Ex-Blagojevich Aide John Harris Continues Testifying in Retrial; - FOX 32 News Chicago

Ex-Blagojevich Aide John Harris Continues Testifying in Retrial; Defense to Cross-Examine on Monday


As former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s ex-Chief of Staff continued testifying Thursday in Blagojevich’s retrial, testimony and evidence focused on the alleged senate seat shakedown and the alleged race track shakedown.

Complete Rod Blagojevich Trial Coverage >>

Key Points :

  • In calls played in court Thursday, Blagojevich reacts to news from Harris that Rahm Emanuel told him Valerie Jarrett would be appointed to a White House position. Right before court broke for lunch, conversations turned to appointing Jesse Jackson Jr.
  • During one of the breaks Thursday, Blagojevich was talking to a couple dozen third, fourth and fifth graders and told them not to get into politics. He turned to a fourth grader and said, “if I knew you a few years ago, I might have appointed you to the U.S. Senate.”
  • Wednesday, prosecutors played recordings in which Blagojevich was heard swearing at the White House after Harris explained that Obama advisor Rahm Emanuel would offer nothing more than thanks and appreciation for appointing Valerie Jarrett to the Senate.
  • On another tape, Blagojevich described what he hoped the senate seat could get for him. “See, here, I don't wanna, I’m gonna sound, this is the greedy part here. In a perfect scenario, you know, i can, i, i, i can be in a place where i can make money, have the promise to make more money while at the same time be involved in and engaged in a cause or causes that i really believe in,” Blagojevich said in the recording.
  • Court wrapped up for the week about 2:20 p.m. after the prosecution finsihed questioning Harris. Aaron Goldstein -- the defense attorney who was slated to cross-examine Harris -- had gone home sick.


UPDATE:  2:22 p.m.
Prosecution asked Harris about who Cheryle Jackson is, and why Blagojevich didn’t want to consider her for the Senate seat.

Harris testified that she is an African American woman who is a former Blagojevich communication director. He said Blagojevich was mad at her, saying she bounced a campaign check to him and hand not "made it good."

Prior to the Dec. 4, 2008 phone call , Harris testified he was not aware that Blagojevich was going to reconsider Jackson Jr. for the Senate seat and that Harris was unaware of the $1.5 million in campaign contributions Jackson Jr.'s people were offering in exchange for the Senate seat.

Harris testified Blagojevich wanted him to make a call to Rahm Emanuel to find out if Jackson Jr. was still acceptable to President-elect Obama to be appointed to the Senate seat.

The prosecution finished questioning Harris.

Judge Zagel sent the jury out of the courtroom and called the counsel up to the bench.

Blagojevich defense attorney Sheldon Sorosky asked the court to recess until Monday because Aaron Goldstein – the attorney who was slated to cross-examine Harris – went home sick.

The judge asked the prosecution if it had any other testimony for now, and they said they did not..

Judge Zagel said he will tell the jury that Goldstein went home sick, and will let them go home early.

Since there is no court on Fridays, court is done for the week, and will be back in session Monday at 9:30 am.

UPDATE:  2:14 p.m.
Court is back in session after a lunch break.

The prosecution resumes questioning Harris about a call at 11:23 a.m. on Dec. 4, 2008 .

In the call, Harris says Blagojevich explained to him why Blagojevich is reconsidering Jesse Jackson Jr. for the Senate seat. Blagojevich talked about needing a back-up plan if appointing Lisa Madigan doesn’t work out.

Harris testified that Blagojevich said it was a mistake to not consider Jackson Jr. earlier, calling it a tactical mistake.

In the call, Harris says Blagojevich had already taken steps to make Jackson Jr. the appointee by setting up a meeting for Monday. Harris says he didn’t know about this until now.

Harris testified Blagojevich didn’t like Jackson Jr. because he pulled his support for Blagojevich in his re-election campaign and endorsed Roland Burris instead of Blagojevich at his father’s behest.

In the call, Blagojevich says Jackson Jr.’s people have offered him $1.5 million in exchange for appointing him to the Senate seat. Harris says he didn’t know about this prior to this phone call.

