last week ended with a new revelation about the Blagojevich family: a $400,000 bill on high-end suits, designer ties, furs, shoes and even fancy underwear. The family spent more on fine clothing than on its mortgage, child care or tuition in the years Rod Blagojevich served as governor, according to testimony.
As the fourth full week of trial concluded, prosecutors revealed they may wrap up its case next week -- much sooner than they had anticipated.

Meanwhile, jurors heard Blagojevich unleash jealousy and hatred against President Obama, they heard the infamous "f------ golden" recording, and heard testimony that Blagojevich referred to Alexi Giannoulias as a "mother f-----."

Some explosive testimony from union leader Tom Balanoff indicated that Barack Obama called him one day before the 2008 presidential election to give him the green light on Valerie Jarrett for the Senate seat.

Two witnesses testified that Patti Blagojevich was paid by Tony Rezko's Rezmar for doing no work.

Up today:
1. Michael Winter, a Rezmar consultant, continues his testimony.
2. This week prosecutors are expected to put on Indian supporters to Rod Blagojevich who will testify about the ex-governor's alleged desire to extract a $1.5 million campaign donation from Jesse Jackson Jr. in exchange for a Senate seat appointment.


Reporting with Sarah Ostman

In an expletive-laden conference call, Rod Blagojevich is heard calling President-Elect Barack Obama a "mother f-----"

"You guys are telling me... Give this mother f-er his senator. F- him! For nothing? F- him!" an angry Blagojevich snaps.

On the call is Patti Blagojevich, lawyer Bill Quinlan and adviser Bill Knapp.

The former governor's advisers tell him if he appoints himself senator he will be "a national joke."

Blagojevich asks about corporate boards for Patti Blagojevich and ambassadorships, among other possible personal perks.

Blagojevich is told he should look at: "what can Obama do that at the end of two years makes you better able to make a living?"

Blagojevich: "We're struggling now!"

And then he goes berserk:

Blagojevich: "We're stuck... This world is passing me by and I'm stuck in this job as governor. I'm stuck."

"I should've looked the other f-ing way on the landfill." And complains that now his father-in-law Ald. Dick Mell is making money on that.


Obama spokesman asked about Blagojevich trial testimony

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From a White House briefing today with Robert Gibbs.


Q Tom Balanoff is a local labor leader in Chicago and in testimony today at the Blagojevich trial he talks about a phone call that he got from Barack Obama on Monday evening before the Tuesday election, at which he quotes Mr. Obama as saying that he thinks Valerie Jarrett should be a United States senator, that she fits the criteria; "I would prefer that she remain working for President Obama, but she does want to be Senator." And Balanoff said he told the soon-to-be President, "I said, 'Thank you, I'm going to reach out to Governor Blagojevich with that.'" Did the President make that phone call?

MR. GIBBS: You're telling me about this testimony. I'm not going to get into commenting on obviously an ongoing trial. And I have had not had an opportunity to see that.

Q But you've said before that the President did not get involved with the suggestions or the conversations with Blagojevich.

MR. GIBBS: Ann, I'm just not going to get into commenting on an ongoing trial.

Dan.

Reporting with Sarah Ostman


After a break, Prosecutor Reid Schar asked union leader Tom Balanoff, who said his Service Employees International Union supported Rod Blagojevich, whether he would
still support Blagojevich today.

"Would you have endorsed him if you knew what you knew now?" Schar asked.
Balanoff: "No."

Schar, a bit worked up: "Is it fair to say he isn't what you thought he was?"

Objection sustained.

Defense lawyer Sheldon Sorosky crosses Tom Balanoff again. Balanoff says he couldn't think of an issue the union wanted that Blagojevich didn't support.

"So the governor clearly had integrity on supporting the issues of the working people, did he not?" Sorosky asked.

That's sustained.

Sorosky finally asks Balanoff if Blagojevich ever explicitly told him that he wanted a 501 (c) 4 organization in exchange for Jarrett's appointment.

"He never said those exact words," Balanoff said.

Sorosky tries pressing him but doesn't seem to get the answer he was hoping for.

