- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 1, 2011

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.

Judge James Zagel said Blagojevich keeps bringing up issues or opinions that the judge has ruled shouldn’t be mentioned in front of the jury. He warned him sharply not to do it again.

“This is not fair, this is a repeated example of a defendant who wants to say something by smuggling [it in,” Judge Zagel said.

Judge Zagel, who sent the jury out of the room before admonishing Blagojevich, implied that the former governor’s motives were less than pure.

“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.

“I’d like to answer this. I haven’t even answered,” he said before the judge stopped him.

Without jurors present, Blagojevich earlier had told Judge Zagel that he wanted to testify that he believed he wasn’t crossing any lines by asking Mr. Obama to appoint him to an ambassadorship or Cabinet post in exchange for appointing the president-elect’s choice for the seat.

“That I land in a legal place was always on my mind,” Blagojevich said. “If someone said it was illegal, we dropped the idea and moved on.”

Judge Zagel looked skeptical as he listened. In the end, he said Blagojevich couldn’t make any such argument.

“The fact that he thinks it is legal is not relevant here,” Judge Zagel said.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide