Trial Day 13: Rod Blagojevich's Former Chief of Staff Continues Testimony about Career Aspirations, Chicago Tribune and Obama Senate Seat Negotiations

United Way. What is the United Way?”

— Rod Blagojevich on secret wiretap

Salvation Army. That would be huge. Have to wear a uniform, forget that.”

— Rod Blagojevich

You're just wasting f------ time. We're making it up. We're saying this is what I want...this is the deal.”

— Rod Blagojevich, to wife Patti

So she [Valerie Jarrett] knows now she can be a senator if I get Health and Human Services. So how bad does she want to be a U.S. Senator?”

— Rod Blagojevich

Emil has really (expletive) me.”

— Rod Blagojevich

I tried to be helpful and you jumped down my (expletive) throat.”

— Patti Blagojevich

Just minutes into the day, and prosecutors have already played jurors two more tapes.

The first is another Nov. 5, 2008 conversation between Rod Blagojevich and his former chief of staff, John Harris, who is beginning his third day on the stand.

With ideas already floating about for an ambassadorship or a cabinet position, Rod on the tape is wondering about a job with a foundation.

Harris asks if he's looking for a position like Elizabeth Dole's, who headed the Red Cross.

"That's exactly right," Rod is heard saying.

Harris is testifying about a recording in which Rod Blagojevich demands that the Chicago Tribune's editorial board get hacked if the Tribune Co. wants state help with its sale of Wrigley Field and the Cubs.

"Did you see that Tribune editorial today?" Blagojevich begins on the Nov. 6, 2008 tape.

Blagojevich asks Harris about the results of a meeting he had with an associate of Sam Zell's, the owner of the Tribune, the day before -- the "mission he had sent me on earlier," Harris said from the stand.

Further into the tape, we're hearing more plotting about how to use Barack Obama's Senate seat appointment to land Rod Blagojevich a job.

Now, Blagojevich and Harris are talking about a position with a foundation supported by organized labor -- the Change to Win Federation. Harris is heard explaining to Blago that it would give him a good salary and could provide potential to go back into politics later, if he wanted.

Jurors hear an irate Rod Blagojevich snap at his wife on a secretly recorded phone call.

"You're just wasting f------ time!" he yells at Patti Blagojevich as she tries looking up salary information regarding his latest idea to benefit from the U.S. Senate seat appointment.

The two had discussed the pros and cons of Change to Win -- an organization supported by organized labor. Rod Blagojevich planned to ask for a high-ranking position there in exchange for appointing Barack Obama friend Valerie Jarrett to the Senate seat.

Harris testifies that Blagojevich told him he believed then-President-Elect Obama knew Blagojevich wanted a cabinet post in exchange for appointing Obama friend Valerie Jarrett.

"(Blagojevich) feels very confident that the president understands that the governor would be willing to make the appointment of Valerie Jarrett as long as he gets what he's asked for," Harris, Blagojevich's former chief of staff, testified, as he explained the recording, continuing: "The governor gets the cabinet appointment he's asked for."

Another segment of a lengthy Nov. 7, 2008 phone call is played and Democratic consultant Fred Yang discusses jobs that President-Elect Obama could deliver that wouldn't involve a cabinet appointment.

Yang, chief of staff John Harris and Rod Blagojevich are all on the phone call discussing other positions that wouldn't need the approval of the U.S. Senate.

Yang tells Blagojevich: "You could want this because A) it's something that the president could do for you that would pay a lot of money..."

It’s no secret that Rod Blagojevich didn’t have many friends in the Illinois legislature, but he did have one very important one: Senate President Emil Jones.

But by Nov. 7, 2008, it was clear Blagojevich and Jones were no longer BFFs. A few months earlier, Jones had abandoned his pledge to block passage of an ethics bill Blagojevich didn’t want, and the governor clearly held a grudge.
On a wiretapped phone call recorded that day and played in court, Blagojevich talked with aides about the possibility of naming Jones or Secretary of State Jesse White to Barack Obama’s soon-to-be vacant Senate seat. Blagojevich said he didn’t think White would be interested but thought him preferable to Jones.

Rod Blagojevich is not exactly emerging as a shining example of enlightened feminist-friendly rhetoric in the undercover recordings being played at his trial this afternoon.

An example is a conversation he held with chief of staff John Harris on Nov. 7, 2008, in which the two were still discussing Blagojevich’s plans to swap a Senate appointment for a post in the Obama administration or some high-paying job in the private sector.

On the last recording played before the break, the organization Change to Win, a political group funded by organized labor that Blagojevich eventually hoped he might head, is mentioned for the first time.

Harris told the governor in the recorded call that Change to Win could appeal to Blagojevich’s love of campaigning and keep him connected to politics.

“This is your quiet grass roots way of building up an operation for 2016,” Blagojevich said of himself, meaning a run for president.

“It’s very appealing, isn’t it?” Blagojevich said in the recorded call. “I tell you it’s a great (expletive) idea.”

It could be something the Service Employee International Union could deliver on, Harris replied. “They can help Barack by helping you,” Harris said.

The jury has heard a call between Harris and Blagojevich in which the two discuss a meeting the then-governor was to have with union official Tom Balanoff, who Blagojevich believed was acting as a messenger to tell him who Barack Obama wanted to succeed him in the U.S. Senate.

“OK so what are your thoughts, if Balanoff comes in, tells us Valerie Jarrett, right?” Blagojevich said. “I want you to war game it a little bit.”

The two discussed how to float the names of other candidates to see whether the Obama administration would play ball and offer Blagojevich something in return.
At one point, Blagojevich asked whether he might mention to Balanoff that he was considering Illinois Senate President Emil Jones for the Senate seat, but the pair agreed it could be risky because Obama could go for the suggestion, leaving Blagojevich without any leverage to get something from the administration.

Another wiretap recording played at the trial this morning dealt again with Gov. Rod Blagojevich's alleged desire to see Chicago Tribune editorial writers fired in exchange for his support for a state deal to buy Wrigley Field.

In a call on Nov. 6, 2008, Blagojevich can be heard talking to his chief of staff, John Harris, and telling him to deliver a message to Tribune Co. to make changes on the editorial board.

Harris said on the call he was in between meetings with a Tribune executive, Nils Larsen, and that he would tell Larsen to fire the editorial board.

Prosecutors have started today where they left off yesterday at the corruption trial of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, playing recordings of him talking to his chief of staff John Harris about what he could get in return for sending Valerie Jarrett to the U.S. Senate.

In a call between Blagojevich and Harris on Nov. 5, 2008, the day after the election of Barack Obama to the presidency, the two can be heard talking about whether Blagojevich could be placed on an important board or into a post as the head of a charitable agency.

It would be similar to Elizabeth Dole leading the Red Cross, Harris told the governor on the call. "That would be great," Blagojevich replied.