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

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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 Natasha Korecki

Government witness John Harris, Blagojevich's former chief of staff, is back on the witness stand being cross-examined by Sam Adam Sr.

Adam is questioning Harris on Blagojevich's much-discussed efforts to strike up a deal with Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan. Under that plan, Blago would appoint Madigan's daughter, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, to a U.S. Senate seat in exchange for the speaker's cooperation on a statewide health care bill and a promise to not raise taxes.

These discussions with Madigan did occur, Harris said -- but they were a sham, designed to "demonstrate good will and effort" so that when Madigan did not cooperate, Blago could appoint himself to the Senate seat.

That way, Harris said, Blago could say "the reason for him to appoint himself was his inability to get Madigan's cooperation.

Witnesses were brought into those talks, Harris said, to give them more credibility.

Already this morning, the prosecution is objecting. Prosecutor Carrie Hamilton looks exasperated as she objects, squinting and shaking her head as she's standing up.

Mike Madigan's take on the Blagojevich trial

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This post was written and reported by Springfield Bureau Chief Dave McKinney

The prospect of a months-long trial full of embarrassing political disclosures involving ex-Gov. Blagojevich "is not a plus" for incumbent Democrats, but it won't cost the party control of the Statehouse, House Speaker Michael Madigan predicted Thursday.

"With the House incumbents, the first thing on their campaign brochure is they voted to impeach Blagojevich, and I initiated impeachment," said Madigan, who is chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois.

"If you're an incumbent in the Senate, you're going to say the first thing I did was
vote to remove Blagojevich from office," Madigan said. "Impeachment is in the Constitution. It's an extraordinary power, rarely used, never used in the state of Illinois. We used it.

"It was the Democrats that initiated the impeachment and removal of the governor," said Madigan, who indicated he has not been subpoenaed as a possible witness in Blagojevich's trial as other top Democrats have been. "I got to know the guy, and you will recall, I stopped going to the meetings," Madigan said. "I endured a lot of criticism for not going to the meetings, but I think I was proved right."

In the Illinois House, there would have to be an epic shift of 12 seats now in Democratic hands to cost Madigan the speakership. In the Senate, eight seats would have to slip away from Democrats to give Republicans control of that chamber.
The trial, on its own, probably won't be enough to shift control of the House, but it will "remind voters over and over again about the mismanagement we've seen for the last eight years all under Democrat control," said Senate Minority Leader Christine Ragono (R-Lemont).

Is Blago book a peek at Blago's defense?

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In his new book, The Governor, ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich said the day before his arrest, he called his chief of staff, John Harris, and told him to get the ball rolling on the appointment of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to the Senate seat.

He hoped to strike a deal with her politically powerful father who would have to agree to advance a legislative package that would expand health care, create 500,000 new jobs and put a hold on foreclosures.

The notion that Blagojevich would have chosen Lisa Madigan appears to lay the groundwork for a defense strategy that would attack the government's sexiest allegation: that Blagojevich aimed to sell the Senate post for personal gain.

Whether the contention will hold up is in question in a case that is grounded in a substantial number of secret conversations caught on FBI wiretaps.

Read more in today's story: How Blagojevich did business

BLAGO on Madigans: "I was being shaken down."

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In his new book: "The Governor," Rod Blagojevich launches a new salvo against his longtime political rival Michael Madigan, saying the Illinois House Speaker and his daughter, Lisa Madigan, put the arm on him for campaign cash.
Blagojevich claims he had a 2006 meeting with Madigan and his daughter, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, where the two allegedly hit him up for $400,000 in campaign contributions. Blagojevich writes that Michael Madigan wanted 2 1/2 percent of all of Blago's cash as part of a "coordinated campaign." The two met with him along with other Democrats like Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White and retired state Senate leader Emil Jones, according to the book.
"It was designed by the Madigans as a subtle threat. While dear old dad is literally and figuratively putting the arm on me from my left side, she is subtly holding a gun to my head from the right. Their message was easily interpreted. If I didn't fork over (2 1/2) percent of my campaign fund ... then they were both going to make trouble for me," Blagojevich wrote. "It was subtle and but purposeful. And that's what they intended and that's what they did. And it made me feel like I was being shaken down."
Blagojevich attacked Lisa Madigan -- the same person he says later in the book he was to appoint to the vacant U.S. Senate seat -- for being "unethical." A year prior, Lisa Madigan had subpoenaed campaign fundraising records: "from the very office she was now sitting in."
Blagojevich said he wouldn't kick in. Michael Madigan's payback, Blago says, was blocking his healthcare initiative. Lisa Madigan's? Not endorsing Blago's reelection bid.
Steve Brown, a spokesman for Michael Madigan, called the claims "delusional."
A spokeswoman for Lisa Madigan said the attorney general hasn't read the book and doesn't plan to read it.

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