Prosecutors play federal wiretaps featuring Blagojevich saying he wanted ’something big’By Mike Robinson, AP
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Blago sought ’something big’ on federal wiretaps
CHICAGO — Prosecutors in Rod Blagojevich’s corruption trial played a tape Wednesday on which the former governor talks excitedly about getting “something big” in exchange for appointing a friend of the president to his old Senate seat.
On the tape, secretly recorded the day after Barack Obama was elected president and played in court, Blagojevich talks about the possibility of getting a lucrative private-sector job if he appoints Valerie Jarrett.
When his former chief of staff John Harris mentioned a position on the Red Cross, Blagojevich responds enthusiastically, “The Red Cross? That would be great. Can you get that?”
In another recording from around the same time, Blagojevich, Harris and another staffer brainstorm about dozens of association or foundation leadership jobs — such as the Kaiser Foundation, United Way and the Pew Foundation.
At one point, Blagojevich interrupts to ask what the jobs pay and is told about $200,000 or $300,000 a year.
“Oh, that’s all,” Blagojevich says on the tape, sounding disappointed.
“No,” Harris pipes in encouragingly, “you’re in the threes and five.”
Harris has pleaded guilty in the case and is testifying for the government in exchange for a lighter sentence.
At the defense table, Blagojevich appeared to smile uncomfortably as he listened to the recordings play on court speakers. He occasionally sipped from a paper coffee cup. Jurors followed the recording on transcripts on their laps — compiled in hefty black binders.
Blagojevich, 53, has pleaded not guilty to scheming to sell or trade the appointment to Obama’s old seat. He has also pleaded not guilty to plotting to launch a racketeering scheme using the powers of the governor’s office. If convicted, he could face up to $6 million in fines and a sentence of 415 years in prison, although he is certain to get much less under federal guidelines.
His brother, Nashville, Tenn., businessman Robert Blagojevich, 54, has pleaded not guilty to taking part in the alleged scheme to sell the Senate seat and to plotting to illegally pressure a racetrack owner for a $100,000 campaign contribution.
Harris also testified Wednesday that he didn’t follow Blagojevich’s instructions to threaten a Chicago Tribune executive with a loss of state assistance in its efforts to sell Wrigley Field unless the editorial writers calling for his impeachment were fired.
Jurors heard Blagojevich and Harris discussing the matter on one of the FBI wiretap tapes.
“A hundred million’s still nothing to sneeze at,” Blagojevich says on the tape about the amount of money the Tribune could save with the state subsidies.
Harris said he told Blagojevich he was carrying out the threat to withhold the state aid unless the editorial writers calling for his impeachment were fired. But he testified that he didn’t carry out his orders because it would have been wrong.
He said he did tell the executive that state aid to the Wrigley Field could be jeopardized by negative editorials but did not make it sound like a threat from the governor.
Tags: Barack Obama, Chicago, Impeachments, North America, Political Corruption, Political Issues, United States