Rod Blagojevich Testifies for Second Day at Corruption Trial - FOX 32 News Chicago

Rod Blagojevich Testifies for Second Day at Corruption Trial


Ousted Gov. Rod Blagojevich took the stand for a second day in his corruption trial Friday morning. His testimony focused on the racetrack bill, and Blagojevich presented reasons he was waiting on the bill that contradicted the prosecution’s theory of the shakedown.

Complete Rod Blagojevich Trial Coverage >>

Key Points:

  • In his testimony Friday, Blagojevich presented an alternate explanation for why he was waiting to sign the racetrack legislation, and the defense played their first audio recording. Blagojevich testified he was worried about “Madigan shenanigans” and “poison pill language” buried in the bill designed to trap him when he signed it, and testified Chris Kelly wanted to get him to sign the bill to leverage a presidential pardon on an income tax charge. The defense played its first recording on the Kelly issue. One prosecutor laughed when Blagojevich made this argument.
  • The former governor brought his 14-year-old daughter Amy to court, and his demeanor Friday was relaxed as he cracked a few jokes that got jurors to laugh. The jury seemed relaxed as well and on board with him. The binder of transcripts that was given to the jury was less than an inch thick, and the jury looked relieved to not get another huge binder of recordings.
  • Thursday, Blagojevich testified for hours about his life, then denied testimony that he shook down a school in Congressman Rahm Emanuel’s district and racetrack owner John Johnston. Blagojevich was on the stand for approximately seven hours Thursday, often delving into tangents that prompted the judge to ask him to get back to the point. Blagojevich weaved a tale of a guy who struggled to succeed in life despite numerous failed efforts. He told stories of his failed NBA and baseball aspirations in high school, his time working the Alaskan pipeline, a construction job in the 70s that got him free Suave shampoo that “smelled like strawberries” and his first job out of law school from Ald. Ed Vrdolyak.
  • In the afternoon, the testimony turned to the allegations he faces. Blagojevich said he didn’t recall every having a conversation with Jesse Jackson Jr. in which he snapped like Elvis and told him, “You should have given me that $25,000.” Blagojevich also flatly denied ever tying the Chicago Academy grant to an Ari Emanuel fundraiser and painted his relationship with Johnston as a longtime friendship between a politician and his political supporter.
  • Blagojevich peppered his tales with names of his favorite historical figures, including his “mancrush on Alexander Hamilton,” celebrities he spotted while studying law at Pepperdine in Malibu and a number of political figures that are relatively popular in Chicago, including David Axelrod, Barack Obama and Richard Daley.
  • The defense also returned to a theme they tried to use to discredit Lon Monk’s testimony when Blagojevich described meeting Monk. Blagojevich described how impressed he was with Monk’s family; Monk’s father was an OBGYN that delivered tennis star Tracy Austin. Blagojevich’s testimony was full of details that portrayed Monk’s wealth, including peacocks in his backyard (which got a sustained objection from the prosecution) and the former governor talked about how much he looked up to and trusted Monk.
  • Blagojevich’s testimony Friday was abbreviated as the jury will be excused for Memorial Day Weekend at noon.


UPDATE:   2:54 p.m. 
After meeting with attorneys, Judge James Zagel admitted one audio recording for the defense and left a few as a possibility depending on Blagojevich’s testimony. All parties went home for the long weekend, and court resumes with Blagojevich on the stand Tuesday. His direct examination could last until the end of next week, and then prosecutors will have a chance to cross-examine.


UPDATE:   12:24 p.m. 
After the jury was excused, laywers and the judge returned to court to continue addressing which recordings the defense can play during testimony.

UPDATE:   11:49 a.m.
The defense turned to a recording from the Friends of Blagojevich campaign office from 2:13 p.m. on Dec. 3, 2008 . In the call, Monk tells Blagojevich he is going to Oklahoma to be with his father. Blagojevich testified Monk’s father was in his 80s and suffering from Alzheimers.

Blagojevich testified he believed Monk was telling him the truth and was going to Oklahoma.

Blagojevich testified he and Monk would argue as friends do, but it wouldn’t affect their friendship. Blagojevich testified Monk would yell at him more than he would yell at Monk.

