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The defense takes their first shot at prosecutors Monday in the government’s new, improved, slimmed down case against former governor Rod Blagojevich.
Still on the stand, facing his first day of cross-examination, is former Blagojevich chief of staff John Harris.
On Friday, Harris testified that in 2008, Blagojevich had categorically rejected Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. as a possible replacement for Barack Obama in the United States Senate. But he said the governor’s attitude abruptly changed when he started telling aides about Jackson’s promises of a massive infusion of campaign funds.
On one undercover tape, Blagojevich tells Harris, “He’s come to me with, through third parties, you know, with offers of campaign contributions and help.”
“You know what I mean? 1.5 million. They’ve, they’re throwing numbers around.”
As the tape continues, Harris tries to dissuade Blagojevich from considering the fundraising option as a reason to make Jackson his first choice. “That’s not the factor,” Harris says.
But Blagojevich said if he was considering Lisa Madigan, who he seemed to genuinely dislike, he had to give consideration to Jackson, who he termed the “uber-African-American”.
He called his consideration of Jackson, “ridiculous and painful” but said he had to move him to the top of the list because of the funding offers and what Jackson might do for his political base.
“I mean, among blacks, that’ll be the best pick won’t it?” Blagojevich asks. “I think it’s better than Emil (Jones), Danny Davis or Roland Burris.”
Ironically, Burris, who appears to have been a distant choice, was given the appointment after Blagojevich’s arrest.
Congressman Jackson has denied wrongdoing and is not charged in connection with the case.
The trial is moving at a rapid pace. So far, the jury has heard 21 undercover tapes. That means in just five days of testimony, prosecutors have now played nearly a third of the tapes used in the entire trial last year.