Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has ended his fourth day on the witness stand at his retrial. Patience seemed to wear thin on all sides as the day went on Wednesday.
Judge James Zagel started by admonishing Blagojevich for trying to make arguments to jurors the judge ruled earlier he couldn't make. That included Blagojevich saying he believed at the time that his actions were all legal.
Prosecutors also rose to object repeatedly when Blagojevich went off onto tangents.
After one objection, a frustrated Blagojevich broke courtroom protocol by saying he wanted to answer the question.
Blagojevich started the day confident and clearly energized. But he seemed to tire by late afternoon. He repeated denials that he ever tried to sell or trade President Barack Obama's old U.S. Senate seat.
UPDATE: 5:20 p.m.
Judge Zagel said he believes the defense is trying to run the clock. He said it’s awkward to start cross examination before direct is done, but is has happened in the past.
Zagel said the defense is stalling for time by always asking Blagojevich on the date of each call if he had ever made a decision on who to appoint to the Senate seat. Zagel said he believes Blagojevich would answer the question in an efficient manner if they were asked that way.
It’s unclear how much time the judge will give the defense to wrap up its direct examination of Blagojevich Thursday morning, despite the defense saying they needed all day Thursday to finish.
Judge Zagel says he is putting the jury in the box at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow and not to be late.
UPDATE: 5:06 p.m.
Judge Zagel sent the jury home for the day. Then he talked with the attorneys.
UPDATE: 5:00 p.m.
Blagojevich confirms that he told Harris in the Nov. 7, 2008 (8 a.m.) call that he didn’t think he'd get the HHS cabinet position.
Goldstein asked about a call later that day at 10:46 a.m., between Blagojevich, Harris and Patti.
Blagojevich testified that he and Harris discuss the offers Blagojevich and the Obama administration have floated for the Senate seat.
In the call, Harris mentions that Alexi Giannoulias called him to meet that afternoon, possibly to talk about Jarrett for the Senate seat. Blagojevich says neither he nor Harris had initiated any contact with Giannoulias on the Senate seat.
When Blagojevich tells Harris not see Giannoulias that day, Blagojevich says he didn’t want them to come at him with a full court press to make a Senate seat decision, that he wanted more time to think about it.
When Goldstein asked Blagojevich about what he meant when he said "run this clock" in the call, the prosecution objected and the judge sustained it.
As Goldstein continued to question Blagojevich line-by-line in this call, Blagojevich gets confused at one point and asked Goldstein, "Who am I talking about?"
Blagojevich says again that he didn’t condition anything as "one for the other" when he met with Balanoff.
Blagojevich says Balanoff offered another solution to the Madigan deal -- if Blagojevich appointed Jarrett to the Senate, then the Obama administration would appoint Lisa Madigan as deputy attorney general for the Dept. of Justice in Washington, D.C. That way, he said, Lisa wouldn’t run against Blagojevich for governor if he ran for a third term. Blagojevich says he wanted to be taken out of Illinois instead.
In the call, Blagojevich says he goes back to talking about how HHS is a long shot, but "there may still be some life left in it."
Goldstein then asked Blagojevich about a call from Nov. 7, 2008 at 11:06 a.m., between Blagojevich, Scofield and Patti.
In this call, Blagojevich says he was trying to guess what Jarrett might be thinking at this point and talks out loud.
In the call, Blagojevich talks about trying to avoid a meeting with Balanoff because Blagojevich wasn’t ready to make a decision on the Senate seat, and Balanoff was putting on the pressure, and had asked to meet with Blagojevich post-Nov. 6.
Again Blagojevich testified that he was discussing other candidates for the senate seat on this day, and still had not made a decision on who to appoint.
UPDATE: 4:49 p.m.
Goldstein asked Blagojevich about call from Nov. 6, 2008 at 9:05 p.m., between Blagojevich, Patti and Greenlee.
In this call, Blagojevich said Greenlee thought Madigan might want to break the political grid lock since Obama was elected.
