Illinois Democratic Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias said Sunday he was subpoenaed by former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's defense lawyers to testify at his corruption trial. Giannoulias name surfaced last week during the trial, where prosecutors were focusing on the charges dealing with Blagojevich trying to sell the Senate seat Barack Obama was vacating after winning the presidential election.
The jury heard a lot about Blagojevich mapping strategy to see what he could get in return for appointing Valerie Jarrett to the Senate. Blagojevich learned, the jury heard on wiretaps, that all Blagojevich would get is "appreciation." Jarrett is now a Senior White House advisor.
Giannoulias told me in an interview on Sunday he reached out to Blagojevich former chief of staff John Harris to promote Jarrett for the Senate. Giannoulias said he never talked to Blagojevich or Obama about Jarrett and the Senate. He also told me he helped set up a meeting between Jarrett, at the time a close friend and top presidential campaign aide and Illinois labor leader Tom Balanoff to discuss the Senate spot.
Giannoulias name came up last week in the trial, when prosecutors played for the jury a secretly recorded November, 2008 wiretap of a conversation between Blagojevich and Harris, where Harris is heard saying, "Alexi called me."
Harris said Giannoulias "wants to meet with me a few minutes this afternoon. He says it's . . . I said what's it about? He says the (Senate) seat 'but not for me, for someone else.' " Blagojevich never connected with Giannoulias.
Because of the Senate race, where Giannoulias faces Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), the GOP nominee, Republicans are trying to drag Giannoulias into the Blagojevich mess, but this seems like a molehill.
"Despite what the Republicans are trying to say," Giannoulias told me, "I am really not a part of this circus. I think you know I have always thought very highly of Valerie," Giannoulias said. After the election, Giannoulias told me he "reached out to Harris to give him my thoughts and at a certain point, Tom Balanoff reached out to me to get in touch with Valerie; he did not know how to get ahold of her. I put the two together in the meeting."
The meeting was held in the office of John Rogers, a close friend of then President-elect Barack Obama, wife Michelle and Jarrett. Giannoulas was at the meeting. He said Jarrett was not aggresively pushing for the seat but she wanted to "hear Tom out."
Balanoff, President of both SEIU Local 1 and the SEIU Illinois State Council, a politically powerful union--and major Blagojevich backer--is expected to take the stand on Monday. It has been known that Balanoff had discussed the Senate appointment with both Obama and Jarrett in addition to having met with Blagojevich.
Giannoulias and Blagojevich were not close; Blagojevich backed a rival in the Democratic primary when Giannoulious ran for treasurer. Giannoulias also called Blagojevich the "anti-Obama" after his 2008 budget address.
Giannoulias disclosed that he was supboenaed during our conversation. A supboena means only that a person may end up testifying at a trial. Monday starts Day 15 of the trial, with the prosecution continuing to make its case, expecting to last about three months.
Giannoulias, the state treasurer, joins a string of other prominent officials Blagojevich's defense team is lining up as potential witnesses to address the selling of the Senate seat charge--Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nv.) and Jarrett.
As soon as news of the Giannoulias subpoena broke, GOP local and national operatives were e-mailing it around.
Kirk spokesman Kirsten Kukowski said in a statement, "Today's news developments further emphasize the troubling pattern that has emerged concerning Alexi Giannoulias. As state treasurer, Giannoulias lost more than $70 million in Bright Start college savings
funds and his family's bank cost the FDIC nearly $400 million in losses. Now we've learned Giannoulias' name has come up on federal wire taps talking about the Illinois Senate seat and he has been subpoenaed in former and disgraced Governor Rod Blagojevich's public corruption trial. This revelation raises additional questions about Alexi Giannoulias that he needs to answer.