Jurors Hear ‘F***ing Golden’ Tape In Blagojevich Trial
UPDATED 05/10/11 6:49 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Jurors in the corruption retrial of Rod Blagojevich on Tuesday heard the secretly recorded phone conversation in which the former governor calls the U.S. Senate set he is accused of trying to sell “f***ing golden.”
Blagojevich, 54, is charged with trying to sell or trade an appointment to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama for campaign cash, a Cabinet position or another high-paying job.
His former adviser Doug Scofield was on the stand Tuesday when prosecutors played a tape of a Nov. 5, 2008, conversation in which Blagojevich told Scofield, “I’ve got this thing and it’s f***ing golden. And I, I’m not giving it up for f***ing nothing.”
Scofield testified that Blagojevich saw the Senate seat as “an opportunity that he could exchange his appointment for something for himself.”
BLAGOJEVICH ON TAPE: ‘I’ve Got This Thing And It’s (F—ing) Golden’
Later in the same tape, Blagojevich was heard musing about potential jobs he could get if he appointed Obama’s friend and adviser, Valerie Jarrett, to the Senate seat.
“Cabinet’s out of the question, but Health and Human Services would be my, I’d, I’d take that in a second,” Blagojevich said. “That’ll never happen. U.N. Ambassador. I’d take that. … ‘You Russian m*****f*****s.’ Can you see me?”
That tape was just one of several in which jurors heard the former governor’s profanity-filled tirades about the Senate seat and his growing frustration that the Obama administration wasn’t willing to give him anything for appointing Jarrett.
On Nov. 10, 2008, Blagojevich and his wife, Patti, were talking to a group of political advisers about their financial troubles and how the governor felt Obama’s election had closed the door on Blagojevich’s own ambitions for higher office.
At one point, Blagojevich made it clear that he wanted to leave the governor’s office after butting heads for years with Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, who had been blocking most of his legislative agenda in Springfield.
“I don’t wanna be governor for the next two years. I wanna get going,” Blagojevich said. “This has been two s****y f***ing years where I’m doing the best I can trying to get through a brick wall and find ways around stuff but it’s like just screwing my family and time is passing me by and I’m stuck, it’s no good. It’s no good. I gotta get moving. The whole world’s passing me by and I’m stuck in this fucking job as governor now. Everybody’s passing me by and I’m stuck.”
Blagojevich also blasted the Obama administration for not offering him anything more than appreciation if he would appoint Jarrett to the vacant Senate seat.
“I mean you guys are telling me I just gotta suck it up for two years and do nothing. Give this mother
f***er his senator. F*** him,” Blagojevich said. “For nothing? F*** him.”
Later, Blagojevich complains that his oldest daughter, Amy, would be going to college in six years and he can’t afford to pay for it.
“And then I have a personal issue which is, I feel like I’m f***ing my children. That’s what I feel like,” Blagojevich added. “The whole world’s passing me by, I’m stuck in this f***ing gridlock for two more f***ing years, okay, and nasty f***ing s****y f***ing press and everything, you know, and every a**hole out there. We know few friends.”
Prosecutors wrapped up the day’s testimony with IRS agent Shari Schindler who laid out for the jury how the Blagojeviches’ financial problems were growing worse during his time in office.
Schindler testified that, in 2004, the Blagojeviches earned nearly $400,000 in combined income, but by 2008, their family income was about $225,000.
Meantime, Schindler said the Blagojeviches were digging themselves deep into debt, spending more money than they were earning in four of the governor’s six years in office. At one point, they built up more than $90,000 in credit card debt.
At Blagojevich’s first trial, Schindler also read the jury a detailed list of the governor’s lavish spending on designer suits and other expensive clothing. But U.S. District Judge James Zagel had told them not to go into that much detail at this trial, telling them to get rid of the “beads and bangles.”
So instead, Schindler just testified that the Blagojeviches largest expense over those six years was clothing. She said the couple spent more than $400,000 on clothes, more than they spent on their mortgages.
On cross-examination, defense attorney Elliott Riebman asked whether the Blagojeviches paid all of their income taxes during those six years.
“They don’t owe money to the IRS if that’s what you’re asking,” Schindler said.
Riebman also wanted to ask whether Blagojevich used his campaign fund to pay for any of his clothing expenses, but Zagel blocked that question.
Blagojevich On Tape: I’m Willing To Trade The Thing I Got
Earlier in the day, prosecutors played a tape in which Blagojevich told Scofield that he believed when Jarrett found out he was willing to give her the Senate seat for a Cabinet post for himself, she’d likely push Obama to make the deal, as she was a key member of Obama’s transition team.
During the trial, Scofield and other witnesses have testified that Blagojevich sent a message to the Obama team that he was interested in being the Secretary of Health and Human Services and would be willing to appoint Jarrett if he could get that.
“So she’s holding Health and Human Services and I’m holding a U.S. Senate seat. Okay? She’s holding hers with two hands, just kind of clinging to, you know, little pieces of it. Me, I’ve got the whole thing wrapped around my arms, mine, okay?” Blagojevich said.
