Gov. Rod Blagojevich continued efforts this week to try and bolster his claim 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.
In the latest District Court filing submitted Monday, the Blagojevich legal team tried to build a case that he was not trying to "sell" the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama. In fact, the former Illinois governor has claimed, he was hard at work trying to broker a political horse trade that would appoint Lisa Madigan, the state's attorney general and daughter of the Illinois House speaker, to the post.
Blagojevich has asked a federal judge to allow him to play previously undisclosed recordings in court because they "establish the evolution of Blagojevich's thought process" and "prove his innocent intent."
Blagojevich was convicted on just one of 24 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. While campaigning last week, Emanuel downplayed the 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."
A spokesperson for the U.S. attorney's office declined to comment on the governor's charges.