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Key Government Witness Takes the Stand

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Key Government Witness Takes the Stand
Jack Higgins

Jurors are expected to be taken into Rod Blagojevich's inner circle today, as well as the heart of the federal investigation against him.

There is only one witness who can provide a ticket into both of those worlds: former chief of staff John Wyma.

It was Wyma who agreed to cooperate with federal investigators in the fall of 2008, providing the key pieces in what proved to be a fast-moving final act against the sitting governor, leading to his December arrest, and eventual impeachment.

On Wednesday, the jury heard one of the former governor's alleged scandals unfold on tape after tape, start to finish.

Businessman Rajinder Bedi testified that he was the emissary in an Indian community offer to Blagojevich of a million dollars in campaign donations, in exchange for appointing Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. to the Barack Obama senate seat.

Blagojevich didn't like Jackson, who he felt had betrayed him in his first bid for governor. But as jurors heard on tape, the idea of a Jackson candidacy appeared to grow on him,  not only as potential political capital to be gained in the black community, but also the "tangible benefits" the congressman's representatives were offering.

"There's tangible, concrete tangible stuff from supporters," Blagojevich said in a phone call recorded December 8, 2008. "You know, specific amounts and everything."

Former deputy governor Robert Greenlee testified that the meaning was crystal clear.

"When he said concrete tangible stuff from supporters, he meant cash contributions," Greenlee said. Asked how much, he said, "over a million dollars."

On another call, Blagojevich instructed his brother to nail down the offers of support.

"If in fact this is possible, then some of the stuff has to start happening now," Blagojevich told brother Robert, who he instructed to assume that the "whole world's listening."

The whole world wasn't listening, but the FBI was, as Blagojevich learned that very evening from his press secretary, Lucio Guerrero.

"They (the Tribune) are writing a story for tomorrow's paper that says as part of a federal investigation they have recordings of you. And also, (Blagojevich confidante) John Wyma's cooperating with the Feds."

"Recordings of me?" a startled Blagojevich asks.

"Correct," said Guerrero.

Blagojevich called his brother and instructed him to call off the meeting with his Jackson contacts. 

In other testimony, Greenlee recalled repeated conversations with his former boss regarding what the government alleges was an effort to withhold payments to Children's Memorial Hospital and other pediatric institutions statewide. Prosecutors charge that Blagojevich ordered the payments delayed to squeeze the Children's chairman for a campaign donation.

After court, Blagojevich angrily denied the charge.

"The lies on this issue are shameful and disgusting in so many ways," Blagojevich said. "There's nothing I fought for more as governor, than access to health care for kids."

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