Later in recorded conversation, Blagojevich testified he and Monk were talking about the Johnston’s commitment, whether it would happen and how to get it. Blagojevich testified he and Monk were “war gaming” how to have the conversation with Johnston. Blagojevich said when Monk says in the call “without crossing the line,” they wanted to be sure they stayed within the law and didn’t inadvertently break and laws by linking the contribution to passing the bill.

When Monk says in the call, “give us the money and one has nothing to do with the other,” Blagojevich testified it was expressing that they wanted to make clear to Johnston that the bill had nothing to do with the contribution.

Blagojevich testified he told Monk “it’s been a year,” meaning the commitment had been made a year ago and he wanted to just get it done.

Blagojevich testified when, in the call, he says “What are you gonna say to him? Be careful,” he was telling Monk to follow the law when he talks to Johnston.

Monk tells Blagojevich in the call “I'm gonna say, I'm gonna say to him, stop screwin' around, get me the money (UI), the concern is, is that, um, he, you know, holding back and want to group all these bills together, but what's affecting him is that he feels like you're gonna get skittish if he signs the bill, get me?. I'm going to use the word skittish.”

Blagojevich testified he understood Monk to be speaking to Blagojevich as he would talk to Johnston, and he trusted Monk to follow the law and do the best thing for his clients. Blagojevich testified he thought Monk was an honest and smart guy and would do the right thing for his clients.

Blagojevich testified when he added that “he’d like some separation between that and signing the bill ...a week,” he was referring to wanting there to be distance between when the contribution came in and when he signed the bill. Blagojevich testified ideally, he would have liked longer, but he doesn’t know why he just said “a week.”

After the conversation, Blagojevich testified, he understood Monk would talk to Johnston, not cross any lines or break any laws, and he would make clear that one was not for the other, meaning the bill.

Blagojevich testified he was not trying to hold up the bill for the fundraiser.

The defense turned to another recorded call from 4:11 p.m. on Dec. 3, 2008 between Blagojevich and Monk. In the call, Monk tells Blagojevich he just left Johnston and describes what they talked about.

In the call, Monk says Johnston told him he would make the contribution within two weeks, when Johnston was planning to leave.

Blagojevich testified he understood Monk to be saying Johnston was going to make the contribution and saying Monk did not link the bill and the contribution when talking to Johnston.

The defense tried to turn to another call, but Blagojevich interrupted his lawyer a few times to bring up that Blagojevich responded “good” to Monk.

The defense turned to a call from 9:09 a.m. on Dec. 4, 2008 between Monk and Blagojevich. In the call, Blagojevich and Monk talk about who should call Johnston, and Blagojevich responds to Monk’s suggestion that he call Johnston.

Monk says in the recording it’s better from a “pressure point of view” for Blagojevich to call, which Blagojevich testified was a response to Blagojevich thinking he shouldn’t make the call because of the pending racetrack bill. Blagojevich testified he trusted Monk’s opinion so he agrees.

Blagojevich testified he did not call Johnston after the call, and before he was arrested on Dec. 9, 2008, the last time Blagojevich talked to Johnston was in July 2008. Blagojevich testified he didn’t want to call Johnston because he didn’t want Johnston to feel any pressure directly from him.

Blagojevich testified he said “I’ll call him” in the recording, even though he wasn’t going to, because sometimes, his words outpace his ideas or his judgment, and that sometimes he speaks before he thinks things through fully. Blagojevich said he realized that it was a bad idea for him to call Johnston directly.

Blagojevich testified he spoke with Monk evening Dec. 9, 2008, after he was arrested, but they did not speak about this again before he was arrested. On that day, Blagojevich testified, about two weeks had elapsed since the bill was passed and sent to his office.

The governor had 60 days to sign the bill, Blagojevich said, after which point it automatically becomes law.

Blagojevich testified again he did not hold the bill up to get a contribution from Johnston and was not trying to force Johnston to give him a contribute.

“My intention was to follow the law,” Blagojevich testified, “in an area which can be delicate because of the politics of the law.”

The judge then excused the jury until 9:30 Tuesday morning.


UPDATE:   11:26 a.m.
The defense continued questioning Blagojevich about the racetrack bill, and Blagojevich testified he was concerned about signing the bill close to receiving campaign donations.