Balanoff: "He said that if he could get $10, $15, $20 million in this 501(c)4, that our Senator Valerie Jarrett could go about her job."

With that, Balanoff's testimony concludes. It was a brisk ending for a major prosecution witness.

Now we are between witnesses where we are listening to a new recording where Rod and Patt Blagojevich discuss the four Senate seat candidates President-Elect Obama had endorsed.

In cross examination, union leader Tom Balanoff goes over some similar testimony with defense lawyer Shelly Sorosky.

Balanoff reiterates his call from President Obama the night before the 2008 Presidential election.

"Valerie Jarrett then told you she was interested in the Senate seat?" Sorosky asked.

Balanoff agrees.

"You then had certain marching orders?" Sorosky asks.

"I would not call them marching orders," Balanoff said.

"You had a job?" Sorosky asks.

"I wouldn't call it a job." Balanoff stands firm.

"You were so disinclined to help Valerie Jarrett that you called up Gov. Blagojevich to set up a meeting?" Sorosky asks, getting a gentle rebuffing from Judge Zagel asking him not to be sarcastic.

Sorosky presses Balanoff on whether Blagojevich explicitly said he'd appoint Jarrett in exchange for a cabinet appointment.

Balanoff begins to say that's his understanding before Sorosky cuts him off.

"Yes or no," Sorosky says.

"No," Balanoff says.

Reporting with Sarah Ostman

Union leader Tom Balanoff testifies to a couple of other spicy political discussions he had with the then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Balanoff testified that Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, a friend to then President-Elect Barack Obama, raised himself as a possibility for Blagojevich to appoint.

In a Nov. 24th meeting, Balanoff raises the point to Blagojevich.

Blagojevich bristled, he testified.

"That mother f-----, I wouldn't do s--- for him. Every chance he got he took a shot at me," Blagojevich said, according to Balanoff.

Giannoulias is now the Democratic nominee running for Senate. He was subpoenaed by the defense to testify in this case.

In the same meeting, Balanoff said he brought up the possibility of U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky's appointment to the Senate.

Nope.

Blagojevich: "If she had any ancestors who came over on slave ships she'd be fine."

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Top union leader Thomas Balanoff said he was at dinner the night before the November Presidential election when he got a call that was blocked.
So he didn't take it.

Later he listened to his messages: "I walked outside, listened to it and it was from President Obama," Balanoff said.

"Tom, this is Barack, give me a call," the soon-to-be President-Elect said on the message.

After Balanoff sent word through an Obama aide to call him back, Obama returned his call later that night.

"Tom, i want to talk to you with regard to the Senate seat," Obama told him.
Balanoff said Obama said he had two criteria: someone who was good for the citizens of Illinois and could be elected in 2010.
Obama said he wasn't publicly coming out in support of anyone but he believed Valerie Jarrett would fit the bill.
"I would much prefer she (remain in the White House) but she does want to be Senator and she does meet those two criteria," Balanoff said Obama told him. "I said: 'thank you, I'm going to reach out to Gov. Blagojevich."

Balanoff then described a Nov. 6, 2008 meeting he had with Rod Blagojevich to recommend Valerie Jarrett for Barack Obama's Senate seat.

Blagojevich responded that he was in "active discussions" with the Madigans about appointing Lisa Madigan and was holding out for a legislative package with the House speaker.

"I said that could be months. He said, 'Yeah'. I said Valerie Jarrett, I don't believe she has that kind of time," Balanoff testified.

Blago then turned the conversation to a cabinet position, Balanoff said.

"He said, 'You know, I love being governor, but my real passion is health care,'" and then he asked about the Health and Human Services cabinet post.

"I told him that's not going to happen," Balanoff said. "He said, "Is that because of all the investigations around me?"

Reporting with Natasha Korecki
SEIU leader Thomas Balanoff, a key witness for the government, has just taken the stand.

Balanoff is expected to testify that Barack Obama called him before the election, giving him the green light to ask Blagojevich to appoint his friend Valerie Jarrett to his U.S. Senate seat.

He's also expected to say that Blagojevich told him he wanted a personal benefit in return for appointing Jarrett.

