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Phone call interrupts Blagojevich trial

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Jurors took an unplanned break Wednesday morning during the second corruption trial of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich when a man's voice was heard over the loudspeaker saying, ''Hello? Hello?''

A phone call from outside the courtroom interrupted the audio feed in the courtroom. A man could be heard repeatedly saying, "hello, hello . . . anyone there?" which generated laughter in the court.

Judge James Zagel called for a short break after the interruption.

Harris talks about alleged Obama seat scheme

Former Blagojevich chief of staff John Harris, who was arrested along with the former governor but agreed to testify for the prosecution, returned to the stand Wednesday. He testified about conversations- many of which were secretly recorded by the FBI- he had with the ex-governor about the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by President Barack Obama. Blagojevich is accused of scheming to sell or trade the seat for campaign cash or an appointment of his own.

Harris' testimony was in regards to calls in which he and Blagojevich are talking about possible high-powered, high-paying jobs Blagojevich could get for appointing Valerie Jarrett, a top aide in the Obama administration to the U.S. Senate.

The day after President Barack Obama was elected and the U.S. Senate seat appointment opened up, Blagojevich was taped by the FBI saying he'd like to get out Illinois.

"I'd like to get the f--- out of here," Blagojevich said.

Well, that's a whole different story," Harris said.

"Yeah," Blagojevich replies.

"If that's the objective..." Harris said.

"Yeah, the objective is to get a good gig over there," Blagojevich said of wanting an appointment from the president -- whom Blagojevich called a "f---ing demigod" in a recorded conversation --in exchange for putting Jarrett in the Senate.

In a November 11, 2008, conversation where Harris, relaying a message from the Obama administration, said Rahm Emanuel, then chief of staff, told another political fundraiser to tell Harris that Obama would be "thankful and appreciative" if Jarrett were appointed.

Blagojevich is heard saying, "They're not willing to give me anything but appreciation? F--- them."

Harris: Blagojevich never set up promised Senate selection committee

The day after President Obama was elected, Blagojevich made a public statement in which he said Obama's opinion on successor was important.

"Obviously interested in whatever insights President-elect Obama might have with regard to his thoughts on the subject, that would have obviously a great deal of weight on the decision that I would make," Blagojevich said. During the news conference, Blagojevich said he would create a committee to help with the senator selection process. However, Harris testified Wednesday that committee never came to fruition and the former governor's statements did not reflect what was really going on.

Instead, prosecutors allege Blagojevich was exploring his options and desire to trade an appointment for a job that paid better. Two days later, in another tape played in court, Blagojevich and Harris are speaking with political pollster Fred Yang.

"Look, I think that the other thing to think about is there are a number of appointments they can make in government, the federal government, that don't require Senate approval that pay pretty good. They're just not going to be very sexy, governor," Yang said.

"Why would I want that then?" Blagojevich asks.

"Well, um, you could want this because (A), it's something the president could do for you that would pay a lot of money," Yang said.

"Like how much money?" Blagojevich asks.

"I, I, you know, John, you should have someone in your office, um..." Yang said.

"The highest, the highest is about $190,000," Harris said.

"Well, I make $170,000, don't I? What do I make now, John?" Blagojevich asked about his own salary.

Blagojevich felt 'stuck' in governorship

On the call, Blagojevich said he was depressed after being re-elected in 2008 and compared himself to Richard Nixon.

"It was a joyless election night," he tells Harris. "It's good to get reaffirmed by the people. That means a lot to me, and that cuts into the depression. But I was, like, you know, it was almost like Nixon after he was re-elected -- f---' angry the next day, depressed. People were leaving, and I was kinda getting stuck into this four-year deal."

Harris: Blagojevich family income suffers; Tensions rise between Blagojevich, wife on tape

Harris also spoke about the Blagojevich family's finances, which had dwindled. He said people were "shying away" from doing real estate with Blagojevich's wife, Patti, because of corruption investigations.

"The family's income had suffered quite a bit because of the adverse publicity," he said.

Harris said Blagojevich considered appointing Patti to the state's pollution control board, which would have paid her $100,000 a year. Harris also said he was to set up meetings for Patti with two companies that did state business. When jobs didn't pan out, Blagojevich told him to cut off the companies' state contracts, Harris said. Harris said he ignored Blagojevich's order.

Also heard Wednesday, a tape where Blagojevich is heard yelling at his wife, Patti, when she insisted on looking up the salary for one of the posts wants to ask for.

"All right, get off of that; you're wasting f---in' time," Rod Blagojevich says.

"I tried to be helpful, and you jumped down my f---in' throat," she complains. The former governor suddenly turns quiet.

"I gotta stop swearin'," he says, almost whispering.

"It's terrible," she agrees. "Total gutter mouth."

Blagojevich, 54, faces 20 counts in this second trial. He was convicted of only one charge- lying to the FBI- in his first trial. The jury was hung on all others.

Blagojevich has denied any wrongdoing. His defense maintains the only thing the former governor is guilty of is talking too much.

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