Thursday, May 5, 2011

Valerie Jarrett

former governor

That was the day that Blagojevich found out that Valerie Jarrett, the close friend of then-president-elect Barack Obama, said she didn’t want to succeed Obama in the U.S. Senate.

Jurors are hearing the story of Blagojevich’s reaction through government wiretaps and the testimony of John Harris, the former Blagojevich chief of staff who was on the phone frequently that day with his then-boss.

Blagojevich, who under Illinois law held the power to fill the Obama vacancy, had been hoping to use Jarrett’s desire as a bargaining chip with Obama to gain a prominent position in the new administration for himself.

At first he refused to believe a TV news report that Jarrett was out. As Blagojevich lifted weights, he talked over a speakerphone with Harris who was driving to Midway Airport to fly to Springfield so he could monitor activities at a legislative session. The two theorized that the news leak was some kind of ploy.

On the call, Blagojevich complained that he had taken a big financial hit because of his political career and it was “important for me to make a lot of money.”

Blagojevich continued that morning to explore ways to try and make a deal for Jarrett pay off for himself. He also continued his exercise regimen.

Two hours after the call with Harris, Blagojevich was headed out for a run when his pollster Fred Yang telephoned, and the two talked about more ideas to wring something of value for Blagojevich from Obama in exchange for picking Jarrett.

Then Harris called from Springfield with word that he had just heard from Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s designated chief of staff, that Jarrett indeed was out. Harris said Emanuel passed along names of possible Senate picks that would be suitable to Obama, none of which were warmly embraced by the governor.

That was when he laid out a set of clear criteria for what he wanted to get out of picking a new U.S. Senator.

“These three criterion in this order,” he told Harris. “Our legal situation. Our personal situation. My political situation. This decision like every other one needs to be based upon, on, on that. Legal, personal, political.”

At the time, Blagojevich was fretting about impeachment talk already brewing in the legislature as well as a federal investigation of his administration that appeared to be growing ever closer to the governor’s office.