Blagojevich testified he talked about the Madigan deal right up until just hours before he was arrested and that he enlisted the help of people in Washington, D.C., to broker the deal.
Blagojevich testified that Madigan would only unlock the political gridlock if his daughter was appointed to the Senate seat, not Jarrett.
Blagojevich testified again that he still hadn’t made a decision about the Senate seat yet and had talked about various candidates that day.
Goldstein then asked about another call. Blagojevich read over the transcript and confirmed that the HHS post was discussed in this call with Harris.
UPDATE: 4:40 p.m.
Goldstein asked Blagojevich about a call from Nov. 6, 2008, at 12:13 p.m., between Blagojevich and Patti.
In this call Blagojevich told Patti how J.B. Pritzker could be a possible Senate appointee. After Blagojevich talked to Pritzker about it, Blagojevich says Pritzker expressed his interest to Blagojevich in this position or the treasurer position.
Blagojevich says he also mentioned the Lisa Madigan deal to Pritzker, and that Blagojevich would also have to appt a new Illinois Attorney General.
Blagojevich says Pritzker told him that Blagojevich should pick Lisa Madigan over him for the Senate seat.
Goldstein then asked Blagojevich about his meeting with Balanoff one-on-one in his office that afternoon of Nov. 6. Blagojevich says they talked about how "magical" election night was and how history being made.
Blagojevich says Balanoff then mentioned Jarrett for the Senate seat. Blagojevich testified that Balanoff said something to the effect that Obama was interested Jarrett being appointed to the Senate seat.
Blagojevich says he told Balanoff that if Obama was really interested in that happening, that Blagojevich expected Obama to call and tell him that. Blagojevich testified that Balanoff told him that Obama wasn’t going to call him – and that Balanoff was there as an old friend to work with Blagojevich about making that happen since Balanoff had Blagojevich and Obama in common.
Blagojevich says he told Balanoff he expected Obama to call and that he'd consider what Obama wanted and that he would explain to Obama all the other political scenarios he needed to consider (i.e., Emil Jones and Mike Madigan).
Blagojevich says he also needed to consider the dynamics Blagojevich would be left behind with if he appointed Jarrett, and they all went off to Washington D.C.. Blagojevich testified that he would be left alone to deal with more political gridlock and being impeached.
Blagojevich says he then asked Balanoff what his chances were of getting the HHS seat. Blagojevich testified that Balanoff told him he had "no chance" of getting it, and then the two men talked about all the reasons why it wouldn’t happen, including Antoin Rezko and Chicago politics.
When Goldstein asked Blagojevich if he either threatened or demanded something from Balanoff for the Senate seat, the prosecution objected and the judge sustained it.
Blagojevich testified that the meeting ended cordially and that Blagojevich met with Harris and Scofield immediately following the Balanoff meeting at Blagojevich’s office at the Thompson Center.
Blagojevich says he told them he threw out the idea of HHS and Balanoff was polite about it, but said it wasn’t going anywhere.
Goldstein asked if Blagojevich advisors told him if the HHS option would happen. Blagojevich says they did not.
UPDATE: 4:23 p.m.
In the call, when Blagojevich says "slow this down" and Harris replies with "long kabuki dance or short kabuki dance,” Blagojevich says he doesn’t know what Harris meant and shouldn’t guess at it.
Blagojevich testified that either appointing himself or Lisa Madigan to the Senate seat was a credible alternative to the candidate Balanoff was pushing (Jarrett).
When Harris says in the call that he thinks he's going to hear from Marilyn Katz again, Blagojevich says Harris is going to work on getting a better sense of who was authorized to speak for Obama, because he and Harris were not sure. (The prosecution objected; Judge Zagel sustained their objection.)
When Harris brought up the "change to win" idea, Blagojevich says Harris was suggesting that might be a place for Blagojevich to go when out of office. Blagojevich says Harris brought it up to him for the first time in this phone call, and says he never made any decisions if he wanted to go this route.
