Last week, the government rested its second corruption case against former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich after calling only a handful of witnesses.
Today, Blagojevich begins his defense.
Blagojevich has absolutely nothing to lose (besides his freedom), so expect him to put some of the nation’s top politicians on the stand: Rahm Emanuel, Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., Senator Harry Reid, Senator Dick Durbin…
In 2008, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was a falling star. His approval ratings were in the dumps. Speaker of the House Mike Madigan loathed him and his legislators were sick of him not signing bills.
Then, Barack Obama was elected president and Blagojevich finally had to make a decision: who to appoint to fill Obama’s vacant Senate seat. All of a sudden, the phone starting ringing and people started arranging meetings with him.
Since Blagojevich hadn’t made a decision in years, he had no idea what to do or how to vet the candidates. His top advisors weren’t helping much besides saying “yeah, yeah” to every idea the governor threw at the wall, from whether he should appoint Valerie Jarrett, Oprah or even himself.
His advisors were also arranging for powerful people — from big-money donors to lobbyists — to meet with their boss and put their choices in the hat. SEIU union leader Tom Balanoff even stated (in the first trial), “If he didn’t appoint Valerie Jarrett, he would no longer have [SEIU] support.”
He also had the Illinois Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. dilemma.
He knew the Congressman was on a mission to prove he was the best guy for the job, but Blagojevich didn’t like Jackson because he hadn’t supported Blagojevich’s reelection in 2006.
Congressman Jackson conducted polling that not only showed he was the statewide favorite, but that he was viable enough to retain the seat in the 2010 election. He appeared on national news shows, such as Larry King Live and Joe Scarborough; he received endorsements from the Chicago Sun-Times, the Daily Southtown Star and the Daily Herald. The Chicago Tribune even named him one of four candidates it supported.
Unbeknownst to Jackson, however, there was a problem: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made it clear to Blagojevich that he didn’t want Jackson appointed.
Reid confirmed he spoke to Blagojevich after Obama’s election but refused to state who they discussed because Reid “didn’t want to embarrass anyone.”
Then Reid’s spokesman felt the urge to justify Reid’s call to Blagojevich. You know, no biggie, it was business as usual. Reid also called the governors of New York and Colorado because their senators left their seats to join the Obama administration. “It is part of his job as majority leader to share his thoughts about candidates who have the qualities needed to succeed in the Senate,” his spokesperson said.
During defense attorney Sam Adam’s opening statement in the first trial, we found out that Reid called Blagojevich and essentially said, “Anyone but Jesse Jackson.” (This conversation was apparently recorded on FBI phone taps.)