In a pugnacious, triumphal interview on NBC’s Today, Rod Blagojevich, who was convicted on charges of lying to the FBI but escaped conviction on 23 corruption charges, vowed never to cop a plea in his upcoming retrial, saying he was guilty only of “political horse trading.” Blagojevich compared himself to the Biblical King David, and suggested U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald should charge himself with hypocrisy for making deals with convicted felons in exchange for testimony.
“The government put their best case on and failed to prove any corruption,” Blagojevich told Today anchor Meredith Vieira. “The Wall Street Journal just came out in an editorial suggesting the prosecutors should be fired or should resign because it’s been an abuse of his power.”
Pretty much standard fare for the newly convicted governor.
Asked if he would accept a plea deal, given that jurors voted 11-1 to convict him of trying to sell Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat, Blagojevich said, “I’m absolutely determined to continue to seek full vindication. I have done absolutely nothing wrong. This is a persecution by a prosecutor who for six years has targeted me. He has spent tens of millions of dollars trying to get me.”
In fact Blagojevich refused to recognize that he had been convicted, at all.
"We're going to appeal that."
Blagojevich then challenged Fitzgerald to release all the tapes from the days preceding his arrest on Dec. 8, 2008, saying they would prove he was guilty only of “political horse trading -- discussing possibilities with lawyers and advisers, and an emissary sent to me by the president himself. This is what they’re trying to criminalize, these prosecutors who, when they’re making deals with convicted felons and in exchange for their testimony, these felons come in and say what these prosecutors want [them] to say. The very thing they’re charging me with, they ought to charge themselves with, and they ought to add an additional count of hypocrisy.”
Blagojevich insisted that his attempt to cut a deal for the Senate seat was no different than President Obama appointing the brother of U.S. Rep Jim Matheson to the federal judiciary in exchange for a vote on the health care bill.
“That sort of politics is how our country operates,” Blagojevich said, later adding, “What I was about to do on Dec. 8, it was pretty much set up, and Rahm Emanuel was part of the deal, was to appoint a senator in exchange for jobs for people, health care and no taxes for people. That was to do things for people.”
Vieira played tapes of Blagojevich vowing to testify in his own defense, and asked about reports that he didn’t take the stand because he performed poorly in a mock trial with his lawyers. That wasn’t the case, Blagojevich said.
Our legal team determined that after the prosecution put its case on, that they didn’t prove any corruption, and as a result of that, made a determination to give no credence to their case,” he said.
Blagojevich also said that a retrial would be a waste of taxpayer money which ought to be spent prosecuting murderers instead.
“Why are they wasting taxpayer money?” the ex-governor asked. “Chicago is now the crime capital of the world. Children are being gunned down. Police officers are being shot in front of their homes where they were playing. They’re spending millions of dollars to prosecute me when they should instead be using that money to address the real crime problems in places like Chicago.”
You did a good job on Celebrity Apprentice,” Vieira teased Blagojevich at the end of the interview. “Will we see you in another reality show? Are you going to be with Snooki?”
Unlike a plea deal, Blagojevich didn’t rule that out.