Goldstein asked Blagojevich about the part of the call in which Blagojevich suggested that Patti work at “change to win” instead. Blagojevich testified that he and Harris both agreed it was "stupid."
When Blagojevich says it was a joyless election night and compares himself to Richard Nixon, he said he meant being depressed when elected and people leaving. He added that he was going to get "screwed" again by Madigan.
Goldstein asked if Blagojevich was expressing his frustration to Harris. Blagojevich said, “Yes.” When Goldstein asked if he did this a lot with Harris, the prosecution objected and Zagel sustained it.
Blagojevich says he was intrigued by Harris’ “change to win” idea and told him to talk to Scofield about it, without mentioning anything to Balanoff. Blagojevich said he might have been thinking about it, saying it was all "very incipient."
UPDATE: 4:10 p.m.
Court returned to session after a short break. Goldstein began asking Blagojevich about a call from Nov. 5, 2008 at 12:21 p.m.
In this call Blagojevich confirms he is talking about potential salaries at non profits, should he decide to go the 501(c)(4) route when making an appointment to the Obama Senate seat.
When he says “parachuting” himself in to the Senate seat, Blagojevich testifies that he meant appointing himself to the Senate seat would be a way to escape the gridlock he was facing in Illinois politics.
Blagojevich says if he had publicly announced he was considering himself for the Senate seat, he would have faced a firestorm from the media. He also testified that he still had not made up his mind about who to appoint, even at the press conference he had that day regarding the Senate seat. He added that he had considered various candidates.
Goldstein then asked Blagojevich about call from Nov. 6, 2008 at 9:25 a.m., between Blagojevich and Harris.
Blagojevich testifies that he is "war gaming" what he might say to Balanoff when he was scheduled to meet with him later that day.
In the call, Blagojevich tells Harris that they should tell Balanoff, "the better play is not about Emil” but what to do about Lisa Madigan.
On Nov. 5, Blagojevich says Lisa Madigan was a " real, potential" candidate for the Senate seat.
Blagojevich testified that he and Harris went on to discuss how to bring up the HHS seat to Balanoff.
UPDATE: 3:29 p.m.
In the call, Blagojevich says the Senate seat is the thing “that’s f’ing golden,” and he said he didn’t want to give it up for nothing. Blagojevich testified that he wants to explain this, but he said he’s not sure how to do it.
Goldstein told him to do his best. Blagojevich testifies that in his mind he knew being in the position to appoint someone to a U.S. Senate seat was a unique opportunity. He did fully discuss all the opportunities -- good or bad – and says he hadn’t made any decisions about it.
When Blagojevich says in the call that he wants to slow it down, Blagojevich testified that he's feeling the pressure of meeting with Balanoff on Nov. 6 (the next day), and doesn’t want to be rushed into making a decision.
Then the defense played a tape between Blagojevich and Scofield.
This is the call Goldstein was questioning Blagojevich about several minutes ago, in which Blagojevich said he hates Carol Marin, and then makes the “f’ing golden” comment.
In this call, Blagojevich also says, "you Russian mother f----" when talking about being an ambassador and joking about how it’s too bad he can’t appoint his 20-something nephew to the Senate seat, because the nephew is still too young.
On the stand, Blagojevich says now he owes the Russians an apology and that he was just being "stupid" when he made these comments to Doug Scofield, because he was just talking out loud to Doug as he often did.
The defense finished playing the tape.
Court went on a short, 15-minute break.
UPDATE: 3:20 p.m.
Blagojevich apologized on stand for telling Harris and Greenlee to research possible job options for him when he left office.
In this call, Blagojevich asked Harris to look into job opportunities for him in the private sector. Blagojevich asked Greenlee to put together ideas for non-profit positions.
Goldstein asked Blagojevich about a call from Nov. 5, 2008 at 9:15 a.m., between Blagojevich, Harris and Greenlee.
In this call Greenlee tells Blagojevich about non-profits he found at which Blagojevich could possibly work once out of office.