Harris testified he had no knowledge of Blagojevich ever asking the Obama Administration for anything in exchange for Senate seat.

Harris testified that Blagojevich saw some political benefit to select Jackson Jr. for the seat, because it would help him among his black voter base.

UPDATE:  12:44 p.m.
After questioning Harris on the race track bill and money for the Cubs, the prosecution turned back to discussions of the senate seat. When it became clear in November that Jarrett wasn’t interested in senate seat, Harris testified Blagojevich wanted to search for different names to appoint. Harris testified Blagojevich maintained control over this search.

Harris testified he and Blagojevich discussed Jesse Jackson Jr. as a possible appointment, and though Blagojevich rejected it at first, he later indicated he was considering Jackson Jr. after all.

The prosecution played a recorded conversation from 11:23 a.m. on Dec. 4, 2008 . In the call, Blagojevich tells Harris he thinks he dismissed Jackson too early and that he might consider him as a fall back if he’s prepared to put Lisa Madigan in the Senate.

Blagojevich tells Harris he’s been approached by third parties with offers of campaign contributions and help around $1.5 million.

Blagojevich and Harris talk about how to explain to Tom Balanoff that they decided to go with Jackson, and say he’s a good pick for the black community, saying he’s an “Uber-African American.” Blagojevich dismisses other potential black candidates, including cursing about Cheryle Jackson and saying she bounced a check.

Harris and Blagojevich agree Jackson Jr. is a good pick and Blagojevich asks Harris to call Rahm Emanuel when they hang up.

Court then took a break for lunch.


UPDATE:  12:28 p.m.
Harris’ testimony then turned to Blagojevich wanting to ingratiate himself to the Chicago Cubs and be friendly to them. Harris testified Blagojevich told him to get the Cubs anywhere from $1 million to $15 million in state funding.

The prosecution played a recorded conversation from 9:26 a.m. on Dec. 3, 2008 . In the call, Blagojevich tells Harris he spoke to Marc Ganis for some ideas about supporting the Cubs. Ganis was a sports facility consultant that worked with the Cubs.

Blagojevich wanted Harris to verify that the White Sox got $15 million from the Ill. Sports Authority and Blagojevich wanted to know about giving the Cubs a grant for environmental initiatives or technology, Harris testified.

Harris said he told Blagojevich the White Sox money was different because the state owns that ballpark.

The prosecution played a conversation between Blagojevich and Harris from 9:57 a.m. on Dec. 3, 2008 . In the call, Blagojevich tells Harris he spoke with Ganis and Crane Kenney and that Kenney thought the environmental or technological initiative idea was good.

In the call, Harris asks Blagojevich why he is fixated on $15 million, and Blagojevich replies it’s because that’s what the White Sox got. Harris tells him the White Sox are different, that the Cubs are a private, for-profit entity and he doesn’t think they should give them money.

Blagojevich says Ganis told him $1.5 million was nothing, and he suggests the Cubs could match the grant as a “public-private thing.”

Harris testified Blagojevich promised the money to the Cubs and they had to figure out a way to "back into," or justify, giving the state grant to the Cubs.

Harris testified Blagojevich told him to have a street named after Jim Hendry, the Cubs manager.


UPDATE:  12:08 p.m.
The prosecution played a recorded phone call from Nov. 26, 2008 at 12:53 p.m. In the call, Blagojevich asks if the government can pay for a Christmas party because he doesn’t want the campaign paying for it. Harris asks Blagojevich if he talked to Lon Monk about the race track bill, and Blagojevich said he wants to sit on it until he sorts through other bills.

Harris testified he wasn’t sure what else Blagojevich wanted to review and knew of no reason not to act on the bill.

Following the call, Harris testified he talked to Bill Quinlan about the bill not being signed and told Quinlan he was concerned Blagojevich may be holding it up to get more campaign contributions from the race track industry. He sais he wanted Quinlan to get Blagojevich to sign the bill on a trip they were about to go on.