Early in his testimony, Balanoff says national union leader Andy Stern first raised Valerie Jarrett as a potential Senate successor in September 2008. As early as as October 2008, Stern said he talked to Jarrett and she said she was interested.

Reporting with Sarah Ostman

After spending part of the day building up former chief of staff John Harris as an intelligent, highly-educated aide, defense lawyer Sam Adam Sr. puts in the dagger:

"You never told him, did you, it'd be illegal to ask Obama to appoint him," Adam asks Harris, referring to Rod Blagojevich wanting a cabinet position from President-Elect Obama in exchange for appointing Obama friend Valerie Jarrett to the Senate seat.
Blagojevich sought the Health and Human Services cabinet appointment.

"Did you suggest to the Gov. that he or someone like himself, contact David Axelrod as somebody either you or the governor could contact to get in touch with Obama about the idea for HHS?" Adam asked. "That was you?"

Harris: "Yes."

Adam is trying to show that no one thought there was anything wrong with this kind of maneuvering, that's why even his bright gubernatorial staff was in on the suggestions.

Harris revealed that when Blagojevich then met for a second time with Tom Balanoff, an emissary for Jarrett, Balanoff wanted to talk to Blagojevich alone.

After that, Harris said he was given the impression that Balanoff supported the idea of Obama giving Blagojevich the Health and Human Services seat and that he would relay that to the Obama camp.

Reporting with Sarah Ostman

Judge James Zagel denies a defense request to gain access to the FBI report summarizing then President-Elect Obama's 2008 interview with federal investigators.

Defense lawyers argued in a filing last week that the government minimized Obama's knowledge of the then-Governor's attempts to horsetrade for the Senate seat appointment. They said that testimony by government witness John Harris contradicted that portrayal by federal prosecutors.

Harris testified last week that Blagojevich believed Obama knew about Blagojevich's request for a presidential cabinet appointment in exchange for appointing Valerie Jarrett to the Senate seat.

Zagel said there was nothing relevant concerning Harris's testimony that would allow the defense access to Obama's interview.

"There's just nothing there," Zagel said.

In their filing last week, defense lawyers argued that it was the government's own witnesses and evidence who raised the issue of Obama's knowledge of the Senate seat dealings.

"Testimony elicited by the government from John Harris and wiretaps played in court raise the issue of President Obama's direct knowledge and communication with emissaries and others regarding the appointment to his senate seat," lawyers wrote in the filing.


Reporting with Sarah Ostman


After Valerie Jarrett publicly pulled out of contention for the U.S. Senate seat appointment, Rahm Emanuel called Rod Blagojevich's top aide.

Emanuel had a list of "acceptable" names and it was from the then-President-Elect, according to testimony in Rod Blagojevich's corruption trial.

Blagojevich calls the list "B.S."

Emanuel, now Obama's chief of staff, relayed four names whom "the president would find acceptable," according to then-chief of staff John Harris, who is on the witness stand.

They were: Tammy Duckworth, State Comptroller Dan Hynes, U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky,.

What's curious about the turn of events: Obama's agents -- Tom Balanoff and Andy Stern -- had previously told Blagojevich that Jesse Jackson Jr. should not be a candidate.

Emanuel's call to Harris about calling off Jarrett's appointment, came just days after he made a phone call to John Wyma to send a message from the president about Jarrett. That message was that the President-elect wanted Jarrett but that Blagojevich should expect only his appreciation in return. Wyma had been cooperating with federal investigators for weeks at the time of the phone call.

Emanuel told Harris that no one else from the Obama camp was allowed to talk about the Senate seat besides him, Harris said.

However, Harris qualified that from the stand: "Rahm might have had his own agenda." .S

"It's a B.S." Blagojevich says on a recording.

Harris explains that they believe Obama's list is a political list.

"That in fact if that became public, the President-elect would want the list to represent a diverse group of individuals," Harris explained from the stand.

"When they give you two whites a black and an Asian the only thing they really don't want is Emil," Harris says on tape, referencing former Illinois Senate President Emil Jones.

