Gov't plays tape of Blago using the word 'trade' - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Gov't plays tape of Blago using the word 'trade'

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FILE - In this May 2, 2011 file photo, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich addresses the media accompanied by his wife Patti, at federal court after opening arguments in his second corruption trial in Chicago. FILE - In this May 2, 2011 file photo, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich addresses the media accompanied by his wife Patti, at federal court after opening arguments in his second corruption trial in Chicago.

CHICAGO (AP) — Under methodical questioning, Rod Blagojevich insisted Monday that he never tried to trade President Barack Obama's Senate seat for a job for himself — though a prosecutor cited conversations captured on FBI wiretaps in which the then-Illinois governor seems to say otherwise.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Reid Schar began his first full day of cross-examination by asking about most serious charge the ousted governor faces, that he tried to sell or trade the Senate seat.

Schar's strategy Monday appeared to be to attempt to lay traps using Blagojevich's own words — first asking the 54-year-old to deny a specific allegation, then citing recordings where his comments seem to contradict that testimony.

The prosecutor wasn't as combative as he was last week when he began cross-examining Blagojevich, raising his voice and gesticulating. On Monday, he paced before Blagojevich with his hands in his pockets.

Blagojevich also displayed less fight, hunched forward, speaking softly and occasionally biting his lip. Stepping down from the witness stand for a lunch break, he walked across the room and hugged his wife, Patti.

The former governor denied ever offering to name Obama's pick for the seat — close family friend Valerie Jarrett — in exchange for a high-powered job for himself in government or the private sector. But Schar played a November 2008 tape in which Blagojevich uses the word "trade" in relation to naming Jarrett to the Senate seat and his being named secretary of Health and Human Services.

"(Jarrett) now knows that she can be a U.S. senator if I get Health and Human Services," Blagojevich is heard saying. "I'm willing to trade the thing I got tightly held, to her for something she doesn't hold quite as tightly."

When Blagojevich said he never seriously thought he had a shot at a Cabinet post, Schar countered, "You've made a career out of taking long shots, haven't you? You applied to Harvard."

"Yes," Blagojevich answered with a laugh.

Schar cited half a dozen wiretaps in which Blagojevich seems to say he wants to exchange the Senate seat for a top job — pressing the ex-governor repeatedly for a yes or no answer about whether those were his words.

"I can't simply answer that question yes or no," Blagojevich said at one point. Another time, looking at a wiretap transcript where he seems to talk about trading the Senate seat, Blagojevich said, "I see what I say here, but that's not what I meant."

Rahm Emanuel's name also got yanked into testimony Monday.

For the first time in public, prosecutors raised the issue of whether Emanuel had asked Blagojevich to appoint a successor to his congressional seat in 2008 when he became White House chief of staff.

Emanuel "raised the issue with you of naming an interim to his seat until a special election was held ... that would have given an advantage to the person (named) before an election was held, would it not?" Schar asked.

"This is what Congressman Emanuel was asking me to do," Blagojevich responded. Blagojevich said he was told by his lawyers and a political consultant that such a move would be unconstitutional.

It wasn't immediately clear from the prosecutor's question or Blagojevich's answer why Emanuel may have made the request. Schar broached the topic Monday right after asking Blagojevich if he had ever knowingly violated the U.S. constitution.

A representative for Emanuel, now Chicago's mayor, could not immediately be reached for comment.

There were moments Monday when tempers simmered. Addressing the allegation that Blagojevich tried to shake down a racetrack owner for campaign cash, Schar asked pointedly, "You wanted as much money as you could possibly get, right?"

"As long as it was obtained legally," Blagojevich responded.

A minute later, Schar added sharply, "You understand what I'm talking about Mr. Blagojevich."

"No, I don't," Blagojevich shot back.

Legal experts say the next few days could be decisive as prosecutors try to reverse whatever gains Blagojevich may have made with the jury while fielding comparatively soft questions from his own attorney last week.

Blagojevich's first trial last year ended with jurors deadlocked on all but one count. He was found guilty of lying to the FBI. He did not testify in that trial.

Some legal observers say Blagojevich's sometimes rambling, repetitive testimony is only digging him in deeper, making it more likely he will be convicted of some or all of the 20 corruption counts he faces, including attempted extortion and fraud.

Others say he's done well, at the very least muddying the waters after prosecutors presented a strong three-week case.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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