Feds arrest Illinois Gov. Blagojevich for trying to sell Obama’s vacant Senate seat; Update: Wanted cash to appoint Obama crony?

posted at 10:46 am on December 9, 2008 by Allahpundit


On the issue of the U.S. Senate selection, federal prosecutors alleged Blagojevich sought appointment as Secretary of Health and Human Services in the new Obama administration, or a lucrative job with a union in exchange for appointing a union-preferred candidate.

Blagojevich and Harris conspired to demand the firing of Chicago Tribune editorial board members responsible for editorials critical of Blagojevich in exchange for state help with the sale of Wrigley Field, the Chicago Cubs baseball stadium owned by Tribune Co.

Blagojevich and Harris, along with others, obtained and sought to gain financial benefits for the governor, members of his family and his campaign fund in exchange for appointments to state boards and commissions, state jobs and state contracts.

“The breadth of corruption laid out in these charges is staggering,” U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said in a statement.

Fitzmas arrives early this year. I haven’t followed the Blago saga, but it’s as old as Hot Air is: The investigation’s been active for three years and his cronies have been rolling over on him for months, culminating in a former aide named John Wyma having somehow cooperated with the feds to obtain recordings of Blagojevich yakking about graft. (The Tribune, which broke the news, won’t say if he wore a wire.) Another top crony was convicted six months ago of mail fraud, among other things, but his sentencing was postponed from October to January amid rumors that he was singing to the U.S. Attorney about the Chicago machine in hopes of a better deal. You might have heard of him.

CBS2 Chicago has highlights from the FBI affidavit; trust me when I say it’s the most entertaining train-wreck news curio you’ll read this morning. A taste:

Throughout the intercepted conversations, Blagojevich also allegedly spent significant time weighing the option of appointing himself to the open Senate seat and expressed a variety of reasons for doing so, including: frustration at being “stuck” as governor; a belief that he will be able to obtain greater resources if he is indicted as a sitting Senator as opposed to a sitting governor; a desire to remake his image in consideration of a possible run for President in 2016; avoiding impeachment by the Illinois legislature; making corporate contacts that would be of value to him after leaving public office; facilitating his wife’s employment as a lobbyist; and generating speaking fees should he decide to leave public office…

In a conversation with Harris on November 11, the charges state, Blagojevich said he knew that the President-elect wanted Senate Candidate 1 for the open seat [This is certainly Valerie Jarrett. — AP] but “they’re not willing to give me anything except appreciation. [Expletive] them.”

As recently as December 4, in separate conversations with Advisor B and Fundraiser A, Blagojevich said that he was “elevating” Senate Candidate 5 on the list of candidates because, among other reasons, if Blagojevich ran for re-election, Senate Candidate 5 would “raise[] money” for him. Blagojevich said that he might be able to cut a deal with Senate Candidate 5 that provided Blagojevich with something “tangible up front.”

Here’s vid of Blago yesterday inviting the world to tape his phone calls and sounding very sincere indeed. Exit question one: Did this guy actually approach Team Barry with some sort of graft proposal to get Jarrett appointed? E.g., “Make me HHS Secretary if you want her in”? Exit question two: Who’s Senate Candidate 5, whom Blagojevich thought might be willing to offer something “tangible” up front?

Update: Meet the man who’ll be dealing with Senate Candidate 5 now. A belated thought: Is this the single dumbest racket ever attempted by a major politician? He knew the U.S. Attorney was investigating him, he knew he couldn’t trust his cronies — and yet he was still willing to talk openly about selling a seat in the United States Senate?

Update: Politico reads Blago’s statement that he wanted “something real good” and “valuable” in return for appointing Jarrett as a suggestion that he was hitting up the Obama campaign for cash. I’m not sure where they’re getting that; it could just as easily mean an appointment of some kind, which probably wouldn’t be illegal so far as I know. This bit from the complaint is interesting, though:

HARRIS said they could work out a three-way deal with SEIU and the President-elect where SEIU could help the President-elect with ROD BLAGOJEVICH’s appointment of Senate Candidate 1 to the vacant Senate seat, ROD BLAGOJEVICH would obtain a position as the National Director of the Change to Win campaign, and SEIU would get something favorable from the President-elect in the future.

We’ll have to wait until next Fitzmas, I guess, to find out if they ever went to Team Barry with this idea.

Update: Unsurprisingly, Blago suddenly appears to be a man without a party.

Update: Blagojevich’s approval rating as of mid-October was … four percent. No typo.

Update: An intriguing theory from Ben Smith: Did Team Barry yank Jarrett out of contention for the Senate seat because Blago approached them with an improper offer? CNN reported on November 9 that she was The One’s choice to replace him; just a day later, he’d suddenly decided that he wanted her with him in the White House after all.

