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Blago Trial Continues |
Testimonies continued in the trial of ex-Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, with former chief of staff John Harris on the stand. Meanwhile, Judge Zagel denied the prosecution's request for a gag order, saying that Blago's repetitive statements "[isn't] a big deal".
Rod Blagojevich loved to shop. And without saying a word to point out the obvious, prosecutors suggested that, more than anything else, was his motivation for trying to squeeze as much as he could from the Senate seat he considered "bleepin'" golden.
The governor and his wife were drowning in debt, Thursday's testimony revealed. But at a time when they owed hundreds of thousands of dollars to creditors, both continued to spend lavishly at high end clothing stores, racking up over $400,000 in clothing bills between January 2002, and December 2008.
[Justice.gov: Nov. 10, 2008 Transcript/Audio]
IRS agent Shari Schindler testified that the couple owed some $95,000 on "8 or 9 credit cards," and that those, coupled with a line of credit, put them in a $215,000 hole in the summer of 2008. By far, clothes appeared to be their biggest vice.
Schindler testified that Blagojevich spent over $200,000 with the custom suit maker Thomas James/Oxford Clothes in the nine years she analyzed. During the same period, he spent $30,723 with a custom shirt maker. The couple spent over $57,000 at Saks Fifth Avenue and another $28,000 at Neiman Marcus.
The suit purchases could be enormous. Records showed Blagojevich spent $20,000 with his tailor on a single day in December of 2006. But there were many other days where his credit card was used freely. He paid the suit maker over $18,000 in April of 2006, another $12,000 in October of 2007, and nearly $14,000 in January of 2008.
The agent testified that Patti Blagojevich dropped over $6,400 at the fur salon of Bloomingdales in December of 2003. A few weeks later, she bought an $1,800 dress at Saks, along with a $2,200 jacket.
The agent's testimony was reinforced by an undercover tape from November of 2008, when the Senate seat was in play, and a desperate-sounding Blagojevich rejects the advice of his advisors to appoint Valerie Jarrett to the Senate and accept the White House's goodwill.
"We're struggling here!" he screamed. "I don't want to be governor for two more years!"
"The whole world is passing me by," said Blagojevich, "and I'm stuck as (EXPLETIVE) governor.
"I should've looked the other way on the landfill," he said. "I'd be getting money from my father-in-law right now."
The landfill to which he refers is one in Will County. It became an almost unrepairable breach between Blagojevich and his father-in-law Richard Mell, the powerful Chicago alderman. Blagojevich had his EPA close the landfill down, infuriating Mell.
"I feel like I'm (EXPLETIVE) my children," he says. "I can't afford college for my daughter!"
Blagojevich saved some of his greatest fury for President-Elect Bararck Obama, who held the keys to a deal which he knew was going nowhere.
"(EXPLETIVE) him," he declares. And he threatens to give the job to others "before I give (EXPLETIVE) Valerie Jarrett a Senate seat and I don't get anything."
Perhaps the governor's greatest reality check comes on that call. One of his aides warns him not to try and appoint himself senator, lest he become "a national joke."
Editor's Note: This article has been updated.