Blagojevich hits New York for media blitz

August 20, 2010 8:41:44 PM PDT
Rod Blagojevich was in New York Friday, appearing on TV and proclaiming his innocence even though he is now a convicted felon.

Blagojevich's latest media tour also has him appearing on local radio and even Comedy Central.

Many of the ex-governor's themes remain unchanged: that the prosecutor is out of control and is out to criminalize political horse-trading.

He says that this time will be defense witnesses with the possibility of some big names - perhaps Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. or White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. The ex-governor did not close the door on testifying himself, although he promised that in the first trial and chose not to.

For now, the ex-governor is doing a lot of talking, even though when he decided not to testify last month, he said the one thing he'd learned was - he talks too much.

Blagojevich is in New York City, appearing on several national news shows. Just days after a jury found him guilty on one count, but couldn't agree on 23 others, the former governor is again challenging prosecutors.

After impeachment and ouster from office, Blagojevich went east to proclaim his innocence on the talk show circuit. Now he's doing so again -- though this time he does so as a convicted felon.

He dismisses that count as nebulous and says the vindication is in the prosecution's failure to win on the public corruption charges.

"This prosecution has gone from a prosecution to a persecution," Blagojevich told CNN, "and in spite of them putting their case on and all their resources that they have, and in spite of the fact that we didn't even put a defense on because we didn't want to get credence over their charges, they failed to prove a single charge of corruption."

The former governor is predictably defiant as he makes the interview rounds in New York.

The hung jury on 23 of the 24 counts against him is, Rod Blagojevich says, very vindicating, and he downplays his conviction for lying to the FBI.

"Someone should ask this prosecutor exactly how much money did he spend of the taxpayers money," Blagojevich said on NBC's Today Show Friday morning. "And he failed to convict me of any corruption charges. There's a false statement they allege I made five years ago. That isn't true. I didn't lie to the FBI."

When it was pointed out to Blagojevich that he was convicted of that charge, Blagojevich said that he would appeal the conviction, and that "I should point out we didn't put a defense on."

Blagojevich told ABC News Friday that FBI agents attempted without success to flip him - offering a deal if he would testify against higher-ups in Illinois politics.

"They were very clear about how they wanted me to cooperate and talk about people in higher places, and without getting specific there aren't a lot of positions higher than governor," said Blagojevich.

Asked if he was talking about President Obama, Blagojevich said, "I think that's probably the sort of thing I should keep to myself for now."

Blagojevich got emotional when talking about his family with ABC News.

"You sometimes have to take a deep breath and realize the blessings you have," said Blagojevich. "You know, I've been blessed with a wonderful wife."

At Chicago's WVON radio Friday evening, Blagojevich received some support from callers as he criticized the prosecution.

"They want big names - they want to make a name for themselves and deprive the people of human services and tax money to make a reputation for themselves and put a trophy on the wall," said Blagojevich.

"I'm 100 percent in your corner - God bless you," said one caller.

In the months before the first trial, Rod Blagojevich was seemingly everywhere trying to make his case in the court of public opinion and perhaps to the ears of potential jurors.

"Sure sounds like it, doesn't it?" said former U.S. Attorney Jim Burns. "Right back to the same old script."

Burns said he believes prosecutors should pursue the second trial despite claims that it would cost too much, and despite criticism that U.S. Attorney Pat Fitzgerald is misguided and overzealous.

"If they move forward, which they likely will, and retry the case and get a conviction, which I believe the odds strongly favor, what's the reaction down the road? It will have been a little glitch at best, won't it?" said Burns.

The former governor will have a lot to say about that, portraying himself as David against a high-spending Goliath. He also compared himself to Winston Churchill

Blagojevich says he believes he will have the same legal team in a second trial, though both Sam Adam Sr. and Jr. have hinted strongly that they will not be back.

"Again, we didn't put a defense on this time and they failed to prove any corruption charges. I suspect if we put a defense on it will be even better," Blagojevich said to CNN.

On the Don Wade and Roma show Friday morning on WLS-AM, Blagojevich was emphatic when asked whether he might consider a plea deal.

"I will never plead guilty, not for anybody, to things I did not do," he said.

At his stops Friday, Blagojevich praised the holdout juror who voted not to convict on counts dealing with the sale of the Senate seat. He said her stand "confirms again, praise God."

Blagojevich did not rule out Friday the possibility of being involved in politics in the future.

Blagojevich Round Two has some familiar mantras: Persecution, not prosecution. The U.S. attorney is after a political trophy, not justice. Play the tapes. Play all the tapes. Those are among the familiar themes of the defense.

There is -- and will continue to be -- a newer bullet point in the former governor's public comments. We heard it on verdict day, and again Friday: That a retrial is a huge waste of taxpayer dollars, particularly when that money ought to be better spent on other law enforcement.

"Why is he wasting taxpayer money to get a political trophy and get somebody instead of using that money to go after drug dealers, terrorists, and gang bangers?" said Blagojevich.

Burns does not see the new trial as a waste.

"When you look at this case and the way the jury was split - to my way of thinking, it necessitates a re-trial, and you look at it from that standdpoint," said Burns. "You can't put a budget on justice."

The media tour is not over. On Monday night, Blagojevich is scheduled to appear on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on Comedy Central.

Blagojevich is scheduled to appear at Comic Con in Rosemont on Saturday to sign autographs and pose for pictures.

A sign ahead of his arrival says $80 for photo ops and $50 for an autograph.

That would be a change from trial one, when Blagojevich posed for plenty of pictures and signed autographs for free.

Blagojevich said he needs the money, so he is not ruling out another appearance on a reality TV show.

In a public relations statement regarding the event, Blagojevich is quoted saying he looks forward to meeting "loyal supporters and other fans."

A key event organizer said that "Wizard World Chicago Comic Con is all about pop culture, and Rod Blagojevich is as relevant to today's news as it gets."


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