Blagojevich testified in May 2006, when he signed the first recapture bill, he “took some hits in the media” because the Johnstons had donated almost $200,000 to him in the past. Blagojevich testified in 2008, he wanted to keep some separation between signing the bill and the support of the Johnstons so he wouldn’t get hit by the media again.

The defense turned to another recorded conversation from 12:19 p.m. on Nov. 26, 2008 , in which Blagojevich and Monk discuss Johnston and the recapture bill.

In the call, Monk says he followed up with John Harris on the bill and Harris said Blagojevich was “struggling with it,” to which Blagojevich replies “No, I'll talk to you about that. I'm not struggling with it. That, it's a timing issue, that's all.”

Blagojevich testified he meant that he was happy with the bill, but was waiting to sort out of if there were any “Madigan shenanigans” in the bill.

When Monk says in the recording, “Okay. I mean, just so you know, all of these guys are just now breathing down my neck,” Blagojevich testified that was Monk “taking off the friendship hat” and being a lobbyist, trying to get his bill signed.

Blagojevich testified when Monk says in the call, “so you’re not gonna do anything before that,” Blagojevich understood Monk to be making sure Blagojevich wasn’t going to veto it, and Blagojevich reassured him he wasn’t going to veto it.

Blagojevich testified he was not holding the bill up to get a contribution from Johnston.


UPDATE:   11:11 a.m.
Blagojevich testified in his mind, a “commitment” to contribute does not in any way that is “has to be done,” nor is it a forced thing. Blagojevich testified anyone in office is unable to run an effective campaign without the necessary funds to take their case to the voters. He testified he thought it was an imperfect system -- but that was stricken after a prosecution’s objection was sustained.

Blagojevich testified on Thanksgiving 2008 (Nov. 27), around 9 or 10 p.m., he received a call from Chris Kelly. The last time they had a conversation, Blagojevich testified, was 10 to 14 months previously, so the call was a surprise. He said they talked for an hour to an hour and a half.

At the time, Kelly had been indicted for a personal income tax issue. During the call, Kelly said he was trying to get a presidential pardon, Blagojevich testified. Kelly told Blagojevich he was approached by Bernie Kosar, who said he was going to approach Jeb Bush, the governor of Florida, to approach President George W. Bush to get Kelly a pardon. At the time, Blagojevich did not see a connection between the recapture bill and Kelly’s pardon.

Blagojevich testified later that week, he was thinking about Kelly and the call, and the thought crossed his mind that something about the pardon (that Blagojevich didn’t think was very realistic), with the Florida connection, knowing Kelly’s close relationship with the Johnston family and the Steinbrenner family (who lives in Tampa), that maybe Kelly was meddling behind Blagojevich’s back with the recapture bill. Blagojevich thought perhaps Kelly wanted to take credit for getting the recapture bill to get the pardon from Bush. During this part of the testimony, Blagojevich repeatedly mentioned how, mostly, he felt bad for the hard time Kelly was going through, but the “cynical” side of him thought about the recapture side.

Dec. 1, 2008 travelled to Philadelphia in the state plane to meet with the president and all the governors in the U.S. On the plane, Blagojevich testified he had a conversation with Bill Quinlan about the call from Kelly on Thanksgiving. Quinlan told Blagojevich that Kelly had told him he had a real interest in the recapture bill, Blagojevich testified, and Quinlan said Kelly was pressing him to get Blagojevich to sign the bill. Blagojevich testified he then connected the dots, thinking “now I understand,” in his effort for a presidential pardon Kelly was enlisting the Johnstons and Steinbrenners for their Florida connection. Blagojevich said it was a big “red flag” to be careful with the bill going forward, because it was something Kelly might do.

The defense then played their first audio recording, from 5:12 p.m. on Dec. 4, 2008, in which Blagojevich and Quinlan talk about Kelly. In the call, Quinlan tells Blagojevich he talked to Kelly, who told Quinlan he got “bad news.” Quinlan tells Blagojevich he thinks it might be what he mentioned “on the plane,” in addition to other things. Blagojevich says he agrees, and that must be what Kelly wants to talk to him about.

