Former Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich recognizes that daunting challenges await as prosecutors prepare to mount a new effort to convict him on corruption charges, but he told ABC News Friday he sees a triumphant political comeback in his future that will be no less dramatic than the one pulled off by Winston Churchill.
"I'm not ruling out doing something I've spent my whole adult life doing," Blagojevich said when asked about a possible return to politics. "I believe some of the greatest stories in history are some of the great comebacks. You think about Winston Churchill, I mean he spent years in the political wilderness … . If Churchill can comeback from something like that, when I'm vindicated, I certainly don't write myself off."
Blagojevich sat down with ABC News Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross Friday as he embarked on a media tour aimed at recovering his reputation in the aftermath of a (mostly) favorable courtroom verdict – a jury this week found him guilty on only one of 24 counts, lying to federal agents. The panel could not find agreement any of the corruption charges, including most sensational government claim, that he attempted to cash-in the senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama for a new job or for campaign contributions.
The now famous Chicago pol-turned-reality TV star -- known better as "Blago" -- spent the 80-minute interview casting himself in the role of the persecuted David. Goliath, in this telling, was a team of federal prosecutors that remains hell-bent on collecting the scalp that sits under his generous mop of thick brown hair.
"This is a person determined to get his trophy," he said of U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.
Blagojevich told ABC News that shortly after his 2008 arrest, investigators tried to convince him to offer damaging information on "folks in higher places" in exchange for lenience. Blagojevich said that Obama, even more than himself, had a longstanding, close association with Antoin "Tony" Rezko, the Chicago real estate developer who had become the subject of his own federal probe – one that ultimately led to Rezko's conviction on fraud and bribery charges. The former governor said his very first meeting with Obama, then about to join the Illinois senate, came by way of Rezko's personal introduction.
Blagojevich said that in late 2008, having just arrived in his jail cell, investigators approached him for information.
"When they had me in custody they were very clear about they wanted me to cooperate and talk about people in higher places ,and with all due respect to Mayor Daley, there's no one higher than Governor," he said.
"You're talking about then president-elect Obama?" Ross asked.
"I'm not saying that right now." Asked who else he could mean, Blagojevich shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "Is it your impression they were thinking about Obama?" Ross pressed.
"I have my own personal opinion but from where I'm sitting right now it's probably better for me not to talk about it." He then grinned, "If I'm guilty of anything it's that I talk too much."