Update: Ambinder speculates that Senate Candidate 5 is Jesse Jackson Jr.

Update: The Smoking Gun thinks Senate Candidate 5 is actually Illinois State Rep. Emil Jones.

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When is Obama going to get arrested?

SaintOlaf on December 9, 2008 at 7:40 PM

Arrested for what? LOL

AprilOrit on December 9, 2008 at 8:06 PM

1. A quid pro quo with Tony Rezko re the obmansion. Sale of the mansion was predicated on sale of the adjacent lot. Obama didn’t have the money so Rezko’s wife bought the lot and overpaid for it. Then sold obama a 10 foot strip rendering her lot unbuildable. Gee half a mill for an unbuildable lot. Later Obama used some influence to help rezko.. ergo quid pro quo.

2. IF..IF..IF.. obama is on tape or otherwise documented discussing pay for play for the senate seat and IF..IF..IF he didn’t go directly to the authorities, then oopsie..

3. The election credit card fraud (not tied to this issue)

bullseye on December 10, 2008 at 9:58 AM

bullseye on December 10, 2008 at 9:58 AM

More Troother hope and dreams….if something was going to happen with Rezko it would have already happened.

There is no credit card fraud, again something or someone would have been chraged by now.

You guys are looking for gold in them thar IFs….

AprilOrit on December 10, 2008 at 10:05 AM

There is no credit card fraud, again something or someone would have been chraged by now.

Your “reasoning” is staggeringly flawed. I doubt either campaign’s books are officially closed only a few weeks after the election, although I concede that, thus far, all indications are that McCain’s campaign’s books will be scrutinized more closely than Obama’s. And since when does the speed of an investigation indicate the legitimacy of the charges?

The willful sloppiness of Obama’s fundraising procedures and record-keeping alone are probably enough to bring someone in his campaign up on charges under Sarbanes-Oxley and related state statutes that govern fundraising.

But, go ahead, call anyone who raises legitimate concerns about Obama’s ethical practices a truther.

Y-not on December 10, 2008 at 4:07 PM

From all descriptions of Rod Blagoyevich’s wife, Patti (aka Lady MacBeth), the Illinois First Lady is no meek figure standing quietly in the background while her husband runs the ship of state. Patti has apparently drawn the interest of investigators as well since her husband was elected Governor. A successful real estate salesperson, she apparently had a lot of well-connected clients including none other than Tony Rezko. She is apparently also quite outspoken-at least if you listen to the FBI tapes. On one conversation which the Governor was having with an aide about the Tribune Editorial staff and the sale of the Chicago Cubs, she is heard in the background shouting for all the “bleeping bleepers to be fired-bleep em.” Why I even read somewhere that she said, “Bleep the Cubs.” (unforgivable, in my view). More seriously, she apparently, according to the complaint, participated with her husband in a lengthy conference call regarding the famous Senate seat up for sale. So the question begs, why wasn’t Patricia Blagoyevich indicted as well?

My speculation, based on my experience as a retired federal agent, is that Mrs Blagoyevich is being held as leverage. In other words, her legal predicament depends on her husband cooperating with the Government. If Rod cooperates fully and honestly about Illinois corruption, his wife can be left out of the indictment. If Rod chooses not to cooperate, then Mrs Blagoyevich may be charged as well-if the evidence is sufficient against her. Distasteful? perhaps, but it is legal, and it is done that way on occasion. In other words, in exchange for cooperation, breaks can be given.

But who would Rod give up in return for consideration being given to his wife-and himself? Well, a cardinal rule is that the Government needs to work its way up the ladder of the criminal organization-not down the ladder. To use an analogy, had Hitler been captured alive at the end of World War2, it would have been unconscionable to give him a break to testify against, say, Hermann Goering.

So it must be assumed that if Rod Blagoyevich has any cards to play either to help himself or protect his wife, he would have to give up someone bigger than himself. The problem for him is that there is no one in the Illinois State Government who is bigger than he is. That leaves him one card left, which I will leave to your imagination. Most observers who know anything about Rod Blagoyevich are certain he will try to make a deal for himself.

That takes me to my next point. Anything and everything that Rod Blagoyevich says to investigators and prosecutors will have to be completely corroborated. If Blag winds up being a Government witness, no jury will believe a word he says, nor should they. In fact, the presiding judge would instruct the jurors to be sceptical of his testimony and accept it only when accompanied by corroborating, independent evidence.

Settle in, folks. It’s going to be a long ride.

gary fouse

gary fouse on December 10, 2008 at 9:21 PM

Hmmmm Christmas comes early this year.


Handel on December 10, 2008 at 11:04 PM

Where’s the call for a special prosecutor? You morons in Congress are always calling for a special prosecutor when it’s a Republican on the hot seat.

hopefloats on December 11, 2008 at 9:42 AM