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Blagojevich pleads the 5th

Monday, Mar 31, 2008

* The governor made a fool of himself in front of NBC 5’s Phil Rogers and several other Chicago reporters last week. Carol Marin has part of the play-by play

Rogers kicked off the questioning: Governor, did that conversation [regarding Stu Levine’s claim that Blagojevich allegedly told him, “Stick with us and you’ll do very well for yourself”] happen?

Blago: “Let me answer that question with an answer. I’m not a party in that [Tony Rezko] trial. I’m not following the trial. It would be inappropriate of me to comment on a trial I’m not a part in.” […]

Rich Samuels of WTTW: Did Blagojevich have a conversation on an airplane with Stuart Levine?

Blago: “You know it’s a good question. I’m not a party in that trial. I’m not in a place where I think it’s appropriate to comment on a trial I’m not involved in.”

Then Carlos Hernandez-Gomez of CLTV: Was the governor’s chief of staff Lon Monk clearing decisions through Tony Rezko as Levine has testified?

Blago (taking a noisy sip of water): “Let me answer that question. I’m not a party to that trial.”

Then Phil Rogers once again: What was the governor’s relationship to Tony Rezko and Stuart Levine?

Blago (another noisy sip of water, his eyes peering over the paper cup):

“Look I’ve asked and answered that a million times. You just ought to go back and take a look at your clippings.”

* Eventually, the governor did talk a little about the trial, contradicting his earlier statements that he couldn’t comment. When he did, Blagojevich tried, as his his wont, to pass the buck

“One of the ironies here is you’re talking about one person here, Mr. Levine, who gave $790,000 to Jim Ryan, my opponent for governor in 2002,” Blagojevich said. “If you want to ask about relationships, you ought to ask him about that.”

When it was noted that Levine has never suggested that he did anything illegal with Jim Ryan, which he maintains he did do with those close to the governor, Blagojevich responded, “You know that is not true.”

“You know that is not true, and the way you ask that question is dishonest,” Blagojevich said.

The question, Rogers reported, was asked a couple of more times in various forms, but the answer was always the same.

“I have said again, I am not a party to that case,” Blagojevich said. “It is a full-time job being governor, getting things done for people. It’s inappropriate for me to comment on that, and you know the answer.”

* To sum up: “I’m not gonna answer. I’m not gonna answer. I’m not gonna answer. But, look over there at those evil Republicans!!! OK, so you didn’t take the bait, therefore, I’m not gonna answer. Next question?”

Expect more of the same for the next three months.

* Meanwhile

Tony Rezko’s lawyers are trying to keep out of his trial portions of a secretly recorded phone call in which Republican power broker William Cellini talks of pay-to-play tactics in Gov. Blagojevich’s administration.

“Tony and Chris . . . are . . . essentially hammerin’ people . . . with contracts for fund-raising.” Cellini says on tape, according to a defense filing. “I’m a nervous wreck over it myself.”

Cellini is referring to Rezko and fellow Blagojevich fund-raiser Chris Kelly in a converstion with Stuart Levine, the government’s star witness.

All reporters have heard pretty much the same thing over the years. If you got a state contract, you got a follow-up call from a fundraiser. And the tactics were reportedly on the hardball side.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Flounder - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 9:40 am:

    We are back on Old Rod’s Bi Polar Pony.
    Welcome back Rich!

  2. - Levois - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 9:42 am:

    It seems like this all the governor does, pass the buck. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is why no one trusts him in Springfield.

  3. - OneMan - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 9:42 am:

    Blame a Republican, not our fine governor.

    Anyone want an over/under on how long it will take for him to say ‘Look at Obama’ — I say 1 month.

  4. - Bill - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 9:44 am:

    So how did the governor make a fool of himself? He has consistently said that he does not do business that way and beyond that he will have no further comment on a trial in progress that he has no part in other than this continual slander from an admitted drug abuser and pervert who got his start in corruption operating with Republicans.
    It seems to me that the ones making the fools of themselves are the reporters who continually shout the same question regardless of the purpose of the event. Some of us care about the real news of the state. Why not report on something of substance for a change? It is obvious why Phil Rogers’ and NBC5’s ratings are down and almost noone buys the Sun-Times or reads Carol’s drivel anymore.
    Welcome back, Buddy!

  5. - Ghost - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 9:47 am:

    It is fascinating to think that he most likely sat down and pre-planned that answer. He had to know questions would come up, besides his answer makes no sense related to the question. They did not actually ask him to comment on the trial itsel, but to comment on whether he made ceratin comments to Stuart Levine. It is interesting to note that he does not just come out and deny the conversation or comment took place (particuarly since sush a denial could be used against him later). So far it looks like the vst majority, if not all, of the actual point blanck denials are comming from Abby and other staffers/press people. i.el the Gov is leaving himself the ability to say he never deneid x so that those statements do not come back on him at a later date (trial).

  6. - Truthful James - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 9:47 am:

    Levois –

    Blago never passed the buck. He just deposited them.

