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

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Nothing can awaken a sleeping courtroom like listening to an irate ex-Illinois governor unleash a series of f-bombs, aimed at the media, the president, his faltering political career, his lack of money and just about everything else he can think of at the moment.

His voice rising, Rod Blagojevich says of President-Elect Obama on tape:
"Give this mother f----- his senator? F--- him. For nothing? F--- him!

Blagojevich is on a call with advisers and his wife, Patti. He says everyone's passing him up politically while he's stuck in Springfield with gridlock and making no money.

"I feel like I'm f------ my children. I'm stuck in this f---ing ...
nasty f---ing, s----y f---ing press," Blagojevich is heard saying as wide-eyed jurors listen.

Blagojevich says he needs work that will take "financial stress" off his family. Patti then points to Michelle Obama: "she's making $300,000 at the University of Chicago," she says.

Prosecutors played the tape to set up the next witness. While jurors just heard him complaining he has no money and he's worried about providing for his children, the next witness, Shari Schindler, will talk about what he did with all his money.

He spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on fine clothing -- for himself.


Updating his wife on the latest happenings involving the Senate seat appointment and seemingly out of sorts, Rod Blagojevich on tape says Valerie Jarrett had pulled out of contention. Rahm Emanuel, who previously said he wanted Jarrett, subsequently called John Harris with a new list of potential candidates.

Blagojevich called it a "politically-correct list to cover his a--." He talks about how Emanuel had previously been high on a Jarrett appointment.

"Rahm was pushing her more than others because he wanted to get her out of the White House," the ex-gov tells his wife, Patti Blagojevich.

That CYA list included Tammy Duckworth, Dan Hynes, Jesse Jackson Jr. and Jan Schakowsky, according to the recorded phone calls played in court.

"So what's your next move?" Patti Blagojevich asks her husband.

The conversation circles back to the then-Gov. discussing appointing himself for U.S. Senate. That's a move Blagojevich said at a news conference that he would not make. He repeatedly said publicly that he would do what was best for the citizens of Illinois.

On tape, the conversation goes another way.

"It opens up opportunities for you that we don't have now," Blagjoevich is heard saying. "Financially for us. I'm gonna get working on that now."

Patti: Yeah. I don't know.
Rod Blagojevich: What's best for us - first and foremost. On the legal front, on the personal front and political front. In that order."
Patti: "Right."
Rod: "Right?"
Patti: "Right."


Under direction from President-elect Obama, union leader Tom Balanoff met with then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich two days after the presidential election to talk Senate seat appointment.

That's when Blagojevich offers a proposal.

"Tom, my real passion is health care. If I can be the Secretary of Health and Human Services, then I can live out my passion," Balanoff said Blagojevich told him in a Nov. 6, 2008 meeting at the Thompson Center. "I understood that if he could be appointed to that position then Valerie Jarrett could be appointed to the Senate seat."

Balanoff said he warned Blagojevich that wouldn't happen. But Balanoff passed it all on to Jarrett in a meeting the next day, he said.
"Well, he said some goofy stuff," Balanoff said he told Jarrett. "At one point he told me his real passion was health care and if he could be the Secretary of Health and Human Services he could really live out his passion."

The next week though, Jarrett pulls out of Senate seat contention. Blagojevich calls Balanoff now, asking him if it's true. He then offers another idea: set up a 501 c (4) not-for-profit so Blagojevich could head it and he would appoint Jarrett. Blagojevich is heard on tape suggesting that millionaires could pour cash into the fund to get it off the ground.
"I think it's a great idea," Balanoff says of the foundation, which prosecutors have said is part of the plot to sell the Senate seat post.


Reporting with Lark Turner

John Harris testifies that on Nov. 10, 2008, lobbyist John Wyma called him with a message from President-Elect Obama's camp.

Harris, of course, doesn't know that Wyma at this point had been secretly working with the feds for at least a month in the Blagojevich probe. Wyma, former congressional chief of staff to Blagojevich, was also close to Rahm Emanuel.

"(Wyma) told me he had a message to deliver to me from Rahm Emanuel, who was trying to get a hold of the governor. And John Wyma was trying to get a hold of the governor, but they could not get through. I understood they knew each other well, Wyma was chief of staff," to Blagojevich Harris testified. It does not appear that the Wyma/Harris phone call happened on a wired line.

The message Wyma passed along?
"That the President-elect would be thankful and appreciative if the governor would appoint Valerie Jarrett to the Senate seat," Harris said. "I said I understood and I would deliver the message."

