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Inherit The Windbag: Day 16, Haters Gotta Hate

By Marcus Gilmer in News on Jun 30, 2010 2:00PM

Painting by the fantastic Zina Saunders
Day 16 in the trial of the Blagojevich Brothers (though the focus has been squarely on Rod thus far) started with former Blago chief-of-staff John Harris still on the stand for a sixth straight day, his second of cross-examination by Team Blago defense attorney Sam Adam, Sr., but included plenty of zingers from Blago directed at others, including Alexi Giannoulias, Jan Schakowsky, and Carol Marin. Oh, and the infamous "fucking golden" tape. Judge Zagel and Team Blago attorneys continued to spar, too, as Zagel shot down a request by the defense to play a tape of their own (but not before going through the motions with the jury out of the room), though the Tribune's Bob Secter said of the battle, "No one should confuse it with Inherit the Wind..." (well played, Bob, well played). In spite of the blocking of these tapes at this time, they will be admissible when Blago takes the stand later in the trial. Before leaving the stand, Harris testified that there had been no discussion about money with Jesse Jackson, Jr. during a December 8, 2008 meeting.

Following Harris was SEIU leader Thomas Balanoff who had earlier been identified an intermediary between Blago and the incoming Obama administration in discussions for Obama's replacement in the Senate. Balanoff testified that Obama had called him the night before the election and suggested that Valerie Jarrett would make a good replacement though Balanoff testified that Obama insisted he wouldn't be supporting one specific candidate over another. He testified of meeting with Rod who pressed him on a position in the Department of Health and Human Services in exchange for appointing Jarrett to the U.S. Senate seat. As Balanoff testified, Alexi Giannoulias was brought up, as someone that Balanoff had talked to about the situation and a possible candidate to take the Senate seat. Balanoff also testified about a few colorful Blago quips.

  • On appointing Giannoulias to the Senate seat: "That mother fucker, I wouldn't do shit for him. Every chance he got he took a shot at me."
  • On appointing U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky to the Senate seat and bringing up his desire for the replacement to be African-American: "If she had any ancestors who came over on slave ships she'd be fine."


Pressed under cross-examination from Blago attorney Sheldon Sorosky, though, Balanoff admitted Blagojevich never explicitly offered the seat to Jarrett in exchange for a cabinet position. According to the Trib's Jeff Coen:

Sorosky challenged Balanoff and asked whether Blagojevich ever explicitly offered to appoint Jarrett if Obama named the governor to a cabinet post. “I certainly believed that was what he was implying,” Balanoff said. But Sorosky pressed for a yes or no answer.

“The governor did not say to you, ‘Tom, we’ve been friends for a long time. We’re all big boys. I’ll appoint Valerie Jarrett if the president appoints me?’” Sorosky said.

“No,” answered Balanoff.

Sorosky also addressed a threat Balanoff had allegedly made to Blago, that Blago wouldn't receive support from the SEIU if Blago didn't appoint Jarrett, an act Sorosky suggested was extortion, again raising the ire of Judge Zagel.

Former deputy governor Doug Scofield was next on the stand and his testimony began with his expressing concern over Tony Rezko and Christopher Kelly's role and addressed what he interpreted as Blago's jealousy of Obama. Scofield also backed up the suggestion made by previous witnesses that Blago was after a position in the Dept. of Health & Human Services in exchange for appointing Jarrett. And the day concluded with the playing of the tape featuring the now famous proclamation from Blago: "I mean, I've got this thing and it's fucking golden and I'm not just giving it up for fucking nothing." Scofield testified he believed Blago to be talking about the Senate seat. Also on the call, Blago drank a little haterade on our pal Carol Marin, referring to a grilling she had given him in an election night 2008 interview, saying, simply, “I hate her." Damn. Marin was, of course, present in the courtroom and after court had adjourned for the day, apologized to Marin, saying, "I was just frustrated. I hope they play the tape where I say I have a crush on you!"

Also after the day's action in the courtroom, Blago told reporters that the tapes Judge Zagel blocked would have exonerated him but credited the judge with allowing the tapes to be played when he takes the stand.

"But thank goodness the judge saved me and stepped in and made it clear that when I testify - which I will, and I can’t wait to testify to set the record straight and clarify some of these conversations and tell the people of Illinois what exactly was on my mind and what I was trying to do and what I ultimately attempted to do - then I know when I testify as the judge has said he’ll allow those tapes to be played."

We can't wait.