  7. - wordslinger - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 9:58 am:

    The walls are closing in…. To see Bill Cellini quoted as being a “nervous wreck” over the apparently less-than-subtle methods of Rezko and Kelly is fascinating. Cellini is one of those guys who would publish his diaries X number of years after passing so we’d really know how things worked.

    Over the years, I almost had sympathy for Rosty and Ryan, two old-school dinosaurs who didn’t recognize that the rules had changed and laws were being enforced. I’m sure they both have great war stories about brazen graft in the old days.

    Blago pulled all this stuff in the Era of Big Heat. Arrogant, on top of corrupt and incompetent.

  8. - OneMan - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 10:07 am:


    If his answer had been consistently

    “it is an ongoing trial and I think it is best not to address anything that has come up or may come up during that trial while it is going on ”

    He does that he seems above the fray, but ‘I am not going to answer and btw take a look at the Republicans’ just seems evasive.

  9. - Bill - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 10:16 am:

    You are right. In fact, that is what he said the first 100 hundred times he was asked the same question. I don’t blame him for finally getting a little frustrated and flustered. He handled the assault a lot better than Daley does. What part of “I won’t answer that” don’t the proponents of the Fran Spielman school of assualt journalism understand?
    They just like watching themselves yelling at the elected official on the 5pm sound bites.They never make it to the 6 or 10 pm news shows.

  10. - OneMan - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 10:22 am:

    As Marin said in her advice to your journalists ‘never stop asking’

    So they are going to keep asking when they can, so he needs to either find a tune that works or just avoid the situation.

  11. - Ghost - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 10:24 am:

    But OneMan, why not answer it? There is nothing about the ongoing trial that keeps him from simply answering whether he made the alleged statement to levine (or the other statements). Nothing stops him from simply denying he did x or said x in response to questions, other then it creates problems for him later if his answers are untruthful. Its evasive how ever he refuses to respond. As for the idea expressed by Bill that reporters pursuing a very legitimate story to the taxpayers of Illinois should somehow back off is ludicrous. If assualt journalism means asking elected officials tough questions about their conduct in office, then the real question is why are there not more journalists pursing this tactic. The Gov’s dodgy reufsal to answer criticaly important questions about his activities should not deflect journalists from pursing such an epicaly important story and the truth.

    Instead of trying to evade the question 100 times the Gov could try answering the question with a real repsonse instead of complaining that reporters keep asking him pesky questions about how he runs his office. SIlly reporters focusing on news and potential corruption by the Gov, what are they thinking.

  12. - OneMan - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 10:29 am:


    I am not an attorney nor play one on TV, but it seems to me if he answers too much he may help Tony get a mistrial.

    Also the answers may not do him any favors.

  13. - Bill - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 10:44 am:

    The Governor has already answered. He doesn’t do business that way. Answering once should be sufficient. There is no news story here. Cover the trial. Focus on those who actually are on trial. Try some investigative journalsim for a change.
    There is no legitimate story here. The legitimate story was the reason for the news conference, not the assualt. Did anyone even bother to cover that?

  14. - chiatty - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 10:45 am:

    I don’t see the problem in the answer; I see a problem in the endless repeating of the questions. Let’s face it: if all the feds have on Rod is that conversation in the airplane, that’s a pretty weak story line for a trial. I’m not saying the feds would not strongly consider indicting him, since it seems that they will indict just about anybody. And I’m not saying that they don’t have “more” on him. But if the only question that’s being raised is the airplane comment, the press should shut up and wait to see if the other shoe drops.

  15. - Cassandra - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 10:45 am:

    Combine a pressing need for campaign finance reform with an ethically compromised governor like our Blago and you get what we’ve got….very expensive state contracts. Those contractors are going to factor in the price of doing business into their bill to Illinois taxpayers. We’re all paying for the financial high jinks of Rezko, Levine, Kelly, Blago, et al. Corruption is expensive.

  16. - One of the 35 - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 10:46 am:

    I can’t remember which movie it was where the politician complained, “This is a press conference damn it! The last thing I wanna do is answer a bunch of questions!”

  17. - VanillaMan - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 10:49 am:

    Hi guys!

    Hey Bill, did you see the interview? You could have had the sound off and still saw a man who appeared to be saying loud and clear that he is nervous and hiding something.

    The Governor couldn’t even pretend anymore. He couldn’t even joke. The guy is frozen in place, dry mouthed and ready to collapse at the speaker’s platform. He looked really bad.

    So what he says and what he doesn’t say tell us a more than you want to admit. You can play legal games and word games, but just like the nervous nelly you are trying to defend - you miss the point deliberately.

    The writing is on the wall. In neon. It is blinking.

    “Time to go!”

  18. - Mr. Wizard - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 10:57 am:

    Ghost is on the right track - the Gov’s answer attempts to avoid a perjury charge.

  19. - Bill - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 10:59 am:

    No, the neon sign says “I’m here until at least 2010 and there is nothing anybody can do about it.”
    We can either work together… or not…Your choice.

