- - Thursday, May 26, 2011

ILLINOIS

Blagojevich takes stand in his own defense

CHICAGO | An unmuzzled Rod R. Blagojevich launched the campaign of his life Thursday, taking the witness stand at his corruption trial in an attempt to sway a jury with the same charm and chattiness that helped him win two contests for Illinois governor.

Not until five hours into his testimony did Blagojevich or his attorneys directly address 20 federal corruption charges against him, instead discussing his upbringing, his first Little League hit and his college-age insecurity. “I’m Rod Blagojevich, I used to be your governor,” the longtime politician told jurors. “I’m here today to tell you the truth.”


On the first of what could be several days on the stand, he was not asked about the most explosive allegation - that he tried to sell or trade President Obama’s old Senate seat for personal gain. But he denied other charges, saying he never tried to leverage a state school grant to squeeze Rahm Emanuel’s brother to hold a fundraiser for him. He also denied trying to shake down a racetrack owner.

And he denied an allegation made in testimony the previous day when Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. accused him of withholding a state job for Mr. Jackson’s wife over Mr. Jackson’s refusal to give him a $25,000 campaign donation. “I don’t remember anything remotely like that,” he said.

Indignant one minute, laughing the next, in tears after that, witness Blagojevich clearly was trying to humanize himself for the jury to counteract the blunt, profane, seemingly greedy Blagojevich heard on FBI wiretap recordings played in court by prosecutors over the last several weeks.

CAMPAIGN

Romney sets announcement for presidential bid

DES MOINES | Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney plans to announce next week that he is running for the Republican presidential nomination.

Mr. Romney said Thursday he would enter the race formally during an appearance next Thursday at a New Hampshire farm that is a must-visit for would-be presidential candidates.

Mr. Romney, who unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination four years ago, has been lining up financial and political support ahead of the anticipated run, and his announcement was expected. He already has formed a presidential exploratory committee and has been raising cash.

By announcing in New Hampshire, Mr. Romney is signaling that he will make the state a key piece of his political strategy. He came in second place to Sen. John McCain there in 2008.

CAMPAIGN

Santorum to begin campaign in coal fields

Former Sen. Rick Santorum is planning to kick off his presidential campaign next month in Western Pennsylvania coal fields, where his grandfather once worked.

The Republican plans to start his White House campaign June 6, Mr. Santorum announced Thursday on his Facebook page. He then will head to Iowa and New Hampshire.

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