CHICAGO – An angry Rod Blagojevich is heard grumbling on FBI wiretap tapes played at his corruption trial Wednesday that he is willing to appoint a favorite of Barack Obama to the U.S. Senate but the newly elected president is "all take and no give."
"The arrogance of these people," Blagojevich is heard saying on a tape of a conversation with adviser Doug Scofield a few days after Obama's November 2008 election to the White House.
When another adviser tells Blagojevich in a telephone call at about the same time that he would be wise to go ahead and appoint Obama's friend, the governor explodes, saying no one is willing to help him in his political troubles with Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.
"I'm left with gridlock, a pissed-off speaker, a potential impeachment and a president who is all take and no give," Blagojevich snaps.
Blagojevich is heard saying he wants a reward such as secretary of health and human services in the new administration in return for appointing Chicago businesswoman and civic leader Valerie Jarrett, a family friend of the Obamas, to the Senate seat that the president-elect was leaving to go to the White House.
But in one call to Scofield, a political consultant and former deputy governor, Blagojevich suggests that he might take a lesser job, saying he ought to at least get "ambassador to Macedonia." Assistant U.S. Attorney Reid Schar asked Scofield if he thought Blagojevich actually wanted to be ambassador to Macedonia.
"No, sir," Scofield said.
It was to Scofield that Blagojevich made his infamous, profanity-laced comment about not giving up his power to appoint a successor for nothing. Prosecutors played the wiretap recording in which Blagojevich called the chance to name a senator as "golden" just before proceedings ended Tuesday.
Blagojevich, 53, has pleaded not guilty to charges that he schemed to get an important or high-paying job in return for appointment to the Senate seat. He has also pleaded not guilty to charges that he plotted to launch a racketeering operation using his powers as governor. If convicted, he could face up to $6 million in fines and a sentence of 415 years in prison, though he is sure to get much less time under federal guidelines.
His brother, Robert Blagojevich, 54, a Nashville, Tenn., businessman, has pleaded not guilty to taking part in the alleged scheme to sell or trade the Senate seat and illegally pressuring a racetrack owner to make a $100,000 campaign contribution.
Blagojevich looked on calmly while prosecutors played a tape of a conversation between him and Scofield on which the governor asked: "What about Patti on some corporate boards?" He is heard saying that "what's her name" was on a board and received director fees of $65,000 a year. "Can't we get Patti a couple of those?"
Scofield testified that he believed that in speaking of "what's her name," Blagojevich was speaking of the first lady, Michelle Obama.
Blagojevich says the money would come in handy while "we have to suck it up for the next couple of years," meaning the remainder of his term as governor.
At another point, Scofield tells Blagojevich that he has spoken with Jerry Morrison, the political director of the Illinois Service Employees International Union, and Morrison has not been encouraging about the chances of the governor receiving a Cabinet post from Obama.
"They want to get away from Chicago politics," Scofield quotes Morrison as saying.
Blagojevich describes that as "a euphemism."
"They want to get away from Rezko," he says. Tony Rezko is a former leading fundraiser and adviser to Blagojevich. He is currently awaiting sentencing for his conviction on federal charges of plotting to launch a $7 million kickback scheme based on his political clout.
Scofield said that his boss assessed his political situation the day after Obama's win, and said there was nothing he could have done about Obama — unless he'd been able to stop Obama from speaking at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Obama became famous for his keynote speech.
Blagojevich once had presidential aspirations of his own. Scofield says there was "a measure of jealousy" in what Blagojevich was saying.