- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 7, 2011

CHICAGO (AP) — Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich offered more short answers Tuesday in his seventh day of testimony at his corruption retrial, seeming to heed repeated requests from the judge and prosecutors to stop giving chatty answers to “yes or no” questions.

After beginning with a bang last week, the cross-examination of the ousted governor had a few more fireworks before ending at midday. Prosecutors began the day by hammering at Blagojevich about his alleged attempts to shake down road-building executive Gerald Krozel for campaign cash.

Prosecutors also questioned Blagojevich about an offer of campaign cash in exchange for naming Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Obama. Blagojevich called that illegal but wouldn’t call it a “bribe.”

Under questioning from his own lawyer, Blagojevich denied that he ever tried to squeeze Mr. Krozel for cash. Prosecutor Reid Schar walked Blagojevich through his testimony on cross-examination, coming back to the fact that he met with Mr. Krozel about raising money at the same time as a billion-dollar highway program was being announced.

Mr. Krozel estified earlier for the government that Blagojevich pressured him by dangling the possibility that he might launch an even larger highway program urgently needed by the ailing industry. Mr. Krozel said Blagojevich made it clear the larger program was contingent on the donation.

“You did want Mr. Krozel to help you raise campaign funds?” Mr. Schar asked.

“Yes, I did,” Blagojevich responded.

“That was money for your campaign fund, Friends of Blagojevich?”

“Yes, yes,” came the response.

In past days, Blagojevich has been chastised by Judge James Zagel for giving longer-than-necessary answers.

Not that he stopped rambling entirely. At one point, Blagojevich asked Mr. Schar to repeat his question because his explanation was so long he forgot what the question was. And Mr. Schar often asked the same question several times as he tried to get Blagojevich to say “yes” or “no.”

Federal prosecutors have been trying to discredit the ousted Illinois governor’s firm denials that he ever tried to shake anyone down or sought to sell or trade an appointment to Mr. Obama’s vacated Senate seat.

Jackson supporters had offered to raise $1.5 million in campaign funds for Blagojevich if he named Mr. Jackson to the Senate.

Blagojevich says he never considered the offer. When Mr. Schar asked if he considered the money a bribe, Blagojevich wouldn’t agree but repeatedly insisted it was “illegal.”

Mr. Jackson isn’t accused of any wrongdoing.

Asked Monday if he ever sought to exchange an appointment to Mr. Obama’s Senate seat for a top job, 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 also cited another tape in which Blagojevich used the word “trade” in relation to naming Ms. Jarrett to the seat and his being named secretary of health and human services.

“(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.”

Blagojevich often began waxing on 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.”

Legal experts say the next few days could be decisive as prosecutors try to reverse whatever gains Blagojevich may have made with the jury while fielding comparatively soft questions from his own attorney.

Blagojevich’s first trial last year ended with jurors deadlocked on all but one count. He was found guilty of lying to the FBI. He did not testify at that trial.

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