The prosecution played a recording from 7:41 a.m. on Dec. 2, 2008 between Harris and Quinlan. In the call, Quinlan tells Harris he tried to push the bill on Blagojevich, but he held off. Harris asks why he won’t sign it, and Quinlan tells Harris “let’s just say, it is what you think.”

The judge stopped the testimony briefly to explain what he meant by letting evidence be introduced to explain someone’s state of mind.

The prosecution went back to questioning Harris about what he did after the phone call with Quinlan. Harris testified he decided not to take further action, viewing it as a matter between Blagojevich and Monk, and he thought they would work it out.


UPDATE:  11:42 a.m.
The prosecution turned their questioning of Harris to legislation that was pending in 2008 on the gaming and horse racing industry. Harris testified a bill that had been passed by the Illinois General Assembly was waiting for Blagojevich’s signature. The race track bill would have directed casino money to subsidize horse racing tracks.

Harris testified he received calls from Lon Monk, Chris Kelly and State Rep. Jay Hoffman to see the bill signed sooner rather than later.

In the call from Monk, Harris testified, Monk asked if Blagojevich was ready to sign bill and if he could expedite it, because it was costing the horse track industry thousands of dollars a day. At the time, Monk was a lobbyist representing race track owner John Johnston.

When Kelly called, Harris testified, Kelly told Harris that he had interest in seeing "fast action" on the bill being signed.

After receiving the calls from Monk and Kelly, Harris said he spoke to the staff to see if the bill was ready to be signed and then talked to Blagojevich about it.

The prosecution entered into exhibits a chain of emails from Nov. 26, 2008 between Harris, Bill Quinlan, Bob Greenlee and Matthew Summy, who reviewed bills ready for Blagojevich’s signature and prepared them.

In the email, Harris asks the three men if there was any reason they couldn’t sign the bill that day. Greenlee replies it was ok from his end and he assumed Blagojevich was okay with it, Quinlan replied he need to check the rules language first, to make sure there no "posion pills" written in that would limit the Blagojevich administration's rule-making powers, Harris testified.

Harris replied that he needed an answer quickly because it was costing the industry tens of thousands a day, Harris testified.

Quinlan later replied the bill was okay to sign.


UPDATE:  11:05 a.m.
Harris testified that he met with Emil Jones on Nov. 12 in part because Blagojevich directed him to. Harris testified he told Jones that Blagojevich was thinking about appointing himself to the Senate but was also considering Jones.

Harris testified he did not talk to Jones about Blagojevich getting his campaign war chest in exchange for the Senate because he knew Blagojevich would be angry and would send him back or want to talk to Jones about it himself.

The prosecution played another call from Nov. 12, 2008, this one at 5:30 p.m. In the call between Blagojevich and Harris, Harris tells Blagojevich about how his conversation with Jones went. Harris tells Blagojevich he told Jones that Blagojevich thought Jones could be helpful in the Senate if Blagojevich was “stuck” back in Illinois.

Harris tells Blagojevich he also mentioned “this big bucket of money,” asking if he was going to help like-minded candidates.

In the recording, Harris tells Blagojevich that Jones said he didn’t want to serve in the Senate after the end of Obama’s term in two years. Blagojevich says he doesn’t like that.

Harris tells Blagojevich he told Jones not to tell anyone about their conversation, and asked Jones what how he thought Obama would like his appointment. Blagojevich marvels at his answer, that he doesn’t think Obama will “go out of his way to stop it.”

Harris tells Blagojevich he mentioned that with the ethics bill Jones passed, Blagojevich is going to need extra help from Washington to get things done, so he’d need a friend there. Harris tells Blagojevich he thinks Jones really wants the senate seat and that he could be helpful to Blagojevich.

At the end of the call, Harris tells Blagojevich he tried to leave Jones with the impression that he was on the top of Blagojevich’s list, and reassures Blagojevich that Jones would not try to take the Blagojevich’s power to appoint himself away.

Harris testified that he did not give an accurate account of the conversation to Blagojevich, lying that he talked to Jones about his campaign war chest. Instead, Harris testified, he focused only on how Blagojevich and Jones would remain strong allies.