In the call, Blagojevich says the last option is to appoint himself Senator; he starts to go on but stops short and says that’s my answer. Judge Zagel said he’d let the answer stand.
Goldstein then asked Blagojevich about a call from Nov. 5, 2008 at 11:07 a.m., between Blagojevich and Scofield.
In this call, they are talking about NBC Chicago reporter and Sun-Times columnist Carol Marin and the FBI investigation, and Blagojevich says, "I hate her, I hate her."
Blagojevich had a TV interview with Marin this day, and says he'd like to apologize to her. The Judge says that’s OK, but that he can’t do it on the witness stand.
In the call, they talk about Blagojevich being an ambassador. Blagojevich says he'd like to take it but probably wouldn’t get it but would take the HHS seat in a minute.
UPDATE: 3:08 p.m.
Goldstein asked Blagojevich about call from Nov. 5, 2008 at 8:58 a.m., between Blagojevich and Harris.
In this call, Blagojevich tells Harris he’s got "an ace in the hole."
Blagojevich says he also told Harris in this call that it didn’t feel right to appoint himself to the Senate seat and on the day of this call he wanted to get out of town.
Blagojevich says the Obama administration was treating him with "irrelevancy,” meaning they didn’t care what issues he was dealing with. He testified that they wanted him to just make the appointment they wanted and get "something good" in return.
Blagojevich says Harris advised him in this call to wait and see what the Obama administration offered for the Senate seat appointment, similar to when bidding on a house.
Blagojevich says he never decided he wanted to become an ambassador, despite previously mentioning this idea.
UPDATE: 2:46 p.m.
Blagojevich testified that David Axelrod was a close advisor to Obama and that Balanoff was Blagojevich's closest political supporter in Nov. 2008.
Blagojevich also confirmed he knew Balanoff had a close relationship with Obama.
Overall, in this call , Blagojevich says he's seeking Harris’ advice on what he should or should not say when Blagojevich meets with Balanoff, because Blagojevich says he wants to make sure he doesn’t give Balanoff the impression he is pledging to do something. That’s why Blagojevich wanted to "war game" with Harris, he says.
Blagojevich says he didn’t want to get rushed into a decision for senator because he wanted time to think through all of the angles they could think of or that came to them through the unfolding of events. When Blagojevich started to mention something about a full court press, the prosecution objected, and Judge Zagel sustained, saying Blagojevich rambled in his answer.
Blagojevich says he also asked Harris in this call about possible signals he received from Lisa Madigan. Blagojevich testified that Lisa Madigan was calling friends of Blagojevich’s for contributions, telling people that she was going to run for governor. Blagojevich says he viewed this as a sign that Lisa really wanted the Senate seat.
Blagojevich says he wanted to mention Lisa Madigan's name to Balanoff to remind him of the political gridlock he was dealing with because of Mike Madigan, because he needed to be aware of the real life challenges Blagojevich was already dealing with that would become worse if Lisa were not appointed to the Senate seat.
Blagojevich says at that time, appointing Lisa Madigan was a "very real possibility" for him.
UPDATE: 2:33 p.m.
Court returned from lunch break with Blagojevich still on the stand. In a call with Bob Greenlee from 12:19 p.m. on Nov. 4, 2008 , Blagojevich told Bob Greenlee that Doug Scofield thought it was a bad idea for Blagojevich to appoint himself to the Senate, and Blagojevich thought Scofield had an “angle” to disagree with him.
Blagojevich testified Bill Knapp and Fred Yang also thought it was a bad idea, but he testified he respected all their opinions, especially Knapp’s.
Blagojevich testified appointing himself to the seat was the only scenario any of his advisers didn’t like.
Blagojevich said he vented to Greenlee about Knapp disagreeing with him in the call, and apologized for the foul language he used in the call.
In the call, Blagojevich launches into a string of profanities about the people of Illinois turning on him after he gave their “grandmother a free f***ing rid eon a bus,” among other things. Blagojevich testified he was still venting when he made the remarks, and it was a case of “unrequited love.”
