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Blago Hammered in Cross Examination

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Blago Hammered in Cross Examination
Jack Higgins
Blago Hammered in Cross Examination

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Rod Blagojevich knew that Thursday would be his last chance to tell jurors his side of the story, and he hoped to leave them with a good impression.

By most accounts, that didn't happen.

The government at around the 4 p.m. hour began their cross-examination of the former governor and wasted no time trying to discredit him.

"Mr. Blagojevich, you are a convicted liar, correct?" was the first question asked of Blagojevich by attorney Reid Schar.

After Judge James Zagel overruled a flurry of objections from the defense lawyers, Blagojevich answered, "Yes."

"And it's fair to say that within hours of being convicted of lying to the FBI, you were lying again," said Schar, referring to public statements made after being convicted last year on just one of 24 counts.

That was the general tone of the final hour of Thursday's testimony, with Schar hammering Blagojevich with example after example of alleged lies, misrepresentations and half-truths.  Blagojevich's own words -- heard in audio played from the secretly-surveilled telephone conversations and read from text from Blagojevich's book, The Governor -- were used against him.

"I tried to be as truthful as possible, but politics is an unusual business," said Blagojevich, clearly incensed by the barrage of questions.

Schar brought up how Blagojevich, in November 2008, convinced an aide to plant an item with Chicago Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed that Blagojevich had a meeting with Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. That meeting never occurred.

"That was a lie," said Schar.

"No," replied Blagojevich.  "That was a misdirection play in politics. It's the quarterback faking a handoff, throwing long.  It's simply a part of our political business."

Prosecutors likely relished the chance to confront Blagojevich. At his first trial -- which began exactly one year ago Thursday -- the ousted governor never took the stand and prosecutors never had a chance to cross-examine him.

Earlier in the day, in the waning hours of the nearly 19 he'd spent on the witness stand in five days, Blagojevich continued to deny that he'd try to sell or trade President Barack Obama's vacated U.S. Senate seat.

He testified that his talk about wanting to be named secretary of Health and Human Services was just "fantasy" and that he was "embarrassed" when the idea was instantly discredited by Obama ally and union leader Tom Balanoff.

"I think it goes to one of my insecurities,'' said Blagojevich. "I was embarrassed by the flat-out dismissal. You sure look bad in front of your staff."

Blagojevich kept hammering on the theme that his comments about the seat were mostly wild talk.

As if to prove the point, he said he once even entertained the notion of appointing himself as the
senator so he could go Afghanistan and join the search for Osama bin Laden.  He also said that on the day prior to his arrest he told his chief of staff, John Wyma, that if had to make a Senate appointment that day that he would pick Gery Chico.

Jurors were excused at 5 p.m. and have the weekend off.  Cross-examination resumes Monday.  The government said it believes cross-examination could take two more days, but "that depends on Blagojevich."

Blagojevich's defense team said it still has a couple of witnesses to call.

For a play-by-play of the day's activity, read our live blog.

Related Topics Rod Blagojevich, Retrial, Day 5
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