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Inherit The Windbag: Rahm's The Word

By Marcus Gilmer in News on Jun 22, 2010 2:00PM

Another week of testimony kicked off in the corruption trial of the Brothers Blagojevich yesterday with talk about Patti's hair (no, really), saw several people take the stand, had plenty of talk of Rahm Emanuel, and wrapped with a big witness just starting what is expected to be several days of testimony. Just another day in Blago Court. Cross-examination of Ali Ata, which was the focus at the end of last week, concluded quickly and then the prosecution called Michael Horst who they allege was nominated for the same job as Ata - head the Illinois Finance Authority - as a cover and that the job was going to Ata all along. After Horst was horsetrack owner John Johnston who was an alleged extortion victim of Blago's. In 2008, a 2006 law requiring casinos to share a piece of their profits to subsidize the tracks was up for renewal. Once the state legislator passed the law, however, then-governor Blagojevich let the bill sit, meaning Johnston missed out on as much as $9,000 per day. Johnston, who had previously contributed to Blago but had no plans to do so in late 2008, alleged that Lon Monk pressured him at a December 2008 meeting to make a contribution to Blago, alluding to the unsigned bill. During cross-examination, Team Blago attorney Sam Adam, Sr. tried to put the onus of the pressure on Monk, separating the ex-gov from the alleged shakedown on Johnston.

Following that was Donald Feinstein, executive director of the Academy for Urban School Leadership, and with him the beginning of the day's discussion on Rahm Emanuel. Feinstein described the money woes that plagued the academy in 2005 after a promised grant never materialized. At the time, Emanuel was the congressman for the academy's district, having succeeded Blago after he won the gubernatorial election. The grant was to help the academy turn a parking lot into an athletic field for students but didn't come for months and when it did come, slowly trickled in. This set the stage for former Deputy Gov. Bradley Tusk - now an assistant to Mayor Bloomberg in NYC - who testified that then-governor Blagojevich held up the grant as a means of pressuring Rahm into getting his well-known entertainment-agent brother Ari to hold a fundraiser for Blago. Under cross, Tusk admitted he never contacted any law enforcement, about Blago's pressuring of Rahm even though he thought it was "illegal and unethical." Coincidentally (or, more likely, not), the AP released a report detailing emails they had obtained that showed Rahm agreed to write a letter supporting Blagojevich in January 2006 after a Tribune editorial ripped Blago and that Rahm's staff than asked about the release of the $2 million grant for the AUSL. The AP report claims the discussion "doesn't appear to cross legal lines" but does tie the two men together more closely than previously thought.

Next was John Harris, former Blago chief-of-staff and the man who was arrested alongside Rod in December 2008. Harris testified to the AUSL funding issue, calling it a "headache" and that Blago wanted the money doled out bit by bit. Harris also claims that Blago tried to block state business for two firms, including Citibank, after they refused to hire Patti as well as his desire to get Patti a paid state post and that Blago himself wanted to be a professor at U of I. And that's where testimony ended for the day. But get used to hearing about Harris as prosecutors expect he'll be the only one on the stand through the rest of this week and into next as many of the Blago Tapes in the government's case will be introduced via his testimony.

And one last bit of Blago-related news. Remember that spat between Patti and her old employer that led to a lawsuit? It seems that along with that new haircut, Patti has dropped the suit after a settlement was reached. How altruistic.