FBI: Blago Wanted Payoff To Give Obama Adviser Senate Seat

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was captured on tape saying that unless he received “something real good” for the appointment of a top adviser to Barack Obama to fill the president-elect’s Senate seat he would appoint himself, according to the criminal complaint.

“Unless I get something real good [for Senate candidate 1], s***, I’ll just send myself, you know what I’m saying,” Blagojevich was taped saying on November 3rd, the day before Election Day.

Blagojevich, a Democrat, added that the Senate seat “is a f***ing valuable thing, you just don’t give it away for nothing.”

The complaint does not mention her name, but the description makes clear that Blagojevich is referring to Valerie Jarrett, a senior campaign adviser to Obama who has been tapped as a top White House aide.

And on November 7th, three days after the election, Blagojevich made clear what he wanted in exchange for appointing the Obama adviser to the Senate: the Department of Health and Human Services.

In a discussion with John Harris, his chief of staff, and another adviser that was taped by the FBI, the governor said if Obama picked him to serve as Secretary of HHS he would appoint “Senate Candidate 1.”

Harris responded that the “ask” had to “be reasonable and rather than. . .make it look like some sort of selfish grab for a quid pro quo.” 

Blagojevich also tried to shake down a union in exchange for appointing a senator who was favorable to the union, prosecutors allege. 

Obama’s transition team did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Obama was not accused of any wrongdoing. 

The charges upend the process of filling the open Senate seat and threaten to subject the president-elect to an onslaught of press scrutiny about what he knew about the investigation.

The governor and his chief of staff John Harris were also charged with demanding the firing of members of the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board in exchange for helping the Tribune Co. with the sale of Chicago’s Wrigley Field. Additionally, Blagojevich sought a seat for his wife on corporate boards where she could reap significant salaries.

The complaint details conversations between Blagojevich and Tony Rezko, a major Chicago fundraiser and one-time benefactor to Obama.

"I want to make money," the affidavit quotes the governor as saying.

U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald said in a statement that "the breadth of corruption laid out in these charges is staggering."

"They allege that Blagojevich put a for sale sign on the naming of a United States senator," Fitzgerald said."

The Illinois Republican Party called on the governor to resign his office effective immediately.

“If Governor Blagojevich does not resign his position, we urge the General Assembly to move swiftly with impeachment proceedings,” the party said in a statement. “Furthermore, Governor Blagojevich should not, under this cloud of extremely serious allegations, appoint a United States Senator. While there is a presumption of innocence, in these troubling economic times, the people’s work should be placed ahead of Governor Blagojevich’s legal troubles.”
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