CHICAGO – At times agitated, excited or profane, Rod Blagojevich sorted through ways he could benefit personally from the U.S. Senate seat vacated when Barack Obama won the presidential election, according to testimony and wiretap recordings played Tuesday at the former Illinois governor’s corruption trial.
Speaking on the day of Obama’s election, Blagojevich can be heard on one recording saying he’ll make a good-faith effort to fill the open seat but hastening to add that “it’s not coming for free.”
“It’s gotta be good for the people of Illinois – and for me,” he says.
In talking about his once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to appoint a senator, Blagojevich considered several ideas in a bid to get the best possible deal for himself, according to testimony by his former chief of staff John Harris – including feeding misinformation to the Obama camp and others.
Blagojevich tells Harris in one wiretap recording about trying to mislead Obama and his advisers as a way to gain leverage over them regarding their preferred candidate.
“There’s a carrot-and-stick thing going on right now,” Blagojevich says.
He also seems to delight in the option of appointing himself to the seat, calling that “my ace in the hole.” Another time he sounds eager about the range of possibilities, laughing and saying to Harris, “I’m crazy, but I’m not nuts.”
Sitting at the defense table Tuesday, Blagojevich appeared to display at least some signs of strain for one of the first times during the trial. He smiled less than on previous days, at one point rubbing his chin and cheek, then writing feverish notes.