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This time, the invitation didn't come by way of subpoena.

U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL) appeared in federal court Monday night, just one courtroom away from where he took the stand as a defense witness for former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Jackson was invited by the Northern District of Illinois -- as were all members of the Illinois delegation -- to talk about looming budget cuts expected to hit court personnel in Chicago and around the nation. So far, Jackson's the only one who accepted the invite, according to U.S. Court Clerk Michael Dobbins.

But as it goes for Jackson these days, he couldn't escape Blagojevich questions.

The congressman, who faces a House ethics inquiry, said he looked forward to going through the scrutiny and in response to a Robert Blagojevich salvo last month, said he doesn't know the man. He said a "relationship" with the ex-governor's brother was created by the media in the media.

"I don't know him. I have never had a conversation with him," Jackson said. "I wouldn't know him if he were in the audience," he added, scanning the crowd.

Robert Blagojevich last month offered to testify as part of Jackson's ethics probe, saying the congressman should answer questions about his role in the alleged sale of Barack Obama's vacant U.S. Senate seat.

As for the looming personnel cuts, Jackson said he would take the issues raised by court personnel back to Washington and reassured those attending that pensions already earned would not be touched. Dobbins, Chief Judge James Holderman, as well as courthouse personnel, attended.

Dobbins said court personnel across the country and in Chicago face more than 13 percent payroll reduction. Furloughs are under consideration here, he said.

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Rod Blagojevich was heard on tape calling U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. "repugnant" and a "bad guy."

However, on the way to his sentencing hearing, the former governor tried tapping Jackson's father for a letter of endorsement.

In another twist to the ever-complicated relationship between the Blagojevich and Jackson families, Blagojevich asked the Rev. Jesse Jackson to write letter of support to the sentencing judge.

It was an offer Rev. Jesse Jackson refused, according to a lawyer for both the elder Jackson and his son, the congressman.
"Rev. Jackson will not write a letter on behalf of Gov. Blagojevich," attorney Paul Langer told the Sun-Times Thursday.

Langer said Blagojevich's attorney, Aaron Goldstein, contacted him last month asking for help.

"Mr Blagojevich is facing a sentence that will put him in prison for a significant amount of time. Any sentence will keep him away from his family, particularly his two young daughters during a very vulnerable time for them," the request from Goldstein said. (Read letter here) "A letter from you describing the good things that Mr. Blagojevich did and the good character traits he displayed could help in reducing any sentence Judge (James) Zagel might impose."

Goldstein was critical to Rod Blagojevich's defense in the former governor's retrial and has been headed up collecting letters in preparation for Blagojevich's sentencing. Prosecutors have calculated Blagojevich's sentencing guideline range at 30 years to life, though they haven't publicly made a recommendation. Blagojevich's lawyers are asking for probation.

Goldstein could not be reached for comment Thursday.

It isn't uncommon for a defendant to make a plea for letters on a defendant's behalf. But the matter between the Blagojeviches and the Jacksons has increasingly soured over the years.
Rod Blagojevich and Jackson Jr. served in Congress together. And the former governor and the Rev. Jackson traveled together to Serbia in 1999 to help free soldiers there.

But the relationship grew acrimonious when the younger Jackson backed out of a promise to endorse Blagojevich for governor, according to testimony at Blagojevich's trial.

When Blagojevich was suddenly in control of naming the next U.S. Senator in 2008, Jackson Jr. tried to mend broken ties, according to Jackson's own testimony at trial. After Blagojevich's arrest later that same year, Jackson was an unnamed person in a federal criminal complaint. Blagojevich called Jackson to testify at his trial, which backfired when Jackson Jr. launched a new salvo -- he accused Blagojevich of a different shakedown.

On Thursday, the former governor's brother, Robert, said he has offered to testify before the house ethics committee investigating Jackson Jr. about overtures by two Jackson Jr. supporters.

At trial, Blagojevich was heard on tape disparaging Jackson Jr., at one point saying he and Lisa Madigan were "equally repugnant" to him.

"If they were both drowning and I could only save one, I really think I'd save Jesse," Blagojevich is heard saying on tape. "From a personal standpoint, he's less repugnant to me than (Lisa Madigan) is."


Robert Blagojevich today said he believes U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. should answer questions about his role in the alleged sale of the U.S. Senate seat -- an investigation that is sending his brother to prison.

A refresher: In May, Jackson testified in Rod Blagojevich's trial. He was called by the defense, but some of that blew up after the congressman made a new pay-to-play allegation against the former governor.

jacksonjr.jpeg Jesse Jackson Jr.

As for his own role, Jackson under oath said: "No I did not" direct or order anyone to offer Rod Blagojevich fund-raising in exchange for appointing him senator.
"I never directed anyone to raise money for another politician in my life, other than myself, in 16 years," Jackson testified.

