Chicago–As Rod Blagojevich’s top aide delivered a third day of testimony in his former boss’s corruption retrial, the big talk around the Chicago federal courthouse was about the impeached Illinois governor’s trademark fluffy hair.That’s how tedious and uneventful the day went as Blagojevich’s onetime chief of staff, John Harris, recounted how the ousted governor planned to make money by exchanging Barack Obama’s old U.S. Senate seat for a lucrative job, a cabinet position in the new administration or campaign contributions.Besides a few amusing FBI wiretaps featuring Blagojevich’s profanity-laced tirades (he regularly uses the F word), the trial pretty much dragged on much like the first one, which took eight weeks and ended in jury deadlock on all but one count (lying to the FBI). On Thursday jurors were undoubtedly thankful that court ended unexpectedly early because Blagojevich’s attorney got sick and couldn’t return after the lunch break. The government finished questioning Harris and cross examination by the defense will begin when the trial resumes on Monday.With the action so humdrum inside the courtroom, the big discussions around the courthouse corridors centered on Blagojevich’s hair. It used to be “black shoe polish” and now it’s a “softer brown,” said one insider who got a pass to see the trial live. There isn’t nearly as much interest as the first trial and the overflow courtroom isn’t even open, but getting a spot to watch the action live is still tricky.As the first week of testimony concluded, the most entertaining aspects featured Blagojevich “working the crowd,” as one local reporter said to another. During breaks Blagojevich struts out smiling, waving and winking to anyone who makes eye contact with him. On Thursday morning the former governor approached a group of schoolchildren on a field trip to the courthouse. With a big smirk, he told their teacher “I’m not governor anymore” and joked with an 11-year-old boy who shook his hand. “You look like a U.S. Senator,” Blagojevich told the boy. “If I knew you two years ago I would have considered you for the senate.”
Chicago—President Barack Obama and his former chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, keep coming up in the corruption retrial of impeached Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich just as they repeatedly did in the first one last summer.That’s because Blagojevich tried to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated when Obama got elected president. The then president-elect wanted his close friend Valerie Jarrett to finish his senate term and, as Illinois governor, Blagojevich had the power to make it happen. In return, he wanted a federal job that paid a lot of money or some sort of foreign ambassadorship that could lead to bigger and better things.Blagojevich tried to get a cabinet post or an ambassadorship in exchange for appointing President Barack Obama’s preferred candidate to his old U.S. Senate seat, according to the impeached Illinois governor’s top aide, who took the stand for the prosecution this week.In his second day of testimony Blagojevich’s onetime chief of staff (John Harris) delivered damaging testimony about the inner workings of his boss’s administration, painting the portrait of a crooked politician who abused his power to advance his career. Blagojevich is being retried on 20 corruption charges, including multiple counts of wire fraud, attempted extortion and bribery. Federal prosecutors say he tried to sell Obama’s old senate seat and secret government wiretaps seem to prove it.On Wednesday some of the recordings were played for the jury between Harris’s lengthy and often boring testimony. In the tapes Blagojevich uses profanity with regularity and he flat-out says he wants to leave Illinois. In fact, in one segment he reveals being “depressed” on the eve of his reelection as Illinois governor because that meant he’d be stuck there four more years.In another segment Blagojevich discusses appointing his wife Patti, a struggling real estate agent, to a state board that pays six figures or a lucrative job with a company that does business with the state. The bottom line is that Blagojevich was strapped for cash and he was determined to use his position to get some. “I want to make money,” he’s heard telling Harris on the tapes. Blagojevich also made clear that he wouldn’t accept a federal job from Obama if it only paid a measly $190,000 a year because he already made $170,000 as governor.The wiretaps were the highlight of the first trial, which lasted eight weeks and ended in jury deadlock on all but one count, and are expected to play a key role the second time. The FBI taped Blagojevich as part of a widespread investigation that he was selling the influence of his office, lucrative state jobs and contracts to the highest bidder. He faces decades in prison, though his cheerful, often arrogant demeanor shows no signs of it.
The corruption retrial of impeached Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, got going this morning when the government called its first witnesses, an FBI agent and the disgraced politician’s former chief of staff.Blagojevich faces 20 charges, among them attempting to sell the U.S. Senate seat once held by President Barak Obama. In a summer-long trial that often mimicked a chaotic theater performance last year, a federal jury deadlocked on all but one count—lying to the FBI. Blagojevich never took the stand as promised and the defense didn’t call a single witness.Jurors got to hear the two-term governor’s profanity-laced tirades on FBI wiretaps played during the eight-week trial in the same Chicago federal court that’s hosting the retrial. Federal authorities had taped Blagojevich as part of an ongoing investigation for selling the influence of his office, lucrative state jobs and contracts to the highest bidder.Throughout the first trial Blagojevich confidently strolled around the courthouse shaking hands with well-wishers, waving and winking at the sizeable crowds that gathered daily to take pictures. There isn’t nearly as much interest the second time around and the overflow courtroom that often filled up in the first trial isn’t even open.In all Blagojevich is being charged with 10 counts of wire fraud, four of attempted extortion, two of bribery, two of conspiracy to commit extortion and two counts of conspiracy to commit bribery. No word if the pugnacious former two-term governor will take the stand this time around. One thing is for sure, Blagojevich still has some fans. During a break, one man got in trouble for trying to take a picture with the former governor with a cell phone (no cameras in federal court).