Tapes at trial reveal Blagojevich hopeful, angry, unsure in days after 2008 election

By Mike Robinson, AP
Thursday, July 1, 2010

Tapes reveal Blagojevich hopeful, angry, unsure

CHICAGO — Wiretap recordings played at Rod Blagojevich’s corruption trial depict the former governor as furious one minute, then optimistic and other times unsure about his chances for success in his alleged plan to trade his power to name someone to Barack Obama’s vacated U.S. Senate seat for a well-paying job.

He curses at one point in November 2008 when he perceives a lack of response from Obama’s camp about what the government says was his proposal to get a Cabinet post with the incoming administration in exchange for naming Obama’s friend Valerie Jarrett to the seat.

“I get nothing out of Valerie Jarrett,” he complains. “The arrogance of these (expletive) people.”

Other times, Blagojevich takes a lack of response as potentially a good sign.

“They didn’t say it was ludicrous. They didn’t say no way,” he says hopefully.

In the face of mounting signals of disinterest from Obama deeper into November, Blagojevich still talks on the tapes about being in a better bargaining position than Jarrett, suggesting that his own leverage is greater than hers.

“She’s holding hers with two hands,” he says about what he sees at Jarrett’s ability to help him get a Cabinet post. But he boasts about his right to appoint a new senator: “I’ve got the whole thing wrapped around my arms.”

In the tapes, Blagojevich usually sounds forceful and confident, with little hint he feared arrest. As it turned out, he was arrested within weeks; agents swept into his home in early December and led him away.

Blagojevich, 53, has pleaded not guilty to charges that he schemed to get an important or high-paying job in return for the appointment to the Senate seat. He has also pleaded not guilty to charges that he plotted to launch a racketeering operation using his powers as governor. If convicted, he could face up to $6 million in fines and a sentence of 415 years in prison, though he is sure to get much less time under federal guidelines.

His brother, Robert Blagojevich, 54, a Nashville, Tenn., businessman, has pleaded not guilty to taking part in the alleged scheme to sell or trade the Senate seat and illegally pressuring a racetrack owner to make a $100,000 campaign contribution.

Prosecution witness Doug Scofield, a former deputy governor, is expected to take the stand for a third day on Thursday. Most of the tapes played in recent days have been conversations between him and Blagojevich.

Scofield testified Wednesday that he would often humor Blagojevich to stay on his good side. But he says he did tell Blagojevich several times that one option the governor talked a lot about, appointing himself to the seat, didn’t make sense.

“He did not like the advice,” Scofield told jurors. “He was frustrated, slightly angry” after the comment.

During cross-examination, defense attorney Aaron Goldstein pressed Scofield about Blagojevich’s now-infamous comment that the opportunity to name a senator presented a “golden” opportunity, noting that on the tape Scofield responds by saying, “right.”

“You meant it as agreement, is that correct?” Goldstein asked Scofield.

“Unfortunately, sir, what I’m telling him is not exactly what I’m thinking,” Scofield answered. “I thought it was something he wanted to hear.”

In other recordings played Wednesday, a political consultant suggests Blagojevich would be smart to appoint Jarrett on her merits. In response, Blagojevich grumbles about money problems and the threat that Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, a longtime political adversary, would start impeachment proceedings to oust him.

“I’m left with gridlock, a pissed-off speaker, a potential impeachment and a president who is all take and no give,” Blagojevich snaps.

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