Blagojevich testified he saw Tom Balanoff that night at the rally in Grant Park for Barack Obama and Balanoff said he wanted to meet the next day to talk about the senate seat, but Blagojevich said he made no decisions that day.
Blagojevich confirmed Dennis Hastert called him Nov. 5, 2008 to offer advice and suggestions on who to appoint to the Senate. Hastert suggested possible trades, Blagojevich testified, including one where Hastert said "get your quid pro quo and make it a two-fer." Hastert suggested appointing Secretary of State Jesse White to the Senate because then Blagojevich would get to appoint a new secretary of state.
Blagojevich testified he mentioned appointing Lisa Madigan to Hastert and they discussed whether Madigan could be trusted to hold up his end. He testified they talked about how it would be another “two-fer” deal, where Blagojevich could appoint a new attorney general.
Blagojevich testified he trusted Hastert’s advice and it impacted how he thought about what to do with the seat, but he still had not made up his mind this day.
UPDATE: 12:39 p.m.
Blagojevich testified in the call from 1: 22 p.m. on Nov. 3, 2008 , he asked Harris to meet with Emil Jones off campus to see if he would help support his choice for the next State Senate president. Blagojevich testified he wanted Harris to tell Jones he shouldn’t publically announce if he wouldn’t run for a second term as U.S. Senator if Blagojevich appointed him in case Blagojevich wanted to run in 2010. Blagojevich testified he was already thinking about that and it would help Blagojevich because he had a lot of support in the African-American community.
Blagojevich testified he also wanted to keep Jones happy because he needed Jones’ help getting things done in Springfield.
In the call, Blagojevich says to Harris, “Do they think that, they think that I would just appoint Valerie Jarrett for nothin'? Just to make him happy?” The “him” refers to Obama, Blagojevich testified.
In the call, Blagojevich says Marilyn Katz was the first to call about appointing Jarrett to the Senate and she told Harris that Blagojevich would get good press and fundraising if he appointed her.
Blagojevich said he discussed various candidates this day but made no decisions.
Blagojevich said he also discussed the senate seat with Harris in a call at 8:57 a.m. on Nov. 4, 2008 . He testified he “vividly” remembers the call because it was Election Day and Harris was having breakfast at the Hollywood Grill at the time.
Blagojevich testified he told Harris there was an opportunity and he was going to make the decision on good faith for the people of Illinois. He testified what was always the principle he operated under when deciding what to do about the seat right up until the Madigan deal fell through.
In a call between Blagojevich and his wife, Patti from 9:39 a.m. on Nov. 4, 2008 , they talk about how much U.S. senators make. Blagojevich testified they discussed it because he was considering appoint himself, and that’s something you discuss with your wife. Blagojevich said he never saw his paychecks as governor and didn’t know how much he made; the checks went straight to Patti. He said Patti is his soul mate and he shares everything with her.
Blagojevich testified Doug Scofield set up a meeting for him with Tom Balanoff and Andy Stern on Nov. 3, 2008 and the probably began by talking about the election the next day. Blagojevich said Balanoff mentioned Jan Schakowsky for the seat and Blagojevich told him if he was going to run for governor again, he should be “sensitive to his voting base” and pick someone from the African-American community.
Blagojevich testified he shared his “political dynamic” with them and suggested making a deal with Mike Madigan to get more accomplished in Springfield. He testified he often asked himself “how much do I love the people of Illinois?” Enough to put aside differences and deal with Madigan?
Blagojevich testified Jesse Jackson Jr.’s name was mentioned in the meeting and Balanoff and Stern did not want him appointed. Blagojevich told them not to worry about it.
He also testified he believed Emil Jones was mentioned as a possible appointee during the meeting.
The jury was then sent to lunch and the attorneys met with the judge.
