Inherit The Windbag: The Money Shot
By Marcus Gilmer in News on Jun 23, 2010 2:00PM
It was day two of former Blago top aide John Harris' turn on the witness stand and there was lots to sort through: a deal with Emil Jones, that "golden" senate seat, some of the Blago Tapes, and even Rod's hope to be a diplomat (you know, in case those aspirations to be President or a professor didn't pan out). The day began with talk of Blago's legal fees and how much he owed, even as far back as 2007. Talk then turned to the coveted U.S. Senate seat belonging to then-Presidential candidate Barack Obama beginning with a deal, Harris said, Blago thought he had with then-state senate president Emil Jones. Blago had amended the passed ethics bill and hoped Jones would hold up an override vote that would pass the original version of the bill because the original version would otherwise hinder. Blago's fundraising efforts. According to Harris, Blago intended to offer the seat to Jones if the bill was held up. But after some persuasion from Obama, Jones let the ethics bill vote go through, upsetting Blago who then allegedly said, "No way he's getting the seat now."
From this point, it was game on in the Senate seat discussion. As the fall wore on, Harris testified, Blago kept looking for ways to profit off the seat, asking him, "So what do you think I can get for the senate seat?" Harris then testified that just two days before the election, he received a phone call from Rahm Emanuel who implied that Obama had a preference for who should fill the seat should he win the Presidential election: Valarie Jarrett. The prosecution then played one of the tapes on which Harris and Blago are heard discussing what they might be able to get in exchange for the seat. During the conversation, Blago asks, "Okay. Now, we should get something for that, couldn't I? ... What could I honestly think I might get a shot at getting?" There was also talk of using Lisa Madigan and Bill Daley as decoys and the possibility of leaking false information to Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed. On another tape, Blago is heard to exclaim, "Do they think I would just appoint Valerie Jarrett for nothing?" And on yet another tape, Blago described the act of negotiating the deal after saying, “Obama you want it, fine, but it’s got to be good or I can always take it."
"So the, you know, the trick's gonna be how do ya conduct, indirectly, and with a certain reserve, you know, a negotiation like a sports agent, where you're pitting one team against another, you know what I mean? ... My free agent wants to play for the Cowboys, he wants to play for the Eagles. OK. How much you offering, Obama? What are you offering, Madigan?"
Talk then turned, briefly, to the Tribune editorial board and Blago's desire to get a new set of folks - and more support at the Trib - in exchange for helping the company sell Wrigley Field. The prosecution then played the tape with Blago's message to Harris for the Trib: “our recommendation is fire all those fucking people, get ‘em the fuck out of there and get us some editorial support.” Harris reitirated this in an exchange with the prosecution:
"Stop or else," Harris said. "Stop with the bad editorials, or else we won't go forward with this."
"What is it that he wanted?" Carrie Hamilton asked Harris of Blagojevich.
Harris: "A new editorial board."
Testimony then returned to the Senate seat as jurors heard another tape in which Blago said, "The objective is to get a good gig over there," and the first played conversation between Rod and Patti in which Rod talks of appointing himself and then becoming an ambassador to India: "I'll take the heat, but maybe as a senator, I can parlay that into an ambassadorship." It was a sentiment Blago also expressed to Harris in another taped conversation:
“Ok, I’m interested, how about India, South Africa?” Blagojevich said on the call. “India is vital.”Blagojevich noted he had been governor of Illinois, calling it a $58-billion corporation. “Why can’t I be ambassador to India?” he said.
And with that, testimony wound down for the day, but not before there was more drama in the courtroom. Team Blago filed a motion for a mistrial based on comments Judge Zagel has made to them in front of the jury as well as his constant sustaining of prosecution objections which they say has hurt their case. Zagel denied the request. But one former prosecutor told the Chicago News Coop that the suggestion that Judge Zagel has harmed the defense's reputation and case isn't that outlandish: "The jury will see a lot of witnesses come and go from the courtroom, but they are going to see the lawyers as the daily messengers of the case. Ultimately, it is only natural that jurors come to make judgments about the trustworthiness of the lawyers’ message."
The trial resumes today with Harris still on the stand.