John Harris, Rod Blagojevich's Former Chief of Staff, Testifies to More Scheming for Obama's Vacant Senate Seat
They're [Obama and associates] not willing to give me anything but appreciation -- f--- them”— Rod Blagojevich
I agree with everything you're saying, but what does that do for me?
... You understand, it's very important for me to make a lot of money. I need the independence. I need the freedom.”— Rod Blagojevich
I don’t care what these (expletives) say, I feel like I’ve been a great governor, for people.”— Rod Blagojevich
Prosecutors have played more of a taped conversation between Rod Blagojevich, then-Chief of Staff John Harris and Democratic consultant Fred Yang.
They're still mulling over Blago's options -- the job at labor organization Change to Win, a possible Washington lobbying gig for Patti.
Then the conversation turns to Jesse Jackson Jr.
Fred Yang: I think the only option you should not contemplate is Jesse Jackson Jr. for the Senate seat.
Blagojevich: Like, nobody ... you and Obama agree on that one. Tell me why.
Yang: I don't think he deserves to be in the U.S. Senate, for one. And I don't think he could hold a U.S. Senate seat.
Blagojevich: Not to mention No. 3 -- he's a bad guy.
John Harris said, "Rahm asked him to deliver the message -- the president-elect would be very pleased if you appointed Valerie and he would be, uh, thankful and appreciative" for a Valerie Jarrett appointment.
"They're not willing to give me anything but appreciation -- f--- them," Blagojevich said.
In the background, a children's TV show is heard playing and a child is heard talking.
More talk about what to do with Obama's Senate seat on the tapes.
Blagojevich and Harris are heard discussing another option -- appointing top Blago aide Louanner Peters to the seat as a one-termer.
This could come in handy in case Blago is impeached, he argued, because Peters could step down and he could quickly appoint himself to the seat.
In the newest recording played, Rod Blagojevich is heard talking with former Chief of Staff John Harris about forging some kind of political alliance with Valerie Jarrett.
Harris is suggesting that Rod Blagojevich could tell Valerie Jarrett he'd appoint her if she'd "stand up with him," rendering the governor more effective moving his legislative agenda forward.
Harris: "If she commits to that, that's pretty good, too ... The president's best friend and ally ... Emil Jones, standing next to you at some health care event isn't as powerful as Valerie."
After Valerie Jarrett publicly pulled out of contention for the U.S. Senate seat appointment, Rahm Emanuel called Rod Blagojevich's top aide.
Emanuel had a list of "acceptable" names and it was from the then-President-Elect, according to testimony in Rod Blagojevich's corruption trial.
Blagojevich calls the list "B.S."
Emanuel, now Obama's chief of staff, relayed four names whom "the president would find acceptable," according to then-chief of staff John Harris, who is on the witness stand.
They were: Tammy Duckworth, State Comptroller Dan Hynes, U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky,.
What's curious about the turn of events: Obama's agents -- Tom Balanoff and Andy Stern -- had previously told Blagojevich that Jesse Jackson Jr. should not be a candidate.
As chief of staff John Harris’ rambling conversations with Gov. Rod Blagojevich about filling a U.S. Senate seat wore on, Harris had a thought, according to an undercover recording played today:
Just go ahead and appoint Valerie Jarrett like President-elect Barack Obama wanted, Harris said on a call heard by the jury.
Having her as an ally could be good for Blagojevich’s political career, Harris said, and having Obama happy with him was “not a bad thing.”
But Blagojevich brought the conversation right back to where it had been for days in November 2008.
John Harris said he was in his Springfield office on Nov. 12, 2008, when U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel, who was to be Obama’s chief of staff, called to confirm that Valerie Jarrett also was headed to the White House and was not interested in the U.S. Senate seat.
Harris said Emanuel relayed the names of four candidates that the president-elect would have no objection to if Blagojevich selected one of them to succeed Obama in the Senate. Harris in turn told then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
The four were U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes and Tammy Duckworth.
“The unspoken there was Emil,” Harris said on his call to Blagojevich, a reference to Illinois Senate President Emil Jones, who Blagojevich allegedly was thinking of appointing to the U.S. Senate seat in exchange for Jones’ hefty political war chest.
They started throwing out other names, with the one apparent common criteria that they, like Obama, be black: Erik Whitaker, the former Illinois public health director and close friend of Obama; Jesse Jackson Jr., the congressman who Blagojevich detested; State Rep. Ken Dunkin; Ricky Hendon, the motor-mouth state senator nicknamed Hollywood who years ago clashed often with Obama; Louanner Peters, Blagojevich’s deputy governor and once a top aide to Marion Barry, the legally challenged former Washington mayor; and Emil Jones, the Illinois Senate president who had been Blagojevich’s top legislative ally until a recent falling out.
“Which one would be maligned more?” Blagojevich asked. “Ricky? Emil? Louanner?
They hadn’t settled on anyone by the end of the conversation, but Blagojevich directed Harris to feel out Jones about whether he would be willing to transfer his healthy political war chest to the governor in exchange for a U.S. Senate appointment.
White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel has indirectly re-entered the picture at the Blagojevich corruption trial. Government witness John Harris, Blagojevich’s onetime chief of staff, said he received a call from an intermediary for Emanuel on Nov. 10, 2008, six days after the presidential election.
The intermediary was John Wyma, a lobbyist pal of Blagojevich and Emanuel. And the message Harris said Wyma was asked to deliver was that President-elect Barack Obama “would be thankful and appreciative” if Blagojevich would appoint Obama’s friend Valerie Jarrett as Illinois’ new U.S. Senator.
The Great Rod Blagojevich Job Hunt continues as the focus of testimony at his corruption trial this morning, with former chief of staff John Harris narrating government wiretaps of some conversations he had with the then-governor in November 2008.
At one point, Blagojevich can be heard mulling how to use a well-paying job as a way to get back to a prominent position on the national stage.