The judge told defense attorneys to have Blagojevich stick to the plan and not repeat answers he already gave. Zagel said he expected attorneys to wrap up their examination of Blagojevich by the end of the day, although he might allow them an hour Thursday.
Judge Zagel said there was a “certain flavor of campaign speeches” and the defense needed to exercise some control over their witness, asking leading questions to keep him on track. Zagel suggested rather than eat lunch, attorneys should work with Blagojevich on keeping his answers concise.
The judge said attorneys might be trying to run out the clock, but they’ve reached a point where it is not doing the trial any good.
UPDATE: 12:10 p.m.
Blagojevich testified the process he used to decide who to appoint to the Senate was slow and deliberate, and he wanted to announce it some time before Christmas. Blagojevich said there were many discussions about potential options and he invited and encouraged creative thinking. The best way to get good ideas was to get a lot of ideas and throw bad ones out, Blagojevich testified, quoting Linus Pauling.
In relation to a call with John Harris in which several names were mentioned, including Bill Daley and Lisa Madigan, Blagojevich testified Lisa Madigan was a credible choice because it would lead to better healthcare for Illinois. He said Madigan was a leading candidate in his mind.
When Blagojevich told Harris to look up who had been appointed to the Health and Human Services secretary position, he did so because he wanted to make sure he measured up to others in that spot, Blagojevich testified. Blagojevich was interested in the post before Oct. 2008, he said, and thought it was a natural place for him to land when he left office given his interest in healthcare.
Blagojevich testified he threw out the idea of being appointed UN ambassador as a way of brainstorming; he knew it was ridiculous but it was his way of thinking things through.
The defense asked about a call from 1:22 p.m. on Nov. 3, 2008 between Harris and Blagojevich. As they discussed senate seat options, Blagojevich testified they were part of using a “slow and deliberate” process to not reach out to anyone, since they knew people were going to approach them with deals and he would have to weather the storm until he was ready to decide who he should appoint.
Blagojevich testified when he mentioned the “carrot and the stick” regarding the Madigan deal, he was saying if he appointed her, Mike Madigan would help him accomplish his Springfield agenda (the carrot). If Blagojevich didn’t appoint her, then he would get the stick -- more legislative gridlock.
The jury was sent out of the room for a short break as the prosecution argued to the judge that the defense was bringing up arguments that previously it was decided they would not, and Blagojevich should be instructed not to do so.
The defense argued Blagojevich has an obligation to tell the truth, but the judge agreed with the prosecution and would give the jury an instruction on the subject.
The judge said Blagojevich was using a back door to suggest to the jury that the prosecution has deleted evidence from the transcripts, saying the points he wants to talk about are not part of what was submitted into evidence. Zagel said he expects Blagojevich to play by the rules.
UPDATE: 11:40 a.m.
After a short break, Blagojevich returned to the stand with the jury present. He testified he never decided what he wanted to do with the senate seat, nor did he threaten, demand or shake down anyone for the appointment.
Blagojevich testified all the discussions he had about the senate seat, he had in “good faith.”
The defense showed Blagojevich photos including John Harris, Bill Quinlan, Bob Greenlee, Bill Knapp, Fred Yang and Doug Scofield, who he identified. The attorney also showed Blagojevich a picture of his library, where Blagojevich testified he most often used the phone, and he described the room. Blagojevich asked the court to zoom in on the bust of Winston Churchill in the photo, and said he had read a “pretty good number” of the books in the library.
In reference to a different photo, Blagojevich pointed out a bust of Shakespeare and the phone where he sat to talk to Rahm Emanuel and Dennis Hastert about the senate seat. Blagojevich added he would use any phone in the house to do business.
Blagojevich confirmed he talked with Greenlee and Quinlan on Nov. 1, 2008 regarding the senate seat. He also said he had spoken with Quinlan on the subject many times before that call.
Blagojevich said in his Nov. 1 conversation, he talked to Quinlan about trying to leverage the senate seat to get millions in federal aid money for Illinois. Blagojevich said in the conversation, they discussed various candidates for the seat, but he made no decision, although the conversation impacted how he viewed the seat.