Blagojevich testified that he understood “what I mentioned on the plane” to mean the recapture bill, and that put all doubt aside in his mind that Kelly was trying to get Blagojevich to pass the bill to get a presidential pardon.

“I really, really, really resent this guy now,” Blagojevich says in the call. “It’s bulls***, bulls***.” (A child’s voice is heard in the background at this point)

Blagojevich and Quinlan agree the conversation could be a lot of things, and Quinlan thinks that Blagojevich should talk to Kelly but shouldn’t agree to anything.

Blagojevich says in the recording he doesn’t want to have a conversation with Kelly about it, because it could mean he couldn’t be for the bill anymore. Blagojevich says he wants to do the bill on his time. Blagojevich testified he was worried Kelly would put him in a position where he couldn’t sign a bill Blagojevich was supportive of because he could get caught up in something “wrong.”

“Now I know why he called me on Thanksgiving. He’s so full of s***,” Blagojevich says.

Blagojevich testified before the call, he had gotten a message from his assistant that Kelly had called and said he needed to see Blagojevich “urgently,” even just for five minutes. Blagojevich said that was red flag to him, so he called his lawyer, Quinlan, to make sure he didn’t get caught up in anything that could potentially be very wrong. Quinlan probably offered to talk to Kelly, Blagojevich testified, as Quinlan had a very good relationship with Kelly.

Blagojevich testified during the conversation he had with Quinlan on the plane, he never told Quinlan he was waiting to sign the recapture bill for a committed contribution.


UPDATE:   10:50 a.m.
The defense turned to the recapture bill, which was a bill Blagojevich signed in 2006 that set up revenue sharing in the gaming industry, broadly. In that case, the riverboat casino owners would have to share some of their revenue with the horse tracks, because when the riverboat casinos came on to the scene in the 80s, they took some of the business away from the horse tracks and that affected the horse industry in Illinois.

Blagojevich said he supported the legislation in 2006 because supporting the horse industry seemed fair, and he was in favor of the bill in Nov. 2008, as well. Blagojevich testified he thinks Harris told him the bill arrived Nov. 26, 2008.

When a bill was ready to be signed, Blagojevich testified, he had a bill review process. Lawyers and staffers in his office would gather information on all the bills and they would provide briefings for Blagojevich to review with his top staff that would explain basic facts: what the bill does, arguments for it, against, who was for it, against it, special interests who support it or don’t and the vote total in the legislature.

Blagojevich testified he was very aware of “poison pill language” as governor, which meant the legislature would sneak language into the bill that the governor would not like or support or would possibly take away his power. Blagojevich testified House Speaker Mike Madigan was an enemy of Blagojevich’s at the time and would sneak the “poison pill language” in frequently. Blagojevich testified if he missed the language, it would potentially be very bad -- like it could undo the free rides for seniors he secured as governor.

At the time, Blagojevich said, Madigan and his daughter, Lisa, were suing him to say Blagojevich didn’t have the power to do some healthcare things he was working on. Blagojevich said if he signed something that might say the governor didn’t have the power to do so, he could undermine his chances of winning the court cases.

“This was a chess game going on between me and Mike Madigan,” Blagojevich said. He testified he wanted to look at bills carefully to look for hidden language to protect the things he wanted to do for the people of Illinois. Blagojevich said the legislature would especially have to be careful on bills he supported.

Blagojevich testified it was primarily the job of Bill Quinlan and his team of lawyers to review the language.

UPDATE:   10:19 a.m.
The defense brought up the transcript for a recorded call from 10:05 a.m. on Nov. 13, 2008 between Rod and Robert Blagojevich. Robert told Blagojevich in the call that Monk told him Johnston was “good for it,” meaning he would fulfill his commitment to contribute or raise $100,000 before the end of the year, even though they missed the end of Oct.

Blagojevich presumed Robert was quoting Monk, who was quoting Johnston, who said “I got to just decide what accounts to get it out of.” Blagojevich understood that to mean the commitment was coming imminently.

In the call, Robert says “and Lon’s going to talk to you about some sensitivities legislatively tonight with the timing of all of this.” Blagojevich testified he took that to mean there was some bill in the legislature that was working its way through.

