As Rod Blagojevich’s Chief of Staff, John Harris was Blago’s right hand man and privy to his most intimate of Political thoughts. Yesterday Harris testified at the Blago trial, saying the ex-governor told Harris he was convinced Barack Obama knew of the quid quo pro Blagojevich expected for a Senate nod.
The revelation came out as Harris was explaining a tape recording of a Blago phone call.
“The president understands that the governor would be willing to make the appointment of Valerie Jarrett as long as he gets what he’s asked for. . . . The governor gets the Cabinet appointment he’s asked for,” Harris said, explaining a recorded call.
Harris said Blagojevich came away believing Obama knew what he wanted after having a conversation with a local union representative, who in turn spoke with labor leader Tom Balanoff, with whom Blagojevich met to discuss a Jarrett appointment. Jarrett, now a White House adviser, was seeking the appointment to Obama’s Senate seat.
The President has said he knew nothing about Governor Blago’s wheeling and dealing of the Senate seat appointment,but Harris’ testimony seems to contradict that statement.
The defense on Wednesday moved to force the prosecution to turn over FBI reports of Obama’s interview with federal agents in December of 2008. Obama is not accused of wrongdoing.
“Testimony elicited by the government from John Harris and wiretaps played in court raise the issue of President Obama’s direct knowledge and communication with emissaries and others regarding the appointment to his Senate seat,” lawyers wrote in the filing.
The filing came on the trial’s third day of the extensive playback of recordings in which Blagojevich is heard repeatedly discussing ways to personally capitalize on his Senate seat appointment power. Blagojevich could be heard plotting to try to head up a charity; swearing and snapping at his wife, Patti, and dismissing the possibility of a federal position that pays $190,000 a year.
“I make $170 . . . So Fred, that has no appeal to me . . . I want to make money,” Blagojevich tells national Democratic consultant Fred Yang. “I might as well go out and find a way to make money.”
Obama’s 2008 internal report about his staff’s contacts with Blagojevich at the time indicates that Balanoff relayed to Jarrett that Blagojevich was interested in a Health and Human Services Cabinet post.
It takes two to play “Chicago Politics.” While there is now smoking gun, this “bartering” of a senate seat for an administration job doesn’t seem much different from the Andrew Romanoff or Joe Sestak scandals.