Chicago—Like Isaiah in the Old Testament, Rod Blagojevich wanted to “get the rich to help the poor” when he offered to send Barack Obama’s close friend (Valerie Jarrett) to the U.S. Senate in exchange for a nonprofit set up by wealthy Democratic donors close to the president.The multi million-dollar charity would promote healthcare for children and “working families” and, of course, Blagojevich and his pals would run it. Instead he got criminally charged with a mountain of felonies, including trying to sell the Illinois senate seat vacated when Obama won the 2008 presidential election.On his fifth day testifying in his corruption retrial, Blagojevich continued blaming his trusted advisers for encouraging him to “leverage” his power as governor to appoint a new senator and insisting that he get “something of substance” from the president-elect in return for appointing Jarrett, who ended up going to the White House as a top aide.Blagojevich testified that he never promised or connected any deals to the senate appointment. In fact, he testified that he was only “venting” when he blasted Obama on a secret FBI recording because he offered only to be “grateful and appreciative” in exchange for Jarrett’s appointment. “F_ _ _ them,” Blagojevich is heard saying on the wire tap.That’s when he devised a plan to get Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, to help set up the healthcare nonprofit by hitting up wealthy Democratic donors like leftwing activist George Soros and investor Warren Buffett for money. To put it all in perspective for the jury, Blagojevich interjected the Isaiah Old Testament analogy.After the lunch break Blagojevich addressed recorded conversations previously played by the prosecution in which he discusses getting “tangible” and “concrete” support “up front” from Jesse Jackson Jr. before considering giving him the senate appointment. Jackson Jr. represents Chicago’s south side in the U.S. House and prosecutors have presented evidence that one of his top donors offered Blagojevich $1.5 million to appoint him senator.On Thursday Blagojevich explained to the jury that he was simply referring to “political support up front.” Prosecutors began cross examining Blagojevich late in the afternoon, with less than an hour before proceedings broke until Monday.
Chicago—Trading a U.S. Senate appointment for a personal benefit is perfectly legal and politicians throughout history have committed similar acts, according to Rod Blagojevich, who took the stand for a fourth day Wednesday in his corruption retrial.As a recent example the impeached Illinois governor offered a deal brokered between Barack Obama and his then-rival Hillary Clinton during the 2008 presidential election. Obama offered to appoint Clinton Secretary of State in exchange for pulling out of the presidential race and gave her $10 million to settle her campaign debt.This according to Blagojevich, who is charged with 20 crimes including attempted extortion, conspiracy to commit bribery and wire fraud. The most explosive charge involves a scheme to sell the senate seat left vacant when Obama got elected president.Blagojevich’s defense has two parts; he truly didn’t think he committed any wrongdoing because his actions are commonplace in politics and that he was simply following the recommendations of trusted advisers. In a courtroom hearing outside of the jury’s presence, Blagojevich gave the judge (James Zagel) his spiel about politicians who have participated in similar schemes.Gerald Ford offered Ronald Reagan two cabinet positions and an ambassadorship not to run for president, Blagojevich said, and Dwight Eisenhower offered Earl Warren a seat on the U.S Supreme Court in exchange for his support. Keeping with tradition, Blagojevich was determined to get something in return for his power as governor to appoint a senator.“I’m not giving it up for nothing,” he testified, recalling how it all went down in the fall of 2008. “I knew it was a unique opportunity.” His key motivation was to help his constituents, he said. “Good stuff for the people of Illinois came first,” Blagojevich testified.Throughout the day Judge Zagel admonished Blagojevich for rambling on about unrelated matters after most of his attorney’s questions. When jurors broke for lunch Zagel ordered the defense team to force Blagojevich to answer questions concisely, pointing out that many of his long-winded responses sound like a campaign speech. The excessive chatter is diminishing the jury’s attention span, the judge told defense lawyers.Federal prosecutors are expected to begin cross examining Blagojevich on Thursday. It will be interesting to see it he’s as relaxed as he’s been while fielding defense softballs. Blagojevich smiles frequently and regularly interjects witty lines into his testimony.