PREVIEW-Blagojevich corruption trial may touch Obama

* Blagojevich trial may entangle Obama administration

* Strategy to let him testify, showing he’s all talk

By Andrew Stern

CHICAGO, June 2 (BestGrowthStock) – Even Rod Blagojevich’s lawyer
finds him a bit strange, which may provide the key to the
former Illinois governor’s strategy at his upcoming corruption
trial — he was all talk, but no action.

Among the 24 counts of fraud, conspiracy, bribery and
racketeering that could land Blagojevich a long prison sentence
are charges he dangled President Barack Obama’s vacant U.S.
Senate seat to the highest bidder or demanded a cabinet post
for himself in exchange for naming an Obama aide to the seat.

Since his arrest at dawn on Dec. 9, 2008, Blagojevich has
repeated his mantra of innocence in nonstop interviews, in a
book, on the airwaves as a local disc jockey, and to anyone who
would listen on NBC’s “Celebrity Apprentice” television show.

Married with two young daughters, the 53-year-old former
two-term Democrat governor and, before that, three-term U.S.
representative said he is trying to make a living since being
impeached and ousted last year by the state legislature.

His attorney told an interviewer that he had neither the
capability nor the intention of shutting Blagojevich up.

“He’s a celebrity idiot, but he is a celebrity,” Sam Adam
Jr. told Chicago Magazine of plans to let his client testify.

Quieting Blagojevich would never work, he added.

“I can’t. But you’re going to see when he testifies. He’s
truly funny — totally self-absorbed but truly funny,” Adams
said. “He’s also one of the most insecure people I’ve ever met.
It’s such a strange dynamic.”

Another possible wild card in Blagojevich’s long-awaited
trial that begins on Thursday is whether it will entangle Obama
and his aides in Illinois’ hurly-burly political theater.

The trial, which is expected to last up to four months, may
expose discrepancies in how members of Obama’s future
administration characterized its contacts with Blagojevich
after the November 2008 election.

Blagojevich is accused of trying to trade official acts for
kickbacks to his campaign fund, to his friends, to his wife,
Patti, and to himself. He is accused of trying to extract
favors from, among others, a movie producer, the chief of a
local children’s hospital, and the Chicago Tribune.

Judge James Zagel of the U.S. District Court ruled out a
defense request to have Obama testify. But among those who may
take the stand are senior White House staffers Rahm Emanuel and
Valerie Jarrett, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, U.S.
Senator Richard Durbin, and U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.

“Given the former Governor’s previous antics regarding this
case, it’s no surprise he is casting a wide net — apparently
from the President down to dogcatcher,” a statement from
Durbin’s office said after the Senate Democrat was served.

CRIMES OR HORSE TRADING?

There is also the shadowy figure of a convicted influence
peddler, Antoin “Tony” Rezko, a former friend to both Obama and
Blagojevich who may testify for the prosecution.

Prosecutors are expected to rely heavily on the testimony
of former Blagojevich aides, three of whom have pleaded guilty,
and audio tapes featuring the often foul-mouthed Blagojevich.

The FBI recorded 500 hours of conversations involving
Blagojevich and his cohorts. Prosecutors say they engaged in a
turbocharged version of “pay-to-play” politics, and will play
some 100 hours of the tapes for the jury.

Early on, Chicago’s high-profile U.S. attorney Patrick
Fitzgerald released snippets of tape transcripts of the tapes
and said he had halted a “political corruption crime spree”
that would have made Abraham Lincoln roll over in his grave.

Blagojevich’s predecessor, Republican George Ryan, was
convicted on corruption charges and is in prison.

Unlike Ryan, Blagojevich is not accused of pocketing any
money himself and experts say his task is to depict his talk as
typical political horse trading. “Play all the tapes” to show
the overall context, Blagojevich has repeated constantly.

In an impromptu news conference last month, Blagojevich
called out Fitzgerald to meet him face to face in court — “I
hope you’re man enough,” he said. The following day, presiding
Judge James Zagel told him sternly there would be no “head
butting” in his courtroom.

Investing Research

(Editing by Eric Walsh)

PREVIEW-Blagojevich corruption trial may touch Obama