Last week, the House committee on ethics announced it would restart its probe into Jackson (Rep. Jackson ethics.pdf).

robert1.jpeg Robert Blagojevich and his lawyer, Michael Ettinger

Reporting with Lark Turner

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

In a nutshell:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jackson: Blagojevich's alleged Elvis shakedown

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By Abdon M. Pallasch and Natasha Korecki

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

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

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

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

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

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

"No chance," Jackson replied.

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

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

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

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

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

Then Jackson dropped the punchline:

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

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

Prosecutors asked Jackson what he thought Blagojevich meant:

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

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

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

By Abdon M. Pallasch and Natasha Korecki

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

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

By Natasha Korecki and Abdon M. Pallasch

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

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

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

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

He is sitting up straight and testifying very formally.

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

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

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

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

By Abdon M. Pallasch and Natasha Korecki

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

By Natasha Korecki

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blagojevich snaps angrily at Greenlee.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But Blagojevich charges ahead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Jackson spokesman on Wednesday had no immediate comment.



Rod Blagojevich trial proceedings have ended for the day -- and the week -- as one of his lawyers suddenly went home sick.

Defense lawyer Aaron Goldstein, who appeared ghostly this morning, went home after lunch break.

Prosecutors concluded their questioning of chief of staff John Harris -- and Goldstein was the person who was to cross examine him.

Judge James Zagel agreed to reconvene on Monday.

Testimony concluded with prosecutors exploring an alleged scheme to appoint U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. to the Senate seat in exchange for a $1.5 million contribution.

To read more: Click here

Reporting with Lark Turner

Yesterday, Rod Blagojevich's jury heard the former governor describe Jesse Jackson Jr. as a "repugnant" option for the U.S. Senate.

Today, things have changed.

Prosecutors just played a recording where Blagojevich tells his chief of staff John Harris that Jackson is now at the top of his list.

Harris at times laughs in the conversation, pointing to the then-governor's flip-flopping.

Blagojevich gives him a reason:
"Well, he's come to me with, through third parties, you know with offers of campaign contributions and help...You know what I mean? 1.5 million. They've, they're throwin' numbers around."

Harris: "Well, I mean that's not the factor."

But Blagojevich steams ahead, saying that he has to consider Jackson if he's considering Lisa Madigan, the daughter of his political nemesis. And he says a Jackson pick will play well in the African American community.

"That, that, you know if that's the case then why should I beanything but f---in' strengthen, you know, my position with my base. I mean among blacks that, that'll be the best pick won't it?"

Noting that Blagojevich a week earlier yelled at Harris for suggesting Jackson as a candidate, Assistant U.S. Attorney Carrie Hamilton asked Harris if anything had changed in that period.

"A specific amount of campaign contributions that were being ... offered to the governor," Harris said.
Hamilton: "In exchange for Congressman Jackson?"
Harris: "Yes."

Prosecutors contend that Blagojevich plotted to appoint Jackson the Senate seat for a $1.5 million campaign contribution. Jackson supporters had approached the Blagojevich camp with the offer. Jackson has denied wrongdoing.


John Harris is still on the stand and we're listening to a conference call with Harris, Rod Blagojevich and gubernatorial advisers.

Adviser Fred Yang tells Blagojevich who he should not put in the Senate seat.

Yang: "The only option you should not consider is the appointment of Jesse Jackson Jr."
Blagojevich:"You and Obama agree on that one," he laughs. "Tell me why."
Yang: "I don't think he deserves to be in the United State Senate, number one, I don't think he can hold a Senate seat.

"Not to mention number 3," Blagojevich interjects: "He's a bad guy."
He's really not the guy I hoped or thought he was. He's really bad.
That's highly, highly, highly unlikely."

Jackson once burned Blagojevich when, in a gubernatorial primary, he backed Roland Burris after promising Blagojevich he'd get the endorsement.

Blagojevich, Jackson donor under investigation

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A federal grand jury has subpoenaed at least 30 doctors in the Chicago area as part of a probe into a wealthy Indian-American fund-raiser who owns surgical centers -- and has ties to U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, sources told the Chicago Sun-Times.

The FBI and IRS investigation is centered on businessman and political fund-raiser Raghuveer Nayak, a longtime fund-raiser for and donor to congressman Jackson. Nayak told investigators after Blagojevich's 2008 arrest that congressman Jackson asked him during a visit to Washington D.C. to approach the then-governor with a $6 million offer of campaign money in exchange for a Senate seat appointment.

Blagojevich faces retrial next week regarding the alleged Senate seat sale, among other charges. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. has not been charged with wrongdoing and staunchly denied Nayak's allegations.

Read the full story here.


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Citing Rod Blagojevich's upcoming retrial -- and a request by the U.S. Department of Justice -- a congressional ethics panel has once again stalled its inquiry into U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., according to a statement by the committee today.

