Blago lashes out at Obama on tape

July 21, 2010 7:56:41 AM PDT
Rod Blagojevich is heard on tape lashing out at his constituents over his low approval rating and lamenting that then-President-elect Barack Obama ruined his plans for a future presidential run.

Tapes of conversations between Deputy Governor Robert Greenlee and then-Governor Blagojevich were played during Greenlee's testimony at the former Illinois governor's corruption trial Thursday.

During an Election Day phone call between Blagojevich and Greenlee, Rod is upset with former deputy governor Doug Scofield because Scofield told him it wasn't a good idea to appoint himself governor.

The governor told Greenlee that Scofield has ulterior motives for his opinion, although Scofield is a "good person," it may be a "subconscious thing" since he as a consultant would lose clients if Rod would move out of state government.

The governor then laments the fact that Obama's election "f-----g stalled" if not "terminally wounded" the governor's upward mobility, in an apparent reference to a future presidential run.

Blagojevich said on the tape, "now's the time to put my f---ing wife and children first for a change." He then lashes his frustrations out on his constituents on the day Barack Obama was elected president: "I f---ing busted my ass and p--- people off and gave your grandmother a f-----' ride on a bus. Okay? I gave your f---ing baby a chance to have health care. I fought every one of those a-------... and what do I get for that? Only 13 percent of you all out there think I'm doing a good job. So f--k all of you!"

Election Day Rally in Grant Park

According to Greenlee's testimony, Governor Blagojevich had not yet received an official invitation to attend the Election Day rally in Grant Park. Staffers worried that if the press found out that it would turn into a negative story about the Obama campaign wanting to distance itself from the governor. Through Democratic political consultant Bill Knapp's connection to Anita Dunn, a veteran Democratic strategist and top adviser on Barack Obama's presidential campaign, they were able to work out a deal where the governor would be formally invited but would decline attending the event.

On Election Day, Blagojevich decided that he wanted to attend the rally, and while trying to obtain credentials, it became clear the Obama administration did not want him to attend. Dunn found out and contacted Bill Knapp who sent an email to Greenlee stating "WTF?" He said, "killing him with his partner. He had made a promise that we are now backing out on." The email chain was entered into the exhibit Thursday.

Greenlee tried to "walk through emails" and reason with the governor but the Blagojevich did not believe him. He said the governor's usual response to "factual evidence" was that "he didn't believe it."

After fighting with the governor about attending the Grant Park rally, Greenlee said he then thought it "useful to build him up again." He testified that he told Blagojevich what he wanted to hear, saying about the appointment to Health and Human Services, "there's no governor more qualified than you." The governor answered, "Correct."

When Greenlee said that the Obama administration might be considering another candidate for the appointment of director of HHS, Blagojevich said that the other candidate "can't give them what they want... a senator, someone they really want and that's the ace in the hole.

Blago urges firing of Tribune writers on tape

Rod Blagojevich and his wife Patti are heard on tape railing against the Chicago Tribune and suggesting editorial writers calling for the governor's impeachment should be fired if the paper wanted state help in selling the Chicago Cubs.

Patti Blagojevich is heard on tape in the background saying, "Tell them to hold up that f---ing Cubs s--t. F--k them! F--k them! ... What kind of bulls--t is that?"

Patti made the remark during a phone call between Greenlee and the former governor after a Chicago Tribune's editorial endorsed Mike Madigan's appointment of a committee to explore impeachment of the governor.

The governor is heard relaying the information to Patti as Greenlee is talking to him.

Later she is heard saying, "Just fire them! What would William Hearst do? They are hurting the paper. Do something about the editorial board! They're awful."

Patti was referring to the Illinois Finance Authority deal to buy Wrigley Field after the Illinois Sports Authority deal to buy the ballpark fell through in March 2008.

Blagojevich then says to Greenlee that he will get someone like chief of staff John Harris to go to Chicago Tribune chairman Sam Zell and tell him, "We've got some decisions to make now." He continues saying, "Someone should say, 'Get rid of those people,' and 'maybe we can't do this now.' Fire those f---ers."

Aide: Blago often away from office

Earlier on the stand, Greenlee testified that then-governor Blagojevich typically only spent between two to eight hours a week in his office.

Greenlee said that generally during working hours, Blagojevich was at home or attending events. Greenlee said he would speak to Blagojevich by phone to discuss issues and policy matters.

The former aide said "he would have to track him down" in order to get the governor to act on legislation that would otherwise become law due to the 60-day deadline. Greenlee described accompanying Blagojevich to family dinners and cited one outing to Southport Lanes where the governor acted on 20 pieces of legislation, work Greenlee said he would otherwise not have done.

Greenlee testified he was afraid of being "shut out" like his former boss, John Filan, saying that the governor would hide from Filan in the bathroom to avoid talking to him because Filan insisted on talking to him about budgetary issues.

Greenlee said he "told the governor what he wanted to hear" and to not do so would often be a "long, painful, futile process."

