- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 23, 2010

CHICAGO (AP) | Days after the November 2008 election, Rod R. Blagojevich sent word to Barack Obama that he would name one of the president-elect’s close friends to the Senate in exchange for a position in the Cabinet, the since-ousted governor’s former chief of staff testified Wednesday.

After court adjourned Wednesday, Mr. Blagojevich’s attorneys filed a motion asking to see the FBI’s summaries of interviews agents conducted with Mr. Obama, saying the request was prompted by testimony from Mr. Blagojevich’s former chief of staff John Harris and tapes played in court. 

They said the tapes and the testimony raise the issue of Mr. Obama’s “direct knowledge and communication with emissaries and others” about who would succeed him in the Senate. They said there would be no way to conduct a meaningful cross-examination of Harris without the summaries.

Jurors at Mr. Blagojevich’s corruption trial heard a tape of the impeached governor telling aides that Valerie Jarrett, the person Mr. Obama wanted as his successor in the Senate, had been informed that he would appoint her to the seat if he received the job.

“So she now knows she could be a senator if I get health and human services,” Mr. Blagojevich is heard saying on a tape secretly made by the FBI.

The response from the Obama camp to the deal Mr. Blagojevich allegedly proposed was apparently puzzlement.

“They didn’t know quite what to make of my request,” Mr. Blagojevich says on another FBI tape. He says it was inevitable that “they would be squeamish” because a deal for the Senate seat that Mr. Obama was giving up was not what they had hoped for.

Barack really wants to get away from Illinois politics,” Mr. Blagojevich says on tape.

Mr. Blagojevich, 53, has pleaded not guilty to charges that he schemed to get a large payoff, a high-paying job after he left office or a big campaign contribution in exchange for the Senate seat. He has also pleaded not guilty to conspiring to launch a racketeering scheme using the powers of the governor’s office.

His brother, Robert Blagojevich, 54, has pleaded not guilty to taking part in the purported scheme to sell or trade the Senate seat and conspiring to put illegal pressure on a potential campaign donor, a racetrack owner who was hoping Mr. Blagojevich would sign beneficial legislation.

Harris has pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge involving the Senate seat and has agreed to testify for the government in return for a lenient sentence.

Mr. Blagojevich never ultimately made a deal involving the Senate seat, and no one in the White House has been accused of wrongdoing in the case. Ms. Jarrett withdrew her name from consideration and is now a White House adviser. About a month after the tapes were made, FBI agents arrested Mr. Blagojevich.

He ended up appointing former Illinois Attorney General Roland W. Burris to the seat.

Mr. Blagojevich’s purported efforts at negotiation were conducted through Tom Balanoff, an official of the Service Employees International Union.

Harris testified that he came up with the idea of making another kind of trade with the incoming Obama administration. Under this plan, Mr. Blagojevich would appoint Ms. Jarrett to the Senate seat, and the union, eager to score points with Mr. Obama, would name the outgoing governor to a high-paying position with Change to Win  an organization sponsored by the service employees and a number of other unions.



Click to Read More

Click to Hide