In the fall of 2008, Rod Blagojevich was miserable. In a conversation with chief of staff John Harris, he summed his problems up in three words: legal, personal and political.
In that order.
“It’s very important for me to make a lot of money,” Blagojevich said. “I need the independence.”
Blagojevich was deeply in debt. And he was feeling the walls close in from all sides.
“I’ve got the scrutiny going on, lawyers to pay for,” said Blagojevich. “How the hell am I going to send my kid to college? That’s the biggest (expletive) downside that I’m really dealing with.”
“Never again am I going to (expletive) screw my kids and family and put them in a position like this. I gotta fix this!”
But the fix wasn’t easy. Federal prosecutors were closing in. Unbeknownst to him, the FBI was listening in at that very moment. He was jealous of the new president, who he felt was being given a pass on his own associations with convicted fundraiser Tony Rezko.
“You know Axelrod and Obama’s people clearly turned, you know, got the Chicago media to make Rezko all about me,” he told Harris. Even as he speculated about taking a lucrative job in the private sector, he wondered aloud if he should take the Senate seat himself, so he would be closer to Obama in Washington.
“The governor’s got that problem with Rezko. Boom! But I’m in the Senate, it’s not just mine any more. It’s his too isn’t it?”
The tapes were played on day four of the former governor’s second corruption trial, offering the jury possible motives for his actions. The last jury didn’t get answers to the motive question until the trial was nearly over. It’s one of many areas where prosecutors have tweaked their case, hoping to get convictions on the charges on which the first jury could not reach agreement.
After court, the former governor urged reporters, and the public, to wait until the case was complete.
“What the government is trying to do is they’re trying to criminalize the political process,” Blagojevich said. “They’re trying to criminalize, make criminal, honest and open talk, discussion, conversation, and the bouncing around of ideas.”
“The government has taken snippets of talk out of context.”
Testimony in the Blagojevich case resumes on Monday.