Tapes played at trial reveal shaken Blagojevich

Meanwhile, tapes played at the corruption trial reveal a shaken Blagojevich at a moment when he seems to realize he may be in big trouble.

In other wiretap recordings, the ousted governor is rarely at a loss for words -- and often profane -- as he allegedly discusses ways to finesse his actions as governor into personal gain.

But when his spokesman, Lucio Guerrero, calls him at home late at night and tells him -- in a recording played in court Wednesday -- that investigators have apparently been secretly taping him, the governor pauses for several seconds, silence on the line.

"Recordings -- of me?" he finally says quietly, audibly shaken.

The next morning, Blagojevich still sounds off-kilter -- telling his brother Robert Blagojevich to cancel a meeting with a fundraiser, then to go ahead, then again not to do it.

The call about the wiretaps came just five days before Rod Blagojevich's arrest, as he seemed to entertain more seriously the idea of appointing U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. to Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat.

Earlier on Dec. 4, 2008, a more confident Blagojevich can be heard cursing as he tells his brother that he may get more out of appointing Jackson even though he has said repeatedly he doesn't trust him. At one point, he refers to Jackson as an "uber African-American," while his brother calls him "an articulate incompetent."

"I'm so (expletive) repugnant to them, then fine, take Jesse Jr.," Rod Blagojevich says on the tape about Washington insiders who Blagojevich says he knows don't like him.

In phone conversation between Blagojevich and then-Deputy Governor Greenlee and political consultant Fred Yang on Dec. 4, 2008, Blagojevich said he found both Jesse Jackson, Jr. and Lisa Madigan "equally repugnant" choices, but said that if "they were both drowning and I could save one, I really think I'd save Jesse."

Later in the conversation, Yang asked Blagojevich why he had warmed up Jackson, Jr., when he had dismissed him earlier.

Yang: Is essentially the deal with Jesse Jr. will be that the Jacksons will support you for re-election?
Blago: Well, there's more to it.
Yang: What else?
Blago: There's tangible, concrete tangible stuff from supporters.
Yang: Like what.
Blago: Well like, you know. You know what I'm talking about.
Greenlee: ...later.
Blago: Political, tangible political support, Fred.
Yang: Okay, alright.
Blago: You know. Specific amounts and everything.

While he used the words "down payment," Blagojevich never said "money" or "contributions."

On the stand Thursday, Greenlee said that it was in fact about campaign contributions from Jackson supporters to Blagojevich in return for the governor naming Jackson as the senator.

In the same conversation, Greenlee mentioned Tammy Duckworth as a possible candidate. Blagojevich bristled and said, "no f---ing way," and told Greenlee that he would "f---ing fire him."

Greenlee responded that he was just "kidding around."

Asked by Assistant U.S. Attorney Reid Schar if he really was kidding around, Greenlee said that he was not, but that he saw that the governor "got worked up, as he often did, so I was backing up."

Thursday's testimony moved during the afternoon to discussion of Blagojevich's alleged shakedown of Children's Memorial Hospital.

Greenlee testified that "in the context of health care initiatives, I'd never heard [Blagojevich] use budget as a reason not to move forward on an issue that would help people."

In relation to Children's Memorial Hospital, Greenlee testified that he "didn't know why I was being asked to stop this from going forward, but I knew it wasn't budget."

Prosecution witness Rajinder Bedi, the former head of the state's international trade office and a prominent figure in Chicago's Indian-American community, left the stand Thursday after a very brief cross examination by defense attorney Aaron Goldstein.

On Wednesday, assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Niewoehner told Judge James B. Zagel that Bedi would testify if asked that he was on hand at an October 2008 meeting at which businessman Raghuveer Nayak told Jackson he would raise $1 million for Blagojevich's campaign if the governor would appoint Jackson to the Senate.

Zagel barred prosecutors from allowing jurors to hear specifics such as the alleged $1 million figure or the allegation that Nayak spoke directly of trading money for the seat.

Jackson, the son of the civil rights leader, has said before that he knew nothing of any scheme to use campaign money to buy his way into Obama's former Senate seat. Jackson, who has not been accused of wrongdoing, did not immediately return messages left at his offices on Capitol Hill and in suburban Homewood.

Nayak, who also is not accused of wrongdoing, did not immediately reply to a message left on his answering machine.

Zagel did allow Bedi to testify that he had attended the meeting with Jackson and Nayak. He also allowed Bedi to testify that he spoke of the matter later to Robert Blagojevich, who was heading his brother's campaign fund at the time. Bedi said Robert Blagojevich's response was negative.

"He said, 'My brother will never appoint him (Jackson) to the Senate seat if Obama is elected president,"' Bedi testified.

Blagojevich, 53, has pleaded not guilty to trying to get a high-paying job or big campaign contribution in return for appointment to the seat. He has also pleaded not guilty to taking part in a racketeering scheme using the powers of the governor's office.

Robert Blagojevich, 54, has pleaded not guilty to taking part in the scheme involving the Senate seat and to scheming to pressure businessmen for campaign funds.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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