CHICAGO -- What the bleep?
An allegation that Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich conspired to sell President-elect Barack Obama's seat in the U.S. Senate to the highest bidder isn't the only shocker contained in the 76-page criminal complaint unveiled by the FBI on Tuesday.
Excerpts of tape-recorded conversations between the governor, his wife and various advisers contained in the complaint showed Blagojevich frequently using language that would have made Chicago's own Al Capone blush as he allegedly plotted to use public office for private gain.
Patrick Fitzgerald, the poker-faced federal prosecutor heading the case, used the word "bleep" several times as he gave details of the expletive-laced conversations during a news conference announcing corruption charges against Blagojevich.
Talking about Blagojevich's alleged effort to get a person benefiting from a $1.8 billion tollway project to raise $100,000 for him, Fitzgerald said the governor told an aide: "'I could have made a larger announcement but wanted to see how they would perform by the end of the year. If they don't perform, bleep 'em.' That's a quote. And the word 'bleep' was not the word he used.'"
The document cited by Fitzgerald gave other details, this time using the word 'expletive,', rather than 'bleep.'
"I can drive a hard bargain. You hear what I'm saying. And if I don't get what I want and I'm not satisfied with it, then I'll just take the Senate seat myself," the governor allegedly said of filling the U.S. Senate seat, speaking with a person identified only as Advisor A the day before the November 4 election that Obama won.
A Senate seat, "is a (expletive) valuable thing, you just don't give it away for nothing," the document cited him as saying.
Blagojevich is meant to fill the Senate seat that Obama vacated soon after his election win. Both men are Democrats, although Obama had long kept his distance from the governor of his home state.
A week after the election, the charges cite a conversation with his chief of staff, John Harris, in which Blagojevich said he knew that backers of Obama wanted "Senate Candidate 1" for the open seat but "they're not willing to give me anything except appreciation. 'Bleep' them."
Fitzgerald said there was no evidence of any discussions between Obama and Blagojevich on the open Senate seat.
Obama also told reporters: "I had no contact with the governor or his office and so I was not aware of what was happening. But as I said it is a sad day for Illinois."
According to the document, Blagojevich was similarly forceful in his language when speaking about how he wanted to see his editorial critics on the Chicago Tribune newspaper fired.
The charges against Blagojevich weren't about the swearing, of course.
But it was all reminiscent of the transcripts of tapes of former President Richard Nixon's Oval Office conversations that surfaced during the 1970s Watergate scandal. The one phrase from those transcripts that everyone recalls?
© Thomson Reuters 2008 All rights reserved