JUNE 28, 2010
With the confident demeanor of a rock star, disgraced Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich strutted into a Chicago federal courthouse for the fifth week of his corruption trial. Sporting a stylish navy blue suit and proudly displaying his trademark brown locks, the dethroned politician winked and waved at onlookers much like a Hollywood celebrity would do to adoring fans.
The impeached governor’s grand entrance hardly seemed like that of a man facing decades in prison for masterminding one of the biggest political scandals of modern time. Blagojevich has been charged with dozens of crimes, including multiple counts of bribery, extortion and conspiracy for trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated when Barack Obama became president.
The scandal has proven to be a nightmare for Obama who has been implicated in Blagojevich’s illegal scheme to sell his old post. The commander-in-chief was actually subpoenaed to testify in the trial and so were records from an extensive FBI interview conducted with Obama after Blagojevich got charged but the judge rejected both moves. The “most transparent” administration in history refuses to explain the president’s involvement or the nature of the FBI interrogations.
But court testimony indicates that Obama was embroiled in the scandal. For nearly a week, Blagojevich’s top aide (John Harris) has offered incriminating testimony detailing his boss’s scheme to exchange the Senate appointment for a presidential cabinet position in the Obama Administration. A list of candidates was supplied by the commander-in-chief, according to Harris and secret FBI recordings of conversations between Blagojevich and Harris.
In the recordings played at trial last week Blagojevich bargains Obama’s Senate seat for a cabinet position, Secretary of Health and Human Services. On Monday, more explosive wiretaps of Blagojevich discussing candidates to fill Obama’s Illinois Senate seat were played for the jury.
In them Blagojevich suggests naming talk show host Oprah Winfrey because “she’s the king maker. She made Obama.” The former governor repeatedly uses profanity in the tapes and calls the possibility of naming Jesse Jackson Jr. “ridiculous” and “offensive.” In previous recordings Blagojevich referred to Jackson Jr., son of the famously corrupt civil rights leader by the same name, as
“a bad guy, a really bad guy.”
The feds started recording Blagojevich because for years they gathered evidence that he sold the influence of his office, lucrative state jobs and contracts to the highest bidders. The two-term Democrat put a “for sale” sign on the naming of a United States Senator, according to federal prosecutors who call the breadth of corruption in the Blagojevich Administration staggering.
Judicial Watch has been investigating the massive corruption in the Blagojevich Administration for years. In 2006 Blagojevich refused a Judicial Watch public records request for subpoenas relating to the federal investigation of his crooked administration and in 2007 Judicial Watch filed an open records lawsuit in Cook County Court to obtain them. Last year Judicial Watch obtained public records that prove Obama and Blagojevich had repeated contact after Obama became president even though the White House has vehemently denied it.
At least one Chicagoan present at the trial Monday believes Blagojevich is innocent. “He’ll beat it for sure,” said Jim Osborne, who describes himself as a former city employee who blew the whistle on “true corruption.” He says he has known Blagojevich since the former governor was a teenager so he stood in line for hours to get one of a limited number of spots in the courtroom. A special overflow courtroom has been set up on another floor where only audio of the trial is available.
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