Nov. 2, 2008, Blagoejevich testified, he had more discussions about the seat but made no decision. The next day, Nov. 3, he talked with Greenlee about the seat and they put together a list of things he wanted to do before appointing himself. Blagojevich testified he told Greenlee to develop a list called “empty the cupboard,” but made no decision to appoint himself to the Senate that day.
Blagojevich confirmed he also talked to Quinlan Nov. 3, and Quinlan told him, “the more Obama is interested, the better it is” for Blagojevich.
The prosecution objected when the defense tried to ask if the conversations with Quinlan were influential to Blagojevich’s decision-making and the judge sustained.
UPDATE: 10:45 a.m.
Judge James Zagel said if the defense wanted to use Blagojevich’s three reasons why he thought the scenarios were legal, they are opening the door to another line of questions they might not want Blagojevich to have to answer.
The judge said Blagojevich cannot tell the jury about two of the reasons he thought the scenarios were legal -- his personal political experience and historical examples -- because they were vague and didn’t necessarily apply.
On the first point, the judge said Blagojevich never said on tape to anyone, “Is this legal? Should I talk to another attorney?” The defense argument is “no one told me it was illegal.”
The prosecution argued that this point should not be allowed because the jury instructions ask whether a good faith deal was being made for the senate seat, and whether Blagojevich believed it was legal is a different argument than “good faith.”
The defense attorneys argued that “is it legal” is part of the “good faith” deal process.
The prosecution said Blagojevich could say if he didn’t believe he was exchanging one thing for another, but has to leave out whether it was legal.
Zagel said it was hard for Blagojevich to argue he didn’t know he was exchanging one for the other because he said ‘not one for the other’ on tape many times. The defense said when Blagojevich says that on the tapes, he was saying it to people who had the same understanding as him.
Zagel said the defendant’s opinion on whether he was acting legally doesn’t really apply, so the defense can’t argue if Blagojevich thought he was legally, but they can argue if he thought he was acting in good faith.
UPDATE: 10:04 a.m.
Court was called into session for the day and the defense began questioning Blagojevich without the jury in the room as an “offer of proof” to determine whether the defense can pursue the line of questioning with the jury present.
Blagojevich testified he honestly believed when he was talking about a possible horse trade for the senate seat that all the scenarios he mentioned here legal. Blagojevich said he thought the Health and Human Services secretary position, the 501(c)(4) and an ambassadorship were all legal.
Blagojevich said he thought it was legal for three reasons: conversations with his senior staff and advisors led him to believe so, his 15 years experience in politics and he’d read in history books that President Gerald Ford offered Ronald Reagan a cabinet position and an ambassadorship to not run against him. Reagan rejected both.
Blagojevich gave several more historical examples and the judge said it was ok to do so.
Blagojevich said he thought all the scenarios were legal and he believed he would land in a “legal place” when he made his decision. He said he discussed all of his ideas with his advisors to test them, and Blagojevich said they liked some ideas more than others but never said, “You can’t do this.”
Blagojevich said discussions about the senate seat were brainstorming, and he was exploring ideas because he felt making the appointment was a unique opportunity.
Judge James Zagel said he wanted to know how Blagojevich’s personal experience in politics helped him believe the scenarios were legal. Blagojevich said he learned everything was a deal. In order to get the All Kids program approved in 2005, Blagojevich said he had to support a law putting caps on medical malpractice he didn’t like. Blagojevich said as governor and a congressman, he constantly had to horse trade to get results.
The defense argued to the judge that the line of questioning and three reasons are important because the case is centered on Blagojevich’s intent and state of mind, and if Blagojevich reasonably believed they were legal he has the right to explain.
The judge said if the defense wants to ask if Blagojevich thought the deals were legal, the jury has already heard that. Zagel said the defense may want to ask Blagojevich if his opinion that it was legal based solely on the fact that conversations were taped.
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