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Blagojevich and the "Prince of Darkness"

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Blagojevich and the "Prince of Darkness"
Blagojevich and the "Prince of Darkness"

AP

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich arrives at the Federal Court building Thursday, June 3, 2010 in Chicago, for jury selection in his federal corruption trial. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

In the final days of his administration, one of the only men Rod Blagojevich could trust was a man he referred to as the "prince of darkness."

John Harris, Blagojevich's chief of staff and deputy governor, took the stand for a third day Wednesday, testifying that Blagojevich gave him that nickname because he, Harris, would often point out "the downsides" of the governor's ideas.

In the end, Harris testified, many of Blagojevich's friends and aides had either deserted him or were themselves under investigation.  It became increasingly important for Harris to serve as a sounding board, and sometimes warn Blagojevich about I'll-advised ideas.

"We tried to share the burden," said Harris, "with those that remained."

Throughout the day, Harris continued to walk the court through recordings the FBI had made of his conversations with Blagojevich during the days after the 2008 presidential election.

The tapes, some of which go on for tends of minutes, reveal the governor and his associates brainstorming ideas about how Blagojevich can profit from his Senate seat appointment. Much of the testimony revolved around Valerie Jarrett.

At one point, Blagojevich said he heard on the news that the incoming Obama administration was considering Jarrett for a cabinet position.

"So they're willing to give her a cabinet post," Blagojevich was recorded saying.  "So if that's the case, give me the cabinet spot, and give her ... we'll give her the Senate."

The administration job was not the only one Blagojevich was hoping to snare.

On the tapes he speculates about resigning the governorship to head up a charity like the American Red Cross or the United Way.

"The Salvation Army?" he says.  "Oh that'd be huge...  But do you have to wear a uniform?  Forget that!"

Blagojevich was more interested in a position with Health and Human Services, and told Harris he will pitch the idea that he and Dr. Eric Whittaker go to Washington to help advance the Obama health care agenda. 

Harris suggested he may be better suited as the head of the Service Employees Union's national political arm “Change to Win.” Blagojevich loved that idea, believing it would give him a new job while preserving political viability for a possible White House run in 2016. Blagojevich said he will point out to them that Mike Madigan is making his life miserable, and that Illinois government would remain at a stalemate as long as he remains as governor.

"I'm the only one fighting this guy," the governor tells Harris about Madigan. "The only one who takes him on including the mayor!"

At one point, Blagojevich compares himself to Richard Nixon, victorious in a second term, but doomed by the forces that refuse to let him move forward.

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