When Blagojevich says in the call “before the end of the year, right?,” Blagojevich testified he meant he was talking about the campaign disclosure deadlines at the end of the year he wanted to meet.

Blagojevich testified originally, he thought this commitment would come in by the June 30, 2008 campaign disclosure deadline, but then in September, he was told it would come in October, and now in November, he thought it would come in any day.

The defense then referred to a call from 10:54 a.m. on Nov. 22, 2008 between Blagojevich and Monk in which Monk tells Blagojevich Johnston was getting irritated with the team because he said “I’m good for it.” Blagojevich testified he understood this call to mean Johnston was getting upset with Monk’s persistence and told them he was going to stay true to his commitment.

Turning back to the Nov. 13 call, Blagojevich testified that evening, he went to a Bulls game with the president of Motorola but he didn’t recollect any conversations that night about Johnston. Blagojevich testified he recalled talking to the Motorola president about Motorola’s business.

The defense brought up the transcript of another recorded call from 6:25 p.m. on Nov. 24, 2008 between Blagojevich and Monk.

In the call, Monk says “I pressed Johnny again today, he said ‘I wanna do something with Gupta.’ I said ‘no. I, I need you to do it separately. We're, we're playing too many games here.’ He goes, ‘okay, you and I'll get together Monday, and we'll work it out. I'll get you the money.’”

Blagojevich testified this meant Monk pressed Johnston again, who told him he wanted to do an event with Gupta (a businessman who had been a previous supporter of Blagojevich), and Monk went on to tell Johnston that he needed to do something separate. Blagojevich testified he understood Johnston told Monk that they would meet Monday (Dec. 1, 2008) and work something out. Blagojevich testified he understood that despite all the missed deadlines, the contribution would now occur on Dec. 1, and he believed Monk.

Blagojevich testified it’s a “natural thing” that people procrastinate on donations, that it’s human nature that most people would not want to give money, and that’s why he set deadlines. Blagojevich said you always ask and give them a choice, but you want to give them a timeline, and the law that requires campaign disclosures gives a good option for a deadline for supporters.


UPDATE:   10 a.m.
Court was called into session and Blagojevich resumed his testimony. The defense reminded Blagojevich that they left off on Thursday talking about John Johnston. Blagojevich testified in early 2008, he understood that the Johnstons committed to raise of contribute $100,000 to his campaign fund, as they had in the past. Blagojevich testified Monk told him about this commitment.

In Sept. 2008, Blagojevich said Monk told him Johnston’s commitment would be filled by the end of Oct. 2008. Blagojevich explained “call lists” are lists of people who had contributed or raised money in the past or people who might be willing to do so in the future that were prepared by campaign staff so Blagojevich or others could call them to request money. Blagojevich said Chrissy Jacobs, who worked with his brother in the campaign office, likely prepared these lists.

The defense entered into evidence a call list from Sept. 22, 2008. The list included names, numbers and a column for “status.” Johnston was on the list, and in the status column it said “Rod 9/17, committed to 100k by the end of Oct.” Blagojevich testified he understood Johnston would deliver the money by the end of Oct., and the Johnstons always fulfilled their commitments in the past so he had no doubt at that time that the commitment would be met.

The defense entered into evidence a spreadsheet from a fundraising meeting on Oct. 8, 2008 that updated the status of individuals or organizations what might contribute by the end of the fundraising cycle Dec. 31, 2008. Blagojevich said at the meeting it would have been him, his brother Rob, Monk and John Wyma. On the list, Johnston is marked with Oct., meaning to Blagojevich his $100,000 commitment would be fulfilled by the end of October. The spreadsheet lists a low goal and high goal of fundraising for each individual based on past donation, research and gut instinct about the individual, Blagojevich said. Johnston was marked with $100,000 for low and high goal, Blagojevich said, because that is what Monk told him and the Johnstons always came through with their commitments in the past.


UPDATE:  9:34 a.m.
Blagojevich was in the courtroom at the Dirsken Federal Building with his usual briefcase. He brought his 14-year-old daughter Amy to court for the day.




Blago on Stand for 2nd Day of Testimony   | Originally reported by:


Rod Blagojevich Scandal: More Key Players

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