"A retrial of former Governor Blagojevich has been set for April 20, 2011," the statement reads. "The Department of Justice has asked the Standards Committee to continue to defer consideration of this matter and the Standards Committee, following precedent, agreed to defer consideration of this matter at this time."

Last year, the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct said it would hold off on an inquiry into Jackson because of the initial Blagojevich trial. The former governor was convicted of just one of 24 counts, with a jury deadlocked on the remaining charges.

The committee was looking into whether Jackson or "an agent" offered Blagojevich money in exchange for an appointment to the U.S. Senate.

In September, the Chicago Sun-Times revealed that a longtime Jackson family friend and fund-raiser, Raghuveer Nayak, told authorities Jackson directed him to make a money offer to Blagojevich and that Jackson asked him to secretly pay to fly a "social acquaintance" to Chicago.
Nayak told federal investigators that in October 2008 Jackson asked him to relay to Blagojevich that the congressman would raise $5 million for the former governor in exchange for the Senate seat appointment and that the Indian community in Chicago would raise another $1 million.
Nayak also told authorities he paid for two airline trips for a "social acquaintance" of the Democratic congressman at Jackson's request, raising more potential ethical and questions for Jackson. Jackson apologized for the relationship, referring to it as a private matter. Jackson denied the Senate seat allegations, however.

After President Obama vacated his Senate seat in 2008, Blagojevich had sole authority to appoint his successor.


Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. this afternoon said he was "deeply sorry," that he "disappointed some supporters," but vowed to stay in office in response to a Chicago Sun-Times article published today that raised questions leveled by a political fund-raiser.
"The allegations about fund-raising and the Senate seat are not new. I've already talked with the authorities about these claims, told them they were false, and no charges have been brought against me," Jackson said in a written statement regarding fund-raiser Raghuveer Nayak. "The very idea of raising millions of dollars for a campaign other than my own is preposterous. My interest in the Senate seat was based on years of public service, which I am proud of, not some improper scheme with anyone. The reference to a social acquaintance is a private and personal matter between me and my wife that was handled some time ago. I ask that you respect our privacy.
"I know I have disappointed some supporters and for that I am deeply sorry. But I remain committed to serving my constituents and fighting on their behalf."
The Sun-Times reported Tuesday that Nayak told authorities that on Oct. 8 of 2008, Jackson directed him to offer then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich $6 million in exchange for a senate seat appointment. Nayak also told authorities Jackson asked him to pay to fly a "social acquaintance" of the congressman to Chicago.


A political fund-raiser told authorities U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. told him to approach Rod Blagojevich with a $6 million offer for the Senate seat. It's an allegation Jackson steadfastly denies.

Read today's Sun-Times story: Click here

Natasha Korecki
Federal Courts Reporter

As he dips his toes into the City's Mayoral fray, U.S. Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. declared this morning that if government prosecutors have evidence on him tied to Rod Blagojevich: "Bring it on."

Jackson, speaking on WLS-AM 890 "Wade and Roma" show this morning, for the first time publicly responded to an allegation that he was present at a meeting when fund-raisers discussed raising $1 million for Blagojevich in exchange for Jackson's appointment.

Jackson said two Indian fund-raisers began speaking in another language at an October 28, 2008 meeting and he didn't know what they were saying.

"I'm not alone at the meeting, it baffled me, you know: 'Jackson sits alone with the Indians,' he said, referring to media coverage after testimony at Blagojevich's trial.
"How about this? Congressman meets with Director of Economic Development and Trade for the State of Illinois...met with him for 30 minutes in the presence of other people and discussed the third airport. Then another gentleman showed up and started having another conversation practically in Hindu, because I don't speak Hindu because I don't speak Hindu ... and I didn't participate in any of that part of the conversation, nor do I even remember hearing it. And I have witnesses present."

One of the witnesses, Rajinder Bedi, testified at Blagojevich's trial that Jackson was sitting with him and another fund-raiser, Raghuveer Nayak, when the $1 million was discussed. Bedi, a government witness, did not say he was speaking in Hindu.
Bedi then testified he paid a visit later that same day to Rod Blagojevich's brother, Robert, and passed along a message that the then-governor would receive campaign money if Jackson were appointed.

The allegation was among the most high-profile of the charges against the former governor. Blagojevich was convicted of one count and jurors were deadlocked on 23 others. His retrial is likely to happen in January, when the Mayoral race will be in full swing.
"And let me say it again: And I have witnesses," Jackson said, emphasizing each word. "So whatever happened to the idea that someone is innocent in America until proven guilty? I've gone through 20 months of unprecedented accusations, of unprecedented besmirching of my character."
"I know that may not be enough for some people. But I've kind of endured this for 20 months."
Jackson was also asked about his closed door meeting with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel this week.
He denied that they both agreed not to bring up Blagojevich should they go head to head in battle.
But he didn't waste time throwing the first stone, noting that Emanuel is on government tapes while he is not.
"The prosecution has concluded, I assume, that what I have to say doesn't contribute to their case," Jackson said. "I assume they have no evidence or else they would have brought a charge.
If I'm a conspirator -- bring it on."