“I’m willing to trade the thing I got tightly held, to her for something she doesn’t hold quite as tightly. How bad do you want what I have,” Blagojevich said. “If you’re her, you’re Valerie Jarrett, I could be a U.S. senator and … that guy’s holding it by himself and now I know he’s willing to give it to me if he gets something I have.”
Scofield appeared to agree with Blagojevich, saying, “It’s awfully hard. You want to figure out a way to get it done if you’re her.”
“That’s what I’m thinking,” Blagojevich added. “Gotta think I can at least be ambassador to Macedonia now.”
Advisers Tell Blagojevich Jarrett “A Pretty Good Choice For You”
Later, in a conversation with his wife and several advisers, Blagojevich seemed to brush off suggestions that he should appoint Jarrett to the Senate seat in order to gain favor with Obama.
In that call, political consultant Doug Sosnik told Blagojevich, “I just think for your own, for you own legacy … putting a woman, an African American qualified woman in there that he wants. It’s a pretty, it’s a pretty good choice for you.”
“They’re not gonna give you anything explicitly, but maybe down the road they’ll, you know it’ll accrue to your benefit in terms of what Obama will do for you. To me, that overrides this other stuff,” Sosnik added.
But Blagojevich sounded unconvinced.
“So then they all leave town and I’m left with gridlock, a f***ing pissed off speaker, potential impeachment, and a f***ing president who’s all take and no give,” Blagojevich said. “I mean here my sense is … if you do Obama’s person, you get nothing for it, absolutely nothing. If you get some short-term good press, like one day maybe, and that’s it. You get, you get a president who’s selfish and just ditches people, so you get nothing.”
In the same call, the governor’s wife, Patti, later chimed in, saying, “I don’t think you live your life hoping that somebody’s gonna help you down the line. … That’s a bunch of baloney.”
Scofield was heard at times on tape encouraging Blagojevich to try to cut a deal for appointing Jarrett to the Senate seat.
“It’s not entirely outlandish to say, look, we’re all your friends, who want you to leverage this. I mean the president being grateful is fine. I think everybody would say that’s a good first step, but you know for me at least I think you gotta add somethin’ to that,” Scofield told the governor in a Nov. 11, 2008, phone call “I mean everybody sees takin’ care of Barack’s person, there’s value in it. But you gotta make the value I think a little more tangible.”
Scofield, who has not been charged in the case, has said that Blagojevich wanted to pass a message to John Wyma, a friend of Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, that the governor would consider Jarrett if a group of wealthy Obama supporters could put millions of dollars into a non-profit group that Blagojevich could run.
But Blagojevich, already wary of the federal investigation and knowing that Wyma had been subpoenaed by prosecutors, didn’t want to speak to Wyma himself.
“I don’t wanna put him in a position where I’m having that conversation with him,” Blagojevich said. “I don’t want him ever to have to answer a question that ah, you know, I asked him to call Rahm Emanuel on this.”
So Scofield approached Wyma about sending the message to Emanuel instead.
But not long after that, Jarrett officially took a job with the Obama White House and, according to Scofiedld, Blagojevich stopped calling him altogether.
Defense Suggests Scofield Has Grudge With Blagojevich
On cross-examination, defense attorney Aaron Goldstein sought to attack Scofield’s credibility, questioning him about why he left the Blagojevich administration soon after the governor’s first election.
Scofield had testified earlier that he left the Blagojevich administration to spend more time with his family, but also because he had some concerns about the amount of influence that Blagojevich fundraisers Tony Rezko and Chris Kelly seemed to have over policy matters.
But Goldstein implied that there was another reason: Blagojevich wouldn’t give Scofield a job he wanted, running the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, commonly known as McPier. The apparent implication was that Scofield had a personal grudge with Blagojevich.
Scofield acknowledged that he and Blagojevich had discussed him possibly running McPier and that he never got the job, but he insisted leaving “was entirely unrelated to the McPier Job.”
Goldstein also returned to a familiar theme for the defense during the retrial, that Blagojevich was planning all along to appoint himself to the Senate seat and all his other discussions about the seat were nothing more than idle talk.
“Is it fair to say, from your understanding, that Rod was quite interested in appointing himself?” Goldstein asked.
“Yes, I did get that impression that he was very interested in it,” Scofield said, adding that he’d advised the governor against it.
“I did not think that was a particularly good idea for him to do,” Scofield added. “I was essentially opposed to the idea.”
But when prosecutors questioned Scofield a second time, Scofield emphasized that, from what he understood, Blagojevich preferred to cut a deal to get himself a Cabinet post or a job running a multi-million dollar non-profit group in exchange for appointing a candidate favored by Obama.
“Taking the senate seat himself was not his preferred option,” Scofield said. “His first preference was to be appointed to the Cabinet, and specifically the Department of Health and Human Services.”
“It was certainly not his preference to appoint himself,” he added.
–Todd Feurer, CBS 2 web producer