  20. - OneMan - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 11:01 am:


    Or they can say ‘we will work without him’ which is what I think they are going to try and do.

  21. - wordslinger - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 11:01 am:

    Mr. Wizard, the gov is not under oath. It’s not against the law to lie to reporters or the public, just to FBI agents and while under oath.

  22. - Bill - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 11:01 am:

    I hope that you are not trying to imply that lying to the press is perjury. I do it all the time for laughs.

  23. - Rich Miller - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 11:08 am:

    ===“I’m here until at least 2010 and there is nothing anybody can do about it.”===

    Not quite.

  24. - Rich Miller - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 11:09 am:

    ===the Gov’s answer attempts to avoid a perjury charge.===

    This isn’t far off. Whatever you say in a press conference can be used against you if you say something different to the feds.

  25. - OneMan - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 11:13 am:

    But if the Feds came after him tomorrow odds are we wouldn'’t be looking at a trial until 2009 and there is no way he would step down in my opinion.

  26. - Rich Miller - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 11:17 am:

    He’ll never step down voluntarily. That’s out of the question. Period.

  27. - Bill - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 11:25 am:

    Anything he says to the press can always be described as “political puffery”.

  28. - Rich Miller - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 11:26 am:

    That may work in lawsuits, but not with the big G.

  29. - I’m disappointed – not appointed - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 11:54 am:

    First of all – “Let me answer that question with an answer” – what? How else are you suppose to answer a question?

    Second – he would be a fool not to be following the Rezko trial. If I were in his shoes (thank goodness I’m not) I would want to know when they are coming to get me or how much time I had to make a quick escape.

    Third – he is ‘a party to that trial’. He was named ‘Public Official A”.

    Fourth – What has Blagojevich got against Republicans with the last name Ryan? He’s either blaming George Ryan or Jim Ryan.

    Fifth - What planet is Blagojevich on?

  30. - VanillaMan - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 12:01 pm:

    Of Blagojevich, as of Shakespeare’s Duncan, it will be said that nothing in his political career so much became him as his leaving of it.

    So knowing what we know now, Blagojevich will not resign. He will go down ugly.

  31. - The Doc - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 12:09 pm:

    Blago’s in a tough spot. He wants desperately to showcase his populist agenda (free rides for seniors, capital bill, foreclosure legislation, etc.), but needs the dais in order to do so. The same dais where he’ll be grilled, as he should be, about the Rezko trial et al. He’s already begun to govern more via press release, and I believe we’ll see more of this as time passes. Fewer public appearances, despite his love affair with such.

  32. - Anon - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 12:10 pm:

    “So how did the governor make a fool of himself?”

    Maybe by saying he would answer the question with an answer, and then giving a non-answer? And then doing it again?

    Good to see Bill is back on the kool-aid. BTW, Bill, Lent is over, and we’re in the Easter season, so instead of shouting “Amen!” to everything the governor says, you could vary things a bit by shouting “Amen! Allelujah!” Wouldn’t want you to get stale.

  33. - VanillaMan - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 12:29 pm:

    Oh - the good news!

    Maybe with this press conference we’ll see less of Blagojevich.

    If I were with the GOP, I’d bait the guy and make this a summer of hilarity before the media. The Democrats want voters to forget that Blagojevich is around. It is to their advantage to make this failed governor a campaign season sensation.

    Note to GOP - If Brady is serious about running in 2010, tell him to prove it. Start a statewide tour and ensure he publically makes comments that will enrage Blagojevich and make him come out in the open where he can’t hide so that the MSM can pick him off with Rezko questions.

  34. - chief illinwek - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 1:40 pm:

    Blago needs to learn Spin 101- When asked a question you dont want to answer, respond by answering the question that YOU want to answer

  35. - Team Sleep - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 2:02 pm:

    Blago’s answers and repeated question-dodging smacks of nervousness and anger. The governor is elected by the people, and the people deserve to know what connection (if any) Mr. Blagojevich has to the TRS scandal.

    And Bill, don’t give me that mularkey about how G-Rod doesn’t do business that way. One look at side-by-side D-2s and state contract information shows otherwise.

  36. - is there a lawyer in the house? - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 10:28 pm:

    I’m no fan of the Governor, but if he commented, wouldn’t he be asking for a subpoena calling him as a rebuttal witness?

  37. - Fox Mulder - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 10:39 pm:

    “I’m no fan of the Governor, but if he commented, wouldn’t he be asking for a subpoena calling him as a rebuttal witness?”

    Only if Papa Tony wants to absolutely positively confirm his reservation at the Graybar Hilton for an extended stay.

  38. - cathyr - Tuesday, Apr 1, 08 @ 2:27 am:

    I have to agree with Bill. I do not see how the Governor embarassed himself. I would like to know why the press isn’t as interested in what lawmakers are doing to get us a capital bill. Dem House members excuses are growing old.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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