Reporting with Sarah Ostman

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An attorney for the brother of Rod Blagojevich said he regrets that jurors who are now in their 10th day of deliberations never heard testimony from U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill).

Michael Ettinger, attorney for Robert Blagojevich, gave an emphatic "yes" when asked if he regretted that Jackson didn't take the stand.

"I don't know if I can at this point go into it. But it would have shown, you know, you've got the Jesse Jr. alleged bribery extortion. You've seen one side of it that I believe the evidence shows really didn't occur. I believe the jury would have seen the other side of Jesse and the Indians if Jesse would have testified," Ettinger said.

"What was the other side?" reporters asked.

"That's what I can't get into," Ettinger said.

Jackson was subpoenaed by Rod Blagojevich's attorneys. Rod and Robert Blagojevich are accused of attempting to go through Indian fund-raiser Raghu Nayak to extract a campaign contribution from Jackson. Robert Blagojevich testified that Nayak in October of 2008 approached him offering $6 million in fund-raising for his brother if the then-governor named Jackson to the Senate seat.

Robert Blagojevich testified he shut down the offer. Months later though, Rod Blagojevich tells his brother in a recorded phone call he wants to "elevate" Jackson and asks his brother to meet with Nayak and to talk about "tangible" support up front. His brother sets up a meeting with Nayak but testifies he never intended on making any quid pro quo offer.

"We were counting on Jesse Jr. being called," Ettinger said. "Depending on what he said, I would have called Nayak."

Ettinger said the ex-governor's decision not to testify and to call no witnesses took him by surprise.

"There's another story to be told between Jesse Jr. and the Indians that I can't get into," Ettinger said. He could have called Jackson himself, he acknowledged.

"Because my client never met with him (Jackson) and Rod did. I didn't think that I should get into that," Ettinger said.

The decision to rest their case without calling a witness -- or Rod Blagojevich came as a surprise to the ex-governor's brother, Ettinger said. Rod Blagojevich, as well as his lawyers said it was a difficult call for them but in the end they believed it was the right thing to do in the case.

Reporting with Sarah Ostman

The exceptionally long recording of Dec. 4, 2008 continues with Rod Blagojevich explaining to Deputy Gov. Robert Greenlee and his pollster Fred Yang that Jesse Jackson Jr. and Lisa Madigan were "equally repugnant" to him personally.

"If they were both drowning and I could only save one, I really think I'd save Jesse," Blagojevich is heard saying on tape. "From a personal standpoint, he's less repugnant to me than she is."

Later in the conversation, Greenlee suggested that Blagojevich just appease the Washington establishment and appoint Veteran Affairs Director Tammy Duckworth.

"Get the f--- out of here, Greenlee," Blagojevich said. "I'll f----ing fire you."

Greenlee recovers, saying he's just screwing around.

Prosecutor Reid Schar asks: "Were you just f-ing around?"
Greenlee: "No."

"I saw that he got worked up as he often did when I disagreed," Greenlee said.

"Did he just threaten to fire you, sir?" Schar asked.

"He did just threaten to fire me, yes."

Reporting with Sarah Ostman


Former Deputy Gov. Robert Greenlee is explaining a lengthy recording from Dec. 4, 2008 where Rod Blagojevich discusses possibly appointing Jesse Jackson Jr.

Rod Blagojevich: "Yeah, I wanted Lucio (Guerrero, press person) to give that to Fred, Rasmussen poll came out ...Jesse Jr. how about that, Great minds think alike."

Blagojevich said: "I was leaning in that direction ..." before seeing the results of the poll.

"I indicate if he appoints Jesse Jackson Jr., I will quit," Greenlee testifies.

Blagojevich responds that it's fine if he quits.

Prosecutor Reid Schar asked if it was a big deal for Greenlee to say something like that. "Yeah, it was the first time I suggested anything of that nature."

Greenlee explained that he understood that Jackson had gone around Blagojevich's wishes on more than one occasion.

"How can you tell him you'll give him the biggest prize in the world ..." after Jackson promised political support int he past but reneged, Greenlee said he asked.

That's when Blagojevich clarifies on the recording that he has a promise from Jackson supporters.

Blagojevich: "There's tangible, concrete, tangible stuff from supporters." ...
Well, you know, you know what I'm talking about ...Tangible, you know, specific amounts and everything, Fred."

Greenlee explains from the stand: "I understood that to be campaign contributions political in nature."

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