Published June 25, 2010
CHICAGO -- An ex-aide to former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich testified this week that President Obama knew Blagojevich wanted a plum job in the administration in exchange for appointing a politically palatable person to fill Obama's vacated Senate seat.
John Harris, Blagojevich's former chief of staff, testified in the ex-governor's corruption trial in federal District Court here this week that Obama was aware Blagojevich was working to leverage the Senate seat into a cabinet position for himself.
He also said Blagojevich believed that if he appointed to the Senate Obama's longtime friend Valerie Jarrett, Blagojevich would get a top job. Jarrett had been working on the Obama presidential campaign before accepting her current position as a senior White House advisor.
"The president understands that the governor would be willing to make the appointment of Valerie Jarrett as long as he gets what he's asked for," Harris told the court Wednesday.
The White House declined to comment Thursday on testimony regarding Obama and Jarrett. Blagojevich's attorneys will cross-examine Harris next week.
In court filings, Blagojevich's defense team asked presiding Judge James B. Zagel to order the government to hand over interviews the Federal Bureau of Investigation "conducted with President Obama regarding this case."
The defense team's filings said that, contrary to White House statements, Obama had "direct knowledge and communication with emissaries and others regarding the appointment to his Senate seat."
Blagojevich's lawyers tried to subpoena Obama earlier this year but Judge Zagel refused to allow it. Other White House aides, including Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, have been subpoenaed.