Seat takes center stage at Blago trial

June 23, 2010 (CHICAGO)

Listen to the tapes or read the transcripts- as they become available- by clicking here. (NOTE: You must open the PDF file of the transcript to find the audio file. The recordings contain some obscenities.)

Several recordings made by FBI in 2008 were played at the former governor's corruption trial on Wednesday.

John Harris, who served as Blagojevich's chief of staff, is on the stand. His third day of testimony focused on Blagojevich's plans for Obama's seat.

During a conversation with Harris, Blagojevich is heard practicing for his meeting with union leader Tom Balanoff where Blagojevich plans to bring up Senate Leader Emil Jones and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan as possible nominees to show there was competition for the senate seat.

At one point in a November 6, 2008, call Blagojevich says to Harris that he heard Valerie Jarrett was being considered for a cabinet post. Blagojevich is heard saying, "So if that's the case, give me the cabinet spot and we'll give her the Senate seat. What do you think of that? I thought that was a good sign."

Harris testified that after Blagojevich met with Balanoff, Blagojevich told Harris that Balanoff said Obama wanted Jarrett appointed to his vacant senate seat. Harris said Blagojevich then said that he had told Balanoff that he wanted the Health and Human Services cabinet position and that Balanoff thought it was a good idea.

In court, Harris said, "I had always known the governor was anxious about his future." Harris said he recommended Blagojevich should pursue a job with SEIU's (Service Employees International Union) "Change to Win" campaign with the help of Balanoff. Harris said SEIU would help Valerie Jarrett get the Senate seat and help Blagojevich get the "Change to Win" job. "They can help Barack by helping you."

Harris said Blagojevich wanted a big job that would secure his economic and political future and wanted out of the governor's office. During a November 2008 conversation played in court Blagojevich said to Harris, "I was depressed on my election night, OK?"

In the same call Blagojevich said his friend and advisor, Chris Kelly, was a bad influence and that he "appealed to the demons in me."

Kelly committed suicide last fall.

Blagojevich has pleaded not guilty to charges including scheming to sell or trade Obama's old Senate seat and racketeering.

Judge: No gag order

Also on Wednesday, Judge James Zagel addressed a request for a gag order in the case. Prosecutors had asked Judge Zagel to limit what those involved in the trial could say to the media. In the motion filed last week, the prosecution cited comments Blagojevich made Tuesday outside the courthouse after his former top aide and longtime friend, Alonzo "Lon" Monk testified. Blagojevich told reporters he Monk lied on the stand.

Judge Zagel met with both sides to discuss the motion on Wednesday.

"It's been reported that one defendant says nothing, other seems to say one or two things or both: One is, 'I'm innocent.' The other is, 'Everyone against me is lying.' He appears not to be answering questions," said Judge Zagel.

Prosecutors argued that Blagojevich's comments could influence the trial. Defense attorneys argued that Blagojevich should be allowed to proclaim his innocence.

"We're just reminding them it's a two-way street," said Blagojevich attorney Sheldon Sorosky.

Judge Zagel said he might invoke his authority if he feels he needs to at a later time.

p> "The less Blagojevich says, the less temptation there will be for others two reply and comment," said Judge Zagel. "If this emerges into some kind of Battle Royale... I think I do have the right to intervene."

Judge Zagel said last week that everyone involved in the case should "exercise some discretion."

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