Rezko trial: Kjellander tried to oust Fitzgerald

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Here's our online story:

As a federal probe into Gov. Blagojevich's administration heated up in late 2004, there were discussions between GOP powerbroker Robert Kjellander and Bush White House insider Karl Rove to oust corruption-busting U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald from his job, according to a man whom prosecutors want to testify at Rezko’s trial.

Those alleged efforts were disclosed in federal court this morning, as prosecutors sought to have them introduced into the corruption trial of Rezko, who is accused of seeking kickbacks and campaign contributions to Blagojevich from companies seeking state business.

Judge Amy J. St. Eve is considering the prosecution’s request to allow Ali D. Ata to testify about talks he had with Rezko that included discussion of Fitzgerald’s future. Ata — former director of the Illinois Finance authority under Blagojevich — on Tuesday pleaded guilty to federal charges in a separate case involving Rezko.

“With respect to Mr. Ata, what I anticipate Mr. Ata would testify to would be that he did actually have direct conversations with Mr. Rezko about the fact that ... Mr. Kjellander was working with Karl Rove to have Mr. Fitzgerald removed,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Carrie E. Hamilton told St. Eve.

“Mr. Rezko’s explanation, according to Mr. Ata, is that Mr. Kjellander is working with Mr. Rove to have Mr. Fitzgerald removed so that someone else can come in to the U.S. Attorney's Office, and invididuals who have been cooperating in this investigation will be dealt with differently.

“This isn’t verbatim Mr. Ata’s statements. This is my summary based upon ... my understanding.”

Rove’s lawyer, Robert Luskin, acknowledged his client’s long friendship with Kjellander but denied any role in the alleged scheme to dislodge Fitzgerald as Chicago’s top federal prosecutor.

“I can tell you Karl has known Kjellander for many years, does not recall ever being approached by him or anybody else about the removal of Pat Fitzgerald. And certainly, Karl did not talk to anyone at the White House or anywhere else to try and bring that about,” Luskin said.

Luskin said Rove doesn’t ever recall meeting Rezko nor Ata and has not been contacted by investigators handling Rezko’s case.

The Sun-Times is attempting to reach Kjellander and the White House.

Rezko — a former top fund-raiser for Blagojevich, a Democrat, and Democratic U.S. Sen. Barack Obama — also has been a big supporter of Bush, helping host a major fund-raiser for the GOP president in 2004.

Sources have placed Kjellander at a party at Rezko’s Wilmette house shortly after Blagojevich won election in 2002, and Kjellander received a controversial $809,000 fee through a $10 billion state pension bond deal Blagojevich pushed through the General Assembly in 2003.

St. Eve did not decide this morning whether Ata will be allowed to tell Rezko’s jury about what Rezko told him about Kjellander and Rove.

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Oh my. That worm really begins to turn.

I can't see why she wouldn't allow Ata to testify. These guys make Tony Soprano look like a baby. This band of brazen theives are capable of anything. The Rezko gang is like a disease corrupting everything and everyone in their path. What are they not capable of, is there anything they wouldn't do for money and power? I do hope Rezko is confortable in his mansion,sipping wine ,in his silk pajamas.

Now this is becoming a REAL scandal.

This is where the rubber hits the road- Big Bob K, Celini, Hurtgen, Rezko- the hold outs.

Everyone else has pled guilty:

Glennon (I'm sure he's got plenty to say on Hurtgen- he was mentioned with Hurtgen in the Gov. Ryan indictment- and Bib Bob K)

Hurtgen was a regular visitor to the White House too. He got there via his buddy former Gov. Tommy Thompson.

Gotta love this scandal-truly bi partisan

Maybe they should think about some witness protection for Ali D. Ata. This must be generating some piranha paranoia.

My thanks to Mr. Fusco and Mr. McKinney for their intelligent reporting of the Rezko trial. I have just finished watching the Chicago Tonight segment regarding the many new developments and was impressed by the depth and scope of Mr. Fusco's news analysis. This is what investigative reporting should be but rarely is in an era of preening egomaniacs. It's a pleasure to follow your coverage, keep up the great work.

I have found it curious that no one in the mainstream media has bothered to really take up the Rezko - dirty Chicago politics story. It seems very curious that of all places Fox news - Hannity et al have ignored this topic. But now that suddenly Rove is mentioned - a Fox contributor, one begins to wonder if the networks have had their own interest (albeit- maybe for differing connections) in not reporting this story. Its just mighty curious.

Hanna, very interesting. Why did Rove leave teh White House? Was he too close to Kjellander?

Hanna: in my opinion the Republicans are waiting for Obama to win the primary and McCain is going to hammer the hell out of him. Do you remember when Mitt Romney dropped out of the race and McCain was going to meet with Bush, he was dancing on the White House steps. Remember Fitzgerald is a Republican.

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Natasha Korecki

Natasha Korecki is the Federal Courts Reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times, covering federal news, corruption investigations and trials.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Natasha Korecki published on April 23, 2008 1:59 PM.

PROSECUTORS: REZKO SCHEMED TO OUST FITZGERALD was the previous entry in this blog.

Rove, Kjellander deny Fitzgerald plot is the next entry in this blog.

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