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Tapes Indicate Blago Wanted to Sell

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Tapes Indicate Blago Wanted to Sell
Jack Higgins
Tapes Indicate Blago Wanted to Sell

AP

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The jury selection for Rod Blagojevich's retrial continued this week. Jurors were excused for a variety of reasons including one juror who had tickets to the Oprah Winfrey Show. Keep up with all the Blago Trial news at Ward Room.

Rod Blagojevich has long insisted that his real gambit on the Barack Obama senate seat, was to give it to Lisa Madigan, to convince her father, the House Speaker, to start cooperating on his legislative agenda in Springfield.

The tapes suggest something very different.

"I'd like to get the (expletive) out of here'" Blagojevich tells his chief of staff John Harris, on a wiretap tape played in court on Tuesday.  Asked to explain what his boss meant, Harris testified. "He's indicating to me his real intent, that he didn't want to be governor anymore!"

Harris suggested the entire Lisa Madigan strategy was a charade, to pressure Obama to give Blagojevich something which would have benefitted him.  At one point, Blagojevich suggests leaking the Madigan story to Sun-Times gossip columnist Michael Sneed, which he knew would put it in front of those he hoped to influence.

Indeed, two different tapes feature Blagojevich rehearsing different scenarios with Harris to get a position in the Obama cabinet.  In several conversations, he talks about wanting the job of Secretary of Health and Human Services, although he also speculates about the possibility of becoming Ambassador to India, or the United Nations.

Repeatedly, he held out the possibility of taking the senate seat himself.

"If they treat me with irrelevance," Blagojevich told Harris. "If I don't get something good, I've always got that ace in the hole!"

The mere fact that Harris is already on the stand, shows the extent to which the government has tweaked it's strategy in this second trial. In the first Blagojevich proceeding, the former chief of staff did not take the stand until the 4th week.  Tuesday, the trial's second day, he began giving his account of the former governor's alleged attempts to "sell" the senate seat.  It's considered by most observers, to be the most outrageous of the charges against Blagojevich.

Harris told the court that early in the process, Blagojevich wanted to appoint a millionaire like Hyatt scion Jay Pritzker or investor Blair Hull, in exchange for fat donations to his campaign warchest.  He said the governor's general counsel sat him down and told him that was a dangerous strategy.

"You can't talk about this," Harris said Quinlan advised Blagojevich.  "You can't even joke about this!"

Asked why he did most of his communication with his boss on the phone, Harris said Blagojevich avoided his official offices at the Thompson Center and the state Capitol, so he could spend his days fundraising.
 

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