CHICAGO (AP) — Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich fielded a question on the witnesses stand Wednesday about his most infamous comment of all those captured on FBI wiretap recordings at the center of his second corruption trial.
And when he did - he fumbled to explain it.
“I’m afraid to answer this, but I’m not quite sure how to answer it,” he said, pausing.
Blagojevich is heard on the 2008 recording speaking excitedly about his power to name someone to President Obama’s soon-to-be vacated Senate seat, saying, “I’ve got this thing and it’s f–ing golden” and “I’m just not giving it up for … nothing.”
Prosecutors used that excerpt to try to show Blagojevich sought to sell or trade an appointment to Mr. Obama’s old seat for a top job or campaign cash. The recording also has been widely parodied, and on the stand Wednesday, Blagojevich himself called it, “That phrase heard around the world.”
“I was saying this opportunity is f–ing golden - that’s what I was saying,” Blagojevich started to explain to jurors Wednesday. After a pause, he continued, “I knew it was a unique opportunity.”
It was a rare case in which Blagojevich seemed unsure of himself. He had said more confidently earlier in the day that the opportunity was more to benefit Illinois residents - possibly by helping woo more federal money to the state rather than a benefit for himself.
Patience seemed to be running thin on all sides Wednesday, Blagojevich’s fourth day on the stand.
An angry judge chastised the ousted governor for “smuggling” testimony into the trial that previously had been ruled inadmissible.
“This is not fair, this is a repeated example of a defendant who wants to say something by smuggling [it in,” Judge Zagel said.
“I make a ruling, and then the ruling is disregarded, and then I have to say, ‘Don’t do it,’ ” Judge Zagel said. “When you do that more than once or twice, it is inevitable that I’m going to believe that there is some purpose other than the pursuit of truth.”
Blagojevich, upbeat as he took the stand Wednesday, appeared taken aback by Judge Zagel’s comments. Looking sheepish, he tried to raise his hand in an effort to say something, but the judge ignored him.
Later in the day, Blagojevich also began to display frustration as prosecutors continued objecting.