Tags: US | Blagojevich | Trial

Shades of Blagojevich Come Through in FBI Tapes

Thursday, 24 Jun 2010 07:20 AM

One phone recording has Rod Blagojevich talking of demons and former President Richard Nixon. In another, he engages in a foul-mouthed spat with his wife. Other times, he talks like an excited child who is sure he's about to be showered with gifts.

A complicated picture of the former Illinois governor has emerged at his corruption trial from some of the most revealing wiretap recordings played in court yet at the nearly three-week-old trial.

His former chief of staff, John Harris, has been on the stand all week and is expected to be called again Thursday. But it was the tapes, secretly made by the FBI, that took center stage Wednesday.

Most of the recorded conversations played over courtroom speakers featured then-Gov. Blagojevich and Harris discussing how Blagojevich could parlay his authority to pick a replacement for President Barack Obama's vacated U.S. Senate seat.

"I tell you — this is good, John," an excited Blagojevich says about what they perceived were encouraging words about someone they believed was an Obama emissary. "They didn't say 'no.'"

In one tape, Blagojevich tells aides that Valerie Jarrett, the person Obama wanted as his successor in the Senate, had been informed he would appoint her to the seat if he received a position in the Cabinet.

"So she now knows she could be a senator if I get health and human services," Blagojevich is heard saying.

In one excerpt played to jurors, Blagojevich suddenly became morose and introspective, comparing himself to Nixon — with whom, Blagojevich told Harris, he shared a tendency to become depressed after winning elections.

He also laments how fundraiser Chris Kelly is a "bad influence" and appeals "to the demons in me."

"I'm a (expletive) horse's (expletive). I shouldn't have done some of that," he adds, without offering details.

Blagojevich, 53, has pleaded not guilty to scheming to sell or trade the appointment to Obama's seat. He has also pleaded not guilty to plotting to launch a racketeering scheme using the powers of the governor's office. If convicted, he could face up to $6 million in fines and a sentence of 415 years in prison, although he is certain to get much less under federal guidelines.

His attorneys filed a motion after court adjourned Wednesday asking to see the FBI's summaries of interviews agents conducted with Obama. They said Harris' testimony and the FBI tapes "raise the issue of President Obama's direct knowledge and communication with emissaries and others regarding appointment to his Senate seat."

Rod Blagojevich sometimes appeared ill-at-ease as prosecutors played the recordings. He smiled uncomfortably, his hand pressed against his face.

He was visibly uncomfortable when prosecutors played a recording of him and his wife, Patti, discussing his job prospects as she searched the Internet for information about the union-sponsored group Change to Win. Their chat quickly descends into a profanity-laced shouting match, with Rod Blagojevich cursing at his wife for surfing the Web as they talk and saying he'll hang up on her.

"I tried to be helpful, and you jump down my (expletive) throat," she shoots back.

Seconds later, he mumbles in all apparent seriousness, "I've gotta stop swearing."

Rod Blagojevich also shows flashes of greed. After a staffer tells him on the phone that private foundation jobs he has been eyeing pay between $200,000 and $300,000, he responds, "Oh, that's all?"

Harris testified that Blagojevich became increasingly isolated in 2008 as he sought a job — with many longtime friends and associates keeping their distance because it was widely known he was being investigated.

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