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Inherit The Windbag: Senate Seat Shuffle

By Marcus Gilmer in News on Jun 25, 2010 2:00PM

Testimony from John Harris continued for a fourth day yesterday as talk continued about then-governor Rod Blagojevich's alleged attempt to sell the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by Barack Obama's election. According to what was caught on tape, Blago didn't think too highly of Jesse Jackson, Jr., especially in terms of the Senate seat. Jurors heard a tape during which Harris and Blago discussed a call Harris got from John Wyma, a mutual lobbyist pal between Blago and Rahm Emanuel, in which Wyma again outlined Obama's preference that Valerie Jarrett get the seat. During the call, an irritated Blago is heard saying, "They're not willing to give me anything but appreciation, fuck them." There was also a tape in which Rod discussed the idea of appointing aide Louanner Peters because if it looked like Blago was going to be impeached - it was seemingly on his mind - he could depend on Peters to step down and Blago could appoint himself to the seat. Brother Rob didn't like this idea at all.

"Oh Jesus!" Rob Blagojevich can be heard saying. Rod asks: What's better, "that or being impeached?" Rob: "Neither one! Neither one! It's so transparent. What is the public going to think? ... I don't like that option at all," he says forcefully.

But then the timeline was moved to November 12, 2008 when Jarrett was appointed a spot in the White House, taking her out of the running for the senate seat and prompting Blago to tell Harris in one recorded conversation, “Why don’t we start looking for an African-American Tammy Duckworth?” But while Blago and Harris batted around names, all of them black, they later received word from Rahm about the four names that were considered "acceptable" for the seat with Jarrett out of the running: Tammy Duckworth, State Comptroller Dan Hynes, U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky. Blago's response to the list? "B.S."

As the door was open again for a new appointment, Blago and Harris are heard on tape discussing the criteria for the pick: according to Blago, “Our legal situation, our personal situation, my political situation." In testimony, Harris broke those three criteria down further:

Legal: "The legal investigation of his administration and his family finances." Personal: "His personal economic security his need to secure some sort of economic future for himself. Someone who can put pressure on the Department of Justice to back off on the federal investigation." Political: "His political situation."

At one point, while Blago and Harris could be heard on tape discussing what Blago perceived as his family's "vulnerability," Patti broke down in tears.

After that, testimony returned to Blago's dealing with the Tribune Editorial Board, including the targeting of editorial writer John McCormick, as well as Blago's attempt to interfere with the sale of Wrigley Field. Blago at one point mulls trying to get a Science and Technology grant to facilitate tech upgrades to the stadium (perhaps a jumbotron?). The day concluded with a tape of Blago expressing concern about being caught on a wiretap after reading the December 5, 2008 Tribune article that alleged Wyma had been wearing a wire as part of the investigation into Blago.

Blago's attorneys also failed to get the case continued due to the SCOTUS ruling on the honest services law and while a few of those related charges may be tossed in his case, it's unlikely that would have any effect on the trial thanks to the government's re-indictment last year. And with that, the trial adjourned for the week. Harris is expected to wrap up his testimony on Monday and will face cross examination from Sam Adam, Sr.