* There’s little doubt that the US Attorney’s office did a really poor job at oral arguments last week in Rod Blagojevich’s appeal. Listen to the whole thing if you can…
That person just wasn’t prepared.
During an hour-long hearing that was sometimes contentious, three judges of the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals frequently interrupted a prosecutor and pressed her to explain just how the 56-year-old Illinois Democrat’s actions had strayed into criminality. […]
Blagojevich’s attorneys want the court to toss his corruption convictions or at least agree to slash years off his 14-year prison term, which is one of the longest ever imposed for political corruption in a state where four of the last seven governors have ended up in prison.
In seeking a cabinet post - possibly as secretary of health and human services - in exchange for a Senate appointment, Blagojevich was merely seeking to further political causes he’d long championed, including health care, Blagojevich attorney Leonard Goodman told judges.
“Mr. Blagojevich’s defense is, ‘I thought this was (legal) political horse trading,’” said Goodman, adding that Blagojevich was an avid student of political history and was therefore conscious of not crossing that line. “This wasn’t some backroom deal.”
* OK, that’s total bunk. He knew that at least some of what he was doing could very well be illegal. How do we know that? The tapes.
From a December 4th conversation about appointing Jesse Jackson, Jr. to Obama’s Senate seat…
ROBERT BLAGOJEVICH: Yeah. Well I would think if you do appoint him and I don’t know who the money centers are in the black community, but you gotta get me focused on them or somebody focused on them…
BLAGOJEVICH: What, here’s, here’s what you’ve got to do. You gotta talk to Raghu. You gotta call him and say hey, look. You know, Jesse Jr. you know, I think a Ro-, Rod’s meeting with him at some point. Very much a real-, a realistic, and you should just let him know, you know, the Durbins and the others behind the scenes, they don’t want him. They’re afraid.
“Raghu” is Raghu Nayak, a major fundraiser for both Jackson, Jr. and Blagojevich…
Federal authorities alleged Nayak offered to raise up to $6 million in campaign cash for Blagojevich if he used his power to name Jackson as President Barack Obama’s replacement in the U.S. Senate after the 2008 election.
* Rod knew this deal could be a very big problem. From the same conversation with his brother…
BLAGOJEVICH: You understand? Now you gotta be careful how you express that. And assume everybody’s listening, the whole world’s listening.
ROBERT BLAGOJEVICH: Right.
BLAGOJEVICH: You hear me?
* From the very next morning, the same day the Tribune ran a story about how Blagojevich pal Wyma was cooperating with the feds…
ROBERT BLAGOJEVICH: I got a meeting today at one
ROBERT BLAGOJEVICH: Yeah.
BLAGOJEVICH: Yeah. I don’t know if you should do it.
ROBERT BLAGOJEVICH: Right.
ROBERT BLAGOJEVICH: So is that a definitive no?
BLAGOJEVICH: Probably, yeah. Give me a little while, but I’m sure it’s a no. Just, you know, just re-, say we’ll see you tomorrow and Harish Bhatt and all that stuff, you know what I’m sayin’?
ROBERT BLAGOJEVICH: Yeah. (PAUSE)
ROBERT BLAGOJEVICH: Okay.
ROBERT BLAGOJEVICH: Alright.
BLAGOJEVICH: Yeah and I’m sure it’s gonna be a no.
ROBERT BLAGOJEVICH: Okay. Very good.
BLAGOJEVICH: In fact, just do it. Go ahead just call him and say, well, it’s too obvious right now ’cause of this story.
* Later that morning…
ROBERT BLAGOJEVICH: Alright just to let you know what’s goin’ on today we got this Hispanic event.
BLAGOJEVICH: Yeah I know, I know all that. So, yeah, undo your Raghu thing.
ROBERT BLAGOJEVICH: Ah, done.
ROBERT BLAGOJEVICH: Done.
* Back to Friday’s hearing…
With some passion behind his remarks, [former chief judge of the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, the conservative Frank Easterbrook] asked if there was “any criminal conviction in U.S. history” other than Blagojevich’s in which a politician was convicted for trying to trade one job for another.
“I’m aware of none,” responded the government’s Debra Bonamici.
Her answer seemed to hang in the air for a bit as courtroom observers took that in.
Easterbrook described how in the run-up to the 1952 presidential election, then-California Gov. Earl Warren offered to use his post to “deliver California” for Eisenhower in return for a seat on the Supreme Court. It was a deal that Eisenhower eventually honored.
“If I understand your position, Earl Warren should have gone to prison, Dwight Eisenhower should have gone to prison,” Easterbrook implored. “Can that possibly be right?”
Her eventual answer was nuanced, including explaining the allegations included Blagojevich’s attempt to have a 501c (4) set up for him to head if he appointed Valerie Jarrett to the U.S. Senate.
I happen to mostly agree with Easterbrook here. But the prosecutor should’ve focused on some of the more clear-cut issues, like the shakedown of a children’s hospital for a big campaign contribution. He ordered a beneficial state rule held up until he got his money. That’s clearly illegal.
*** UPDATE *** Wordslinger blasts Easterbrook’s comparison to the Eisenhower situation…
That’s nonsense. Show me, in any written history, that Warren made such an “offer” and that Eisenhower agreed to “honor” it.
As it was, 77 of the 90-member California delegation voted for Warren at the convention, so Warren hardly “delivered” the state to Ike.
How the U.S. attorney could let that fiction slide just shows how unprepared the office was.
In 1952, Gov. Warren ran as a favorite son, and thought he had the 90-vote California delegation sewn up. In truth, Sen. Nixon spent the train ride from Sacramento to Chicago picking off a handful of Warren delegates for Ike.
Because of this, in part, Ike’s biggest backers, Gov. Dewey and Gen. Clay, recommended him for VP. Nixon was also considered an attractive VP candidate for his youth, war service and for being from the booming West. In addition, he served as a bridge between the right-wing isolationists (for the Hiss case) and the moderate East Coast internationalists (for his support of NATO).
After Ike was elected president, he nominated Warren for solicitor general, with the idea of appointing him to the next open Supreme Court seat, which he did.
But that was to keep Warren from being a primary rival in 1956 and to placate the liberal wing of the GOP, just as Lincoln did with Salmon Chase and the Radical Republicans in 1864.