Federal prosecutors responded to former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's motion to play "missing" taped conversations in court, saying the move is irrelevant at best since the court is already aware of all the tapes and has ruled on which are admissible in court.
"The instant motion offers no new argument or legal theory for the admission of the recordings on which the Court previously ruled," the government says in a court document filed late Monday. "It is unclear what purpose the defendant's instant motion serves, other than to potentially influence prospective jurors."
Blagojevich's defense team has been attempting to show that federal prosecutors built their corruption case against him by selectively releasing wiretap recordings of his wheeling and dealing, while omitting from the records the tapes that would exonerate him. The defense filed a motion earlier Monday in which the team argued several "missing" tapes that had been previously undisclosed should be admitted because they "establish the evolution of Blagojevich's thought process" and "prove his innocent intent."
Blagojevich was convicted on just one of 24 corruption charges against him last fall, but prosecutors have vowed to retry him, with court dates set for April. But with the initial case came the damaging release of Blagojevich's phone conversations during the turbulent period that followed Obama's presidential win. In one conversation played by the government, Blagojevich could be heard describing the senate seat as a "valuable thing," and, "if I don't get what I want and I'm not satisfied with it, then I'll just take the Senate seat myself."
But in the court filing Monday, Blagojevich's legal team contends that there are many more recordings that help shed more light on what the then-governor was trying to accomplish. It also says the ability to play the additional segments of the federal government's recordings would help prove there is a "missing" recording, from a Dec. 8, 2008 call. The request for that tape prompted a separate filing last week, asking for records from a phone call between a Blagojevich aide and Rahm Emanuel, then the White House chief of staff.
The former governor alleges that Emanuel, who is now running for mayor in Chicago, had offered to help broker a deal to give Madigan the seat and secure passage of a legislative package for Blagojevich.
The government said the tapes the defense is referring to were already considered by the court during the first trial and that ruling carries over to the second.
"Rather than supplying a basis (new or otherwise) for admitting these calls... the defendant simply states that the recordings demonstrate the defendant's 'state of mind as he contemplated a decision on whom to appoint to the Senate seat,'" the government's filing says. "Not only is this argument simply a repeat of the argument the court rejected during the first trial, it does not come close to providing a justification for admission."
While campaigning last week, Emanuel downplayed the defense's court filing, noting that an internal look into the matter by the administration found "nothing inappropriate or any deal making."
Emanuel also reminded reporters that Blagojevich can be heard cursing over Obama's refusal to offer him anything other than gratitude in exchange for placing a close Obama aide in the seat. "I'm not in the business of interpretation, but I know what I said, which was, 'You're going to get thanks and appreciation'? And you also know how the governor responded to appreciation."
In this latest filing, Blagojevich directs some harsh accusations against federal prosecutors.
"United States Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald represented a false narrative in his December 9, 2008 press conference where he alleged that Blagojevich was arrested to stop a political crime spree," it says. "The U.S. Attorney knew, based on recorded conversations up through the very night before Blagojevich's arrest, that Blagojevich was negotiating the 'Madigan deal.' The U.S. Attorney knew or should have known that the representations at the press conference were not true."
In the government's filing, prosecutors say the claim Blagojevich was close to settling the "Madigan deal" was false.
"This suggestion ignores a crucial fact: that the defendant's very last statement about the Senate seat, made during a recorded conversation that occurred on the evening of December 8, 2008, was that he had no intention of naming a senator until January 2009, and that he might well name himself senator," the documents say.