On Nov. 11, Harris relays the message to his boss. This time the call is recorded.

"We know he wants her, they're not willing to give me anything, just appreciation, f--- them," Blagojevich says on tape.

The next day, Valerie Jarrett pulled out of contention for the Senate seat post.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

In the same phone call where John Harris tells Blagojevich that Obama wanted Valerie Jarrett appointed to the seat (a desire relayed to Harris through Rahm Emanuel, Harris says), Blagojevich asks Harris what appointment he might get in the President-elect's cabinet.

"What other cabinet position would be not stupid?" Blagojevich asks Harris, throwing out the possibility of being appointed the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Harris tells him it's unlikely.

"Ridiculous?" Blagojevich asks. "S---, that'd be cool."

On the call, the two men laugh. In court today, Blagojevich smiles with his head down.

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.


Rod Blagojevich's lawyers are again asking for notes from the FBI's interview with President Obama.

The interview happened in late 2008, following former governor Rod Blagojevich's arrest.
In the course of the Blagojevich investigation, the FBI and prosecutors interviewed Obama, along with Rahm Emanuel and Valerie Jarrett, just as they were transitioning into the White House. Investigators wanted to ask them about their interactions with Blagojevich, charged with scheming to sell Obama's vacant Senate seat.

Defense lawyers complain that if Obama were anyone else but the president, they would have the FBI notes from the interview (which is called a 302).

"Based upon the content contained in the disclosed 302s of other individuals that were tendered by the government, the Obama 302s at issue would almost certainly have been disclosed if the interviewee was anyone other than the President," Blagojevich's lawyers wrote. "The mere fact that these summaries are from FBI interviews with the President does not make them non-discoverable."

Last year, attorneys asked U.S. District Judge James Zagel to subpoena Obama and to release the interview notes. Both questions were denied.

Attorneys argue that the notes would help them better cross-examine SEIU leader Tom Balanoff, who testified last summer at Blagojevich's first trial that he received a call from Obama the night before the presidential election. Balanoff said he saw that call as a signal to move forward and have discussions with Blagojevich about the possible appointment of Valerie Jarrett to the U.S. Senate seat.

Blagojevich's team says that contradicts an Obama team report that was issued Dec. 23, 2008, which "...states that President Obama did not direct anyone to speak on his behalf regarding the White House's preferences for the Senate seat appointment," Blagojevich lawyers wrote.

Click here to read the filing: Request for FBI 302 Interview Summaries of Barack Obama

Click here to read the report: Obama Report

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

On the next tape, Rod Blagojevich is on a conference call with his advisers, and they're telling him to appoint Valerie Jarrett for nothing.

"They all leave town and I'm stuck with gridlock ... impeachment ... and a f------ president who's all talk and no give?" Blagojevich is heard saying. "That's what you're recommending to me, Doug?"

Adviser Doug Sosnik: "Yes."

Blago seems to shrug off advice that getting just "good will" from the president may not be such a bad deal.

By Natasha Korecki

Doug Scofield testifies about talk of the cabinet position being discussed by Tom Balanoff and Valerie Jarrett.

Scofield said he was discussing the prospect with union member Jerry Morrison, who was skeptical.

"The president-elect and the people around the president-elect wanted to get away from Chicago politics," Scofied testified.

That set up a call where Blagojevich is heard equating Chicago politics with Tony Rezko, whose relationship with Obama had been an issue in the presidential campaign.

"She's holding hers with two hands ... sort of clinging to it. Me, I've got the whole thing wrapped around my arms," Blagojevich is heard saying about Jarrett and the Senate seat.

The courtroom grows quiet during this portion of the recording -- a snippet that had been revealed previously in government documents.

The prosecution started the day by playing the rest of the "f-ing golden" conversation between Rod Blagojevich and his onetime deputy governor, Doug Scofield.

It's the day after Election Day 2008, and Blago's jealousy over Obama winning the presidency is ringing through loud and clear on the tape.

"There's nothing I could have done about Obama," Blago is heard saying. Scofield explains from the stand that the governor was saying there was nothing he could have done to prevented Obama's success.

Blagojevich is heard saying he needs to try to take this "bad thing" and make it into something good.

"Look, I'm better off with this guy than McCain," he is heard saying. "With my upward mobility it doesn't look so good ... but it's a funny business."

From the stand, Scofield said he and Blagojevich had had "many conversations like this," and that Blago had "a level of jealousy and anger" regarding Obama's win.

Scofield began describing a conference call held later that day to plan a press conference about the Senate seat appointment. On that call, Blago and his advisers discussed floating health care as a priority in choosing a Senate successor -- that way, Scofield said from the stand, Blago could inevitably point to his own health care record and appoint himself.