UPDATE:  10:39 a.m.
The prosecution played a call from 10:32 a.m. on Nov. 12, 2008 that took place immediately after the call they played previously. In, Blagojevich speaks to Mary Stewart, a staff member, and tells her to get Tom Balanoff on the phone.

Harris testified he did not know Blagojevich would contact Balanoff when they got off the phone and that he thought they were going to think about it more.

The prosecution played another conversation from that afternoon, recorded at 12:36 p.m. Nov. 12, 2008 . In it, Blagojevich tells Harris that whatever decision they make has to be based on his legal situation, his personal situation and his political situation.

Blagojevich tells Harris that his legal situation, specifically the “Rezko thing,” will be easier to deal with if he leaves Illinois.

Harris testified that Blagojevich was saying he would appoint himself to the Senate if the “Rezko thing” got worse because he felt the justice department would back off their investigation of Blagojevich if were more closely aligned in D.C.

Harris testified Blagojevich meant his family finances by “personal situation” and a job that would keep Blagojevich politically viable by his “political situation.”

Although Blagojevich told him to meet with Jones, Harris testified, Jarrett was still his top choice.


UPDATE:  10:26 a.m.
The prosecution began playing a recorded phone call between Blagojevich and Fred Yang from 9:35 a.m. on Nov. 12, 2008 . In the call, Blagojevich and Yang discuss a report that Jarrett will be given a position at the White House and how they think it affects Blagojevich’s chances of making a deal with the Obama administration.

Yang and Blagojevich discuss whether he still could be named Health and Human Services secretary and if they should create a 501 (c4) nonprofit organization for which they could ask for donations. Yang tells Blagojevich that he likes the idea of Blagojevich running the SEIU’s Change to Win campaign more.

Harris testified that day, he received a call from Rahm Emanuel that Jarrett was taking a White House appointment and Obama had a list of candidates Blagojevich could consider for the Senate.

The prosecution then played a call from 10:26 a.m. the same day between Blagojevich and Harris .

In the call, Harris told Blagojevich about the call from Emanuel, and said in no particular order, the Obama administration recommended Jesse Jackson Jr., Jan Schakowsky, Tammy Duckworth, and Dan Hynes.

Harris tells Blagojevich in the call that it was “unspoken” that they don’t want Emil Jones appointed, and that Emanuel said there was no one else authorized to have conversations with Blagojevich about the appointment, no matter what else has been said.

Harris and Blagojevich discuss what they think the call from Emanuel means in terms of future cabinet positions and say that Mayor Daley was pushing Jarrett.

Harris also says in the call that it seems the Obama administration was reducing the importance of the appointment with a list that contains "two whites, a black and an Asian," saying it was like the only thing didn’t want was Jones.

Harris testified Blagojevich told him call Emanuel for help creating a nonprofit foundation, but Blagojevich agreed not to make the call until they thought about it more.


UPDATE:  9:59 a.m.
Court was called into session for the day. The prosecution began playing the Nov. 12 taped conversation between Harris and Blagojevich they left off on the day before, in which Blagojevich says it’s very important to make a lot of money and that he needs it because of the "public vulnerability" his family is under due to the federal investigation. Blagojevich talks about how hard it is that he won’t be able to send his kids to college because he has to pay for all these lawyers.

Harris testified that, in the recording, when Blagojevich asked Harris if he should make Jarrett senator without a promise from the Obama administration, Harris told Blagojevich that Jarrett could be a strong ally and help him be a more effective governor.

Harris testified Blagojevich didn’t agree with him and that he wanted something that would meet his financial needs and get him out of the governorship.


UPDATE:  8:52 a.m.
Blagojevich left his house for court, driving a gray Nissan SUV.


Rod Blagojevich Scandal: More Key Players

Visit the "Who's Who" page to learn more about the former Illinois governor , his co-defendants, inner circle, the legal team and what people like President Obama , Sen. Dick Durbin and other high-profile people have to do with the case. >>

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