John Harris, Rod Blagojevich's Former Chief of Staff, Continues Testimony Against His Former Boss

We could get something for that, couldn’t we? How about Human Services, can I get that?”

— Rod Blagojevich (on wiretap) to John Harris when discussing filling Senate seat with Pres. Obama's preference, Valerie Jarrett

Do they think I would just appoint Valerie Jarrett for nothing? Just to make it happen?”

— Rod Blagojevich

No matter what seemed to happen to him as governor, Rod Blagojevich always appeared to present a “What, me worry?” façade. But his former chief of staff, John Harris, is testifying this morning at Blagojevich’s corruption trial that deep anxieties were beneath that sunny pose.

As Blagojevich’s legal troubles deepened in 2007 with a mounting federal investigation, his legal bills from the Winston and Strawn law firm kept adding up, Harris said. In late 2007, the firm sent a $700,000 bill -- and that was on top of $1 million that had already been paid.

Those bills would show that his lawyers were spending a lot of time on his behalf. It would send a message to politicians and voters that the governor was in a lot more trouble than they were led to believe.”

— John Harris, Rod Blagojevich's Former Chief of Staff

Ex-chief of staff John Harris recalled two conversations with Blagojevich in late October 2008. In the first, Harris said, Blagojevich talked about how much “he might get for the Senate seat” from wealthy people with political ambitions such as multimillionaires Blair Hull and J.B. Pritzker. Harris said Blagojevich also floated the notion of getting money for his campaign fund or some advocacy group he would champion in exchange for the pick.

Harris said he and general counsel Bill Quinlan, also in on the meeting, both told Blagojevich he shouldn’t even consider such ideas. A few days later, however, Blagojevich brought it up again, Harris said. This time, Harris said, Quinlan cautioned Blagojevich, “Don’t even joke about things like that.”

One of the oddest ruminations expressed by Blagojevich on the Nov. 3, 2008, wiretap played in court was his suggestion, admittedly wild, that he might wangle an appointment to become the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations out of Barack Obama if he picked Obama’s friend Valerie Jarrett to fill the soon-to-be president’s seat in the U.S. Senate.

“Whatever cabinet position would be not stupid?” Blagojevich asked John Harris, his chief of staff. “How about UN ambassador?” Which prompted Harris to say: “I don’t think that’s realistic.”

Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich was ready to hit the ‘eject’ button and leave his Illinois troubles behind him, according to a secretly recorded call played for the jury this afternoon.

“I’d like to get the (expletive) out of here,” Blagojevich said on the call with his chief of staff, John Harris, the morning after the 2008 presidential election. “The objective is to get a good gig over there,” he said in reference to Washington.

Blagojevich and Harris were waiting for word from the camp of President-elect Barack Obama.

At issue was how much say Obama wanted in who would succeed him in the U.S. Senate, and more importantly to Blagojevich, what Obama was willing to do about it. Blagojevich was expecting the Obama representative to be union official Tom Balanoff.

Back in 2007, Rod Blagojevich's legal bills were mounting. He had already paid $1 million to the law firm Winston & Strawn -- money that came out of his campaign fund -- for legal fees related to his federal investigation. And he was about to get hit with another $700,000 bill.

"The governor was very upset," testified John Harris, Blagojevich's then-chief of staff.

Former Blago chief of staff John Harris has just given testimony that backs up what Lon Monk told the court earlier this month -- that in 2008, Blagojevich was in cahoots with then-state senate Pres. Emil Jones to kill an ethics bill that would have seriously hindered the governor's fund-raising efforts.

Harris testified that he was "in the room" for discussions with Blagojevich's campaign staff when they were discussing the ethics bill, which would have prohibited politicians from accepting campaign cash from donors who do state business.

Back in 2007, Rod Blagojevich's legal bills were mounting. He had already paid $1 million to the law firm Winston & Strawn -- money that came out of his campaign fund -- for legal fees related to his federal investigation. And he was about to get hit with another $700,000 bill.

"The governor was very upset," testified John Harris, Blagojevich's then-chief of staff.

Prosecutors play their first secret recording of the day and it's John Harris relaying what Rahm Emanuel told him in a call the day before. He's talking to Rod Blagojevich about Emanuel conveying Barack Obama's interest in having Valerie Jarrett appointed to the senate seat.

"Should I have Barack call Rod?" Harris said Rahm asked him.

Harris said it would help, and he's heard laughing.

Harris: "You may get a call from him or Dave."

Blagojevich: "Dave who?"

Harris: "Axelrod."