Former Governor Rod Blagojevich believed that Obama wasn't formally advocating to appoint Valerie Jarrett to his former Senate Seat because Obama didn't want it to be public knowledge he was pushing for a black nominee, according to tapes played in the Blagojevich trial today.
Taking the stand for the second day, John Harris, Rod Blagojevich's former deputy governor, testified that Blagojevich was very interested in what he could receive in exchange for an appointment. Harris, who was arrested the same day as Blagojevich, is testifying under a plea agreement with the government for a reduced sentence.
As in prior days, the prosecution used the witness to walk the courtroom through tapes that the FBI recorded.
Today, Harris testified that then-Congressman Rahm Emanuel called him two days before the election and said Obama was interested in having a close friend nomination to the Senate. Emanuel didn't mention a name. Harris testified it was clear that Emanuel meant Jarrett, the former chairman of the Chicago Transit Authority who is now President Obama's senior advisor.
"He wanted to convey to me that (Obama) had a preference," Harris said.
Harris reiterated the conversation to Blagojevich during a session recorded by the FBI. Blagojevich wondered openly how he should respond. "It's got no bargaining power at all," Blagojevich said, referring to Emil Jones.
According to the tapes, Harris told Blagojevich that Emanuel asked whether it would be helpful for Obama to call. Harris told Emanuel "yes" and told Blagojevich he might get a call.
Blagojevich and Harris then discussed countering with the idea that he is already planning to appoint names like Bill Daley or Lisa Madigan. He then wonders what he can get for himself from Obama -- joking about being appointed as a UN Ambassador, and speaking more seriously about Health and Human Services Secretary.
"That would be cool, huh?" Blagojevich said.
The phone call from Obama never came apparently. But on election day, in a phone conversation from Blagojevich to Harris recorded by the FBI, Blagojevich said that Obama was simply worried about appearances.
"Obama doesn't want it getting out that he's pushing somebody who is black," Blagojevich said. "All of a sudden, first black president and he's saying I want a black senator."