An angry Rod Blagojevich is heard grumbling on FBI wiretap tapes played at his corruption trial Wednesday that he is willing to appoint a favorite of Barack Obama to the U.S. Senate, but the newly elected president is "all take and no give."
"The arrogance of these people," Blagojevich is heard saying on a tape of a conversation with a former deputy governor, Doug Scofield, a few days after Obama's November 2008 election to the White House.
When another adviser tells Blagojevich in a telephone call at about the same time that he would be wise to go ahead and appoint Obama's friend, the governor explodes, saying no one is willing to help him in his political troubles with Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.
"I'm left with gridlock, a pissed-off speaker, a potential impeachment and a president who is all take and no give," Blagojevich snaps.
The governor is heard saying he wants a reward such as secretary of health and human services in the new administration in return for appointing Chicago businesswoman and civic leader Valerie Jarrett, a family friend of the Obamas, to the Senate seat that the president-elect was leaving.
Blagojevich seems to suggest in another recording that he may be in a better bargaining position than Jarrett, saying she has leverage to get Blagojevich a Cabinet post, while he could make her a senator.
"She's holding hers with two hands, just kind of clinging to ... little pieces of it," he says. "I've got the whole thing wrapped around my arms. ... I'm willing to trade the thing I got tightly held to her for something she doesn't hold quite as tightly."
But in many of the tapes played Wednesday, Blagojevich appears unsure about his next move.
After the news that Jarrett would take a White House job, Blagojevich can be heard talking over a speaker phone to Scofield about whether she might still be interested in the Senate seat. Blagojevich says he thinks she might be.
"I don't think they want you there," Scofield says to Blagojevich about the possibility of the governor appointing himself to the seat.
"No, they don't want me there," Blagojevich says matter-of-factly.
At another point, Scofield tells Blagojevich that he has spoken with Jerry Morrison, the political director of the Illinois Service Employees International Union, and Morrison has not been encouraging about the chances of the governor receiving a Cabinet post from Obama.
"They want to get away from Chicago politics," Scofield quotes Morrison as saying.
Blagojevich describes that as "a euphemism."
"They want to get away from Rezko," he says. Tony Rezko is a former leading fundraiser and adviser to Blagojevich. He is currently awaiting sentencing for his conviction on federal charges of plotting to launch a $7 million kickback scheme based on his political clout.
Blagojevich, 53, has pleaded not guilty to charges that he schemed to get an important or high-paying job in return for the appointment to the Senate seat. He has also pleaded not guilty to charges that he plotted to launch a racketeering operation using his powers as governor. If convicted, he could face up to $6 million in fines and a sentence of 415 years in prison, though he is sure to get much less time under federal guidelines.
His brother, Robert Blagojevich, 54, a Nashville, Tenn., businessman, has pleaded not guilty to taking part in the alleged scheme to sell or trade the Senate seat and illegally pressuring a racetrack owner to make a $100,000 campaign contribution.
It was to Scofield that Blagojevich made his infamous comment about the Senate seat being "(expletive) golden," and that he wouldn't give up his power to appoint a Senate successor for nothing. Prosecutors had played the wiretap recording late Tuesday.
Defense attorney Aaron Goldstein pressed Scofield about the comment, noting that on the tape Scofield responds by saying, "right."
"You meant it as agreement, is that correct?" asked Goldstein.
"Unfortunately, sir, what I'm telling him is not exactly what I'm thinking," Scofield answered quietly. "I thought it was something he wanted to hear."
Goldstein also took issue with Scofield saying Blagojevich didn't push reform forcefully enough as governor. As Goldstein started running down a list of Blagojevich's accomplishments, which he told jurors included health care, prosecutors objected.
"Can you spare us the campaign speech?" an exasperated Judge James Zagel told Goldstein, prompting laughter in the courtroom.
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