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Blagojevich heard using word ‘trade’ in tape prosecutors played for jury

- Associated Press - Monday, June 6, 2011

CHICAGO A prosecutor at Rod R. Blagojevich's corruption retrial sought to methodically discredit the ousted Illinois governor on the witness stand Monday by repeatedly deploying the same weapon against him: His own words.

In the first full day of Blagojevich's cross-examination, prosecutor Reid Schar endeavored to trap him by first asking the former governor to deny a specific allegation, then reading from transcripts of FBI wiretaps in which his words seemed to contradict that testimony.

Asked whether he ever sought to exchange an appointment to President Obama's U.S. Senate seat for a top job - the most serious charge - Blagojevich flatly denied it.

"I did not say I would exchange one for the other," he said.

Mr. Schar then read from a tape transcript in which Blagojevich is heard talking to an aide about appointing Mr. Obama's friend Valerie Jarrett to the seat: "We should get something for that, couldn't I?"

"That 'that' is Valerie Jarrett, correct?" Mr. Schar asked Blagojevich.

"Yes," Blagojevich responded.

Mr. Schar was firm but not as combative as he was last week when he began the cross-examination, no longer yelling across the room or pointing angrily at Blagojevich.

On Monday, he paced with his hands in his pockets.

Blagojevich, testifying for a sixth day, also displayed less fight, hunched forward, speaking more softly and occasionally biting his lip.

Stepping down from the witness stand for a lunch break, he walked across the room and hugged his wife, Patti.

Going back to the Senate seat, Mr. Schar cited another tape in which Blagojevich uses the word "trade" in relation to naming Ms. Jarrett to the seat and his being named secretary of Health and Human Services.

"[Ms. Jarrett] now knows that she can be a U.S. senator if I get Health and Human Services," Blagojevich is heard saying on the recording. "I'm willing to trade the thing I got tightly held, to her for something she doesn't hold quite as tightly."

When Blagojevich said he never seriously thought he had a shot at a Cabinet post, Mr. Schar countered, "You've made a career out of taking long shots, haven't you? You applied to Harvard."

"Yes," Blagojevich answered with a laugh.

Blagojevich often began elaborating after Mr. Schar read from a tape transcript and asked him to confirm those were his words.

The prosecutor interrupted and told Blagojevich to say yes or no.

"I can't simply answer that question yes or no," Blagojevich said at one point. Another time, looking at a wiretap transcript in which he seems to talk about trading the Senate seat, Blagojevich said, "I see what I say here, but that's not what I meant."

Rahm Emanuel's name also got yanked into testimony Monday.

For the first time in public, prosecutors raised the issue of whether Mr. Emanuel asked Blagojevich to appoint a successor to his congressional seat in 2008 when he became White House chief of staff.

Mr. Emanuel "raised the issue with you of naming an interim to his seat until a special election was held ... that would have given an advantage to the person [named] before an election was held, would it not?" Mr. Schar asked.

"This is what Congressman Emanuel was asking me to do," Blagojevich responded. Blagojevich said he was told by his lawyers and a political consultant that such a move would be unconstitutional.

It wasn't clear from the prosecutor's question or Blagojevich's answer why Mr. Emanuel may have made the request.

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