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


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.