Blagojevich trial: Day 14 -- and recap

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Wednesday recap

Jurors hear how Rod Blagojevich spends his day as governor. He's at his home, ordering two state-paid workers to research future high-paying jobs for himself.
Blagojevich desperately wants out of his position and plans to ask then-President Elect Obama to help him get a high-paying job in return for appointing Obama friend Valerie Jarrett to the U.S. Senate seat.

Good for prosecutors: Beyond the constant plotting that goes on in call after call, Blagjoevich can be heard snapping at wife Patti on the phone as she's looking up salary information for him. "You're just wasting f------ time. We're making it up. We're saying this is what I want...this is the deal."


Good for Blagojevich:
Defense files a new request asking that federal prosecutors be forced to turn over FBI reports of its 2008 interview with President-Elect Obama. They say testimony by former chief of staff John Harris contradicts what the prosecution has previously said about Obama's knowledge of deal-making going on with Jarrett.

Up today: Harris testifies for the fourth straight day as a series of lengthy recorded phone calls are played for jurors.


SCOOP:Blagojevich lawyers want Obama's FBI interview

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Rod Blagojevich's lawyers say they should be privy to remarks that President-Elect Obama made to FBI agents in December, 2008.

The defense team has filed a motion asking for written reports of Obama's two-hour interview with prosecutors and the FBI, saying that testimony by key government witness John Harris has opened the door to possibly new information concerning Obama.

They say that testimony contradicts the government's previous public statements that Obama knew nothing about deal-making involving the Senate seat appointment.

"Testimony elicited by the government from John Harris and wiretaps played in court raise the issue of President Obama's direct knowledge and communication with emissaries and others regarding the appointment to his senate seat," lawyers wrote in the filing.

The filing goes on:
"The government has elicited testimony that directly contradicts its previous position. The government asked its cooperating witness, John Harris, questions referencing "President Obama's preferences", what President Obama knew, and what President Obama directed others to do and say, etc."

That includes testimony from Harris that SEIU union leader Tom Balanoff was delivering a message to Blagojevich from Obama as well as testimony that Blagojevich was told Obama knew the then-governor wanted a cabinet position in exchange for appointing Obama friend Valerie Jarrett to the open Senate seat post.

Obama,as well as others close to him, were interviewed by federal investigators following the arrest of the then-sitting governor Rod Blagojevich.

Judge James Zagel has blocked a defense request to subpoena President Obama, saying what they were seeking was irrelevant to the case. Zagel did say he might reconsider the issue as the trial was underway.

To read the filing:

Click here

Reporting with Sarah Ostman

In another phone call, this one on Nov. 7, 2008, Rod Blagojevich is debriefing John Harris about a conversation he had with Doug Scofield.

Scofield, a onetime Blagojevich campaign spokesman/consultant and Blagojevich discussed how the Obama camp responded to Rod Blagojevich after he met with union leader Tom Balanoff about the Senate seat appointment. In that meeting, Blagojevich made it clear he wanted a presidential cabinet position.

"Didn't know quite what to make of my request. Barack really wants to get away from Illinois politics," Blagojevich said.

Harris testifies that Blagojevich told him he believed then-President-Elect Obama knew Blagojevich wanted a cabinet post in exchange for appointing Obama friend Valerie Jarrett.

"(Blagojevich) feels very confident that the president understands that the governor would be willing to make the appointment of Valerie Jarrett as long as he gets what he's asked for," Harris, Blagojevich's former chief of staff, testified, as he explained the recording, continuing: "The governor gets the cabinet appointment he's asked for."

Obama's internal report about his staff's contacts with Blagojevich at the time, indicates that Balanoff relayed to Jarrett that Blagojevich was interested in a Health and Human Services cabinet post. The report says Jarrett did not in her mind link the cabinet post request to her appointment to the Senate seat.

In the same call, Harris is overheard talking about getting a message from Illinois state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias.

"So Alexi called me. He wanted to have a discussion about the Senate seat," John Harris is heard telling Blagojevich. "I imagine he'll tell me ... Barack wants Valerie."

Blagojevich: "Listen to me, don't see him today. Just ... let's run the clock now."

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