During his final months in office, former governor Rod Blagojevich was desperately scrambling to fill the Senate vacancy and find another government job outside of Illinois -- even if he had to appoint himself to the Senate, according to testimony given in court today.
In a series of tapes narrated by the prosecution and witness John Harris, Blagojevich's former deputy governor, Blagojevich reiterated his desire to trade the Senate seat for political favors and then, once Obama was elected, get a job in the nation's capital.
"I'd like to get out, the f*** out of here," Blagojevich said on a taped call [transcript link] with his chief of staff, John Harris, the morning after the presidential election. "The objective is to, to get a good gig over there," he said, referring to Washington D.C. "Well," responded Harris, "then we gotta put it on the table."
In order to get that gig, Blagojevich believed he needed to trade a Senate appointment.
The Obama administration, via then-Congressman Rahm Emanuel, had made it known they wanted Valerie Jarrett to be appointed. In taped calls, Blagojevich is heard talking to Harris the day before the presidential election.
Blagojevich discussed with Harris how Obama was sending union leaders Tom Balanoff and Andy Stern to talk about Jarrett's possible appointment.
"Do they think I would just appoint Valerie Jarrett for nothing," Blagojevich asked. "Just to make it happen?"
Blagojevich, believing that simply appointing Jarrett wouldn't curry him any favor, cooked up a scheme to make Obama believe that Blagojevich was seriously considering Attorney General Lisa Madigan. Harris called Madigan "a stalking horse...the person that's in the race but not necessarily the person we want to win the race."
To put that plan in action, Harris said he and Blagojevich discussed tipping off Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed about a Madigan appointment. If Obama's people read that gossip, Blagojevich believed, then Obama would be more willing to trade for Jarrett's appointment.
On the tapes, Blagojevich is also overheard wondering aloud with Harris whether he could be ambassador to the UN or to India or, failing that, send himself to Washington -- his "ace-in-the-hole."
Blagojevich has refuted that version of events before, saying that although he "hated" Lisa Madigan and her father, Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, he was willing to appoint Lisa in exchange for Michael releasing bills on foreclosure relief and healthcare.
Blagojevich reiterated as much again after court today, when he repeated his desire to take the stand.
"Every day goes by," Blagojevich said, "I get closer to taking that stand myself and testifying and explaining everything in its proper context."