Judge James Zagel then called a recess to deal with sound issues in the overflow courtroom. Technicians are working, but the proceedings remain inaudible.

Upstairs, on the 25th floor, the courtroom is packed.

Reporting with Sarah Ostman


Another segment of a lengthy Nov. 7, 2008 phone call is played and Democratic consultant Fred Yang discusses jobs that President-Elect Obama could deliver that wouldn't involve a cabinet appointment.

Yang, chief of staff John Harris and Rod Blagojevich are all on the phone call discussing other positions that wouldn't need the approval of the U.S. Senate.

Yang tells Blagojevich: "You could want this because A) it's something that the president could do for you that would pay a lot of money..."

Blago: "Like how much money?"

Yang: "You should have someone in your office..."

Harris (breaking in) "The highest would be about $190,000."

Blago: "I make $170, what do I make now, John...if they didn't reject that pay raise it would have been $190-something. So Fred, that has no appeal to me."

"I want to make money ... you know. I might as well go out and find a way to make money," Blagojevich said.

Prosecutors offer this call to make Blagojevich appear greedy. But defense lawyers will spin it a different way. They'll say that clearly there was nothing illegal going on since a high-paid consultant and a whip-smart top aide were on the phone and in on the discussion.

Reporting with Nataska Korecki

On another tape just played by prosecutors, Rod Blagojevich is heard talking to John Harris over the phone on Nov. 3, 2008 -- the day before the election.

They are discussing how Barack Obama is sending two representatives -- union leaders Tom Balanoff and Andy Stern -- to visit to talk about Valerie Jarrett.

"Do they think I would just appoint Valerie Jarrett for nothing?" Blagojevich is heard saying of the Obama camp. "Just to make it happen?"

Judge Zagel has called a one-hour break for lunch. Court will reconvene at 1:30 p.m.

Reporting with Natasha Korecki

Two days before the 2008 presidential election, Rahm Emanuel called John Harris to pass on the soon-to-be president-elect's request that Valerie Jarrett be appointed to his senate seat, Harris has testified.

Harris was shopping with his kids at a Payless shoe store on Nov. 2, 2008 when he got Emanuel's call.

Emanuel told Harris that then-Sen. Barack Obama was interested in seeing a "close friend" of his appointed to his seat, Harris testified.

Harris said he understood that friend to be Valerie Jarrett, a longtime Chicago public official and close friend and fund-raiser for Obama.

"(Emanuel) asked whether it would be helpful if Sen. Obama called the governor to advocate for this individual," Harris testified. "I said sure."

"He said, 'I'll let you know," Harris testified, but for the moment, "He wanted to say that the senator had a preference."

Lon Monk just gives a new angle on the most compelling storyline of the Rod Blagojevich trial: horsetrading for the senate seat.

Monk described Blagojevich as a man so consumed by raising money, and thus power, for himself, that he was willing to trade a Senate seat appointment to kill an ethics bill.

Monk testified that a call from Barack Obama in 2008 unwittingly derailed a deal hatched by Rod Blagojevich and Illinois Senate President Emil Jones.

Monk testified that Blagojevich told him that Jones (who has since retired) would not call an ethics bill that Blagojevich strongly opposed if "Rod named him to Obama's Senate seat if Obama won in November."

"Did you understand he was serious?" prosecutor Chris Niewoehner asked.

"Yes," Monk said.

Obama himself then called Jones and told him to call the bill for a vote, Monk said. Jones then called to tell Blagojevich he was going back on the deal.

Rod Blagojevich was writing furiously and leaning into his notebook during this part of the testimony.

The reason Blagojevich was so interested in killing this bill goes back to fund-raising, Monk testified.

Once Chris Kelly was charged in 2007, Rod Blagojevich took a more direct and active role in fund-raising, Monk testified. Blagojevich picked up the phone and called people himself. He was more active.

Then the brakes were going to be put on him. The Illinois Legislature in 2008 passed a far-reaching ethics bill that would keep him from soliciting donations from people who did business with the state. After Jan. 1, 2009, there was a fairly large group of donors who were no longer able to give him money.

Blagojevich thought: "It was overreaching and unfair because it focused only on the governor's office and not the legislature," Monk said.

As an aside: When the bill stalled in the senate, there were many negative headlines. That was led by the Chicago Sun-Times where an editorial eventually asked then-Presidential candidate Obama to call Jones and force the bill to be called. The editorial included Jones' office phone number.

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