The Method to Blagojevich's Sam Adam's Madness

I just reviewed Burris’ testimony before the impeachment committee. I was struck by Sam Adam Jr.’s efforts to orchestrate a wiretap that might exonerate Blago of any charges he attempted to sell the Senate seat for personal gain. Here’s what happened.

December 26, afternoon: Sam Adam Jr., a Blago lawyer who may or may not be part of Blago’s defense team, called Burris and told him he had something urgent to tell him. Burris was curious what he had to say, so–even though he was preparing for a black tie event, told him to come over. Presumably, even if Adam called from Blago’s tapped phones, this conversation would be minimized bc of attorney client privilege.

December 26, 4PM: Adam shows up. They have a conversation. Since it occurs in a place presumably free of wiretaps, we only have Burris’ version.

December 28, 4PM: Adam shows up to Burris’ house again. Same thing: presumably this conversation wasn’t tapped, so we only have Burris’ version.

December 28, shortly thereafter: Blago calls Burris and offers him the seat. Blago goes on at some length (per Burris’ description) listing Burris’ qualifications. Gosh. It’s as if Blago were performing an honest offer for the Senate seat, complete with listing all the reasons Burris is qualified. This conversation is on tape, and will make a nice trial exhibit to prove that Blago really was only trying to appoint someone qualified for the seat, and not seeking personal gain for it.

December 30: Blago announces the pick in a joint press conference. I find the delay interesting; something I’ll come back to. 

Isn’t that all neat and tidy? What I find particularly interesting is how it matches up with what we know of the offer Blago made to Danny Davis before he made an offer to Burris. 

December 24 morning; Davis and Sam Adam Jr. meet in Davis’ Chicago office. This conversation would not only not be tapped, but would be protected by legislative privilege. Like Burris, Davis had previously said he would not accept the spot, but he heard Adam’s offer anyway:

Davis said he was told "the governor would like to appoint me to the vacant spot." After Blagojevich was arrested Dec. 9, Davis, who sought the appointment from him when he thought Blagojevich was playing it straight, said he would not take the job if offered.

But he conferred with Adam anyway, out of "respect" for the office of the governor, Davis told me; besides, Blagojevich has not yet been indicted nor found guilty of anything.

December 26, 9AM: Davis and Adam meet (apparently again in person) again; Davis rejects the offer.

"I indicated I came to the conclusion there was too much discomfort on my part and the part of my family," Davis said. Anyway, he could not see how the governor could name anyone and make it stick.

But most important, Davis said he realized that if he took the job, "It would be difficult to generate the trust level people would have to have in me. I just decided there was too much turmoil, too much disagreement. It was something I wanted to do, but I said I would not take an appointment from the governor."

Of course, in Davis’ case, Blago never got the chance to call and make the offer on tape, all nice and tidy like. But note that it only took Blago 7 hours to find a new potential candidate?

Incidentally, Burris’ testimony ends (around 1:24:38) with Representative Rose asking Genson a question about Adam’s role.

Rose: I hope at some point in time we’re going to be able to ask some question as to what the status of Mr. Adam is.

Genson: Well, I’ll give you the status but don’t count on Mr. Adam answering.

Genson, of course, doesn’t explain Adam’s status. Awkward pause. End of Burris testimony. 

Update: A reader who–as a lawyer–knows this much better than I, corrects me on my suggestion that an Adam-Burris call would in any way be protected, particularly by attorney client privilege. That said, I think Fitz is bending over backward on minimization here, so he may not look that closely at calls with retained lawyers involved. Besides, the "Burris appointment as exonerating act" will be so easy to refute, who needs it?

  1. JTMinIA says:

    Do you think that Blago (via Adams) asked for anything more than a ‘yes’?

    If not, then is the only reason for the conversations happening where it won’t be taped so that there’s no evidence that Blago had to beg Burris to take the job?

  2. LabDancer says:

    We know of one mutual sponsor who stood to possibly benefit from MacBlago parachuting Burris into the US Senate. Could there be another had Davis accepted?

    • LabDancer says:

      Quite apart from that, what Davis & Burris have in common:

      – African-American
      – elderly
      – do a pretty fair Uriah Heep thing
      – have another tie to Obama: Burris was endorsed by Obama over MacBlago in the Dem gov primary in 2002, and Davis is out the New Party movement, which is making inroads into the Illinois Dem ranks, and whose superstar ‘product’ [sports analogy] is Obama

      Meanwhile, MacBlago:

      – has been calling himself Illinois’ “first black governor” for years
      – as noted in an earlier thread, benefited mightily in the 2002 Dem primary from Burris’ candidacy siphoning off the African-American vote from the ‘third’ candidate, who was widely regarded as the best of the lot & the pre-primary favorite
      – referred on intercept[s?] to his being “stuck” as Governor
      – referred on intercept[s?] to the option of “parachuting” or himself “keeping” Obama’s seat
      – has, or at least had, national ambitions
      – has provided more than once perhaps the most serious conceivable addiction to speedballing narcissim-laced denial & hubris
      – may have planted leaks about a certain Illinois congress critter having his seat in the Capital kept warm for him while he takes care of other business

      Is it possible he sees himself as Adam Clayton Powell in whiteface?

      • emptywheel says:

        Incidentally, one of the IL Reps asking Burris questions on Thursday got very close to suggesting the Telephone USA payment was payoff for Burris having entered the primary at Blago’s behest to draw off the black Chicago vote. Burris got all indignant when he suggested that.

  3. prostratedragon says:

    As he’s of Serbian descent, I’m going to guess “yes.” Chicago politics can still be quite ethnic, so if it were true, it wouldn’t necessarily be all delusional.

  4. radiofreewill says:

    Iana-therapist, but Blago certainly looks like a Classic Snake in a Suit – an Educated Sociopath.

    Everything and everyone in his life is a ‘tool’ for him to get what he wants – the Illinois Public, his Power as Governor, his wife, his lawyers, even his ‘Backers’ and other Politicians.

    He’s a master of shamelessly exploiting opportunity by manipulating public sentiment to appear a Champion of the People, while at the same time using his Public Service position to Extort Kick-Backs from the Beneficiaries of Power God Rod’s largesse.

    For calculating people like Blago, imvho, manipulating the Public, one way or the other, is something that either helps or hurts his primary objective of Getting What He Wants without having to be Accountable to the Law or the People of Illinois.

    In Blago’s World, using Adams to stage a scene of ‘honest brokering’ on the Senate Seat is Just Like calling a Presser to Declare that he’s the Victim of a Witch-Hunt for bringing Health Care to the Needy, who are all arranged neatly behind St. Blago.

    He’ll say and do anything to get his way and not be held accountable for his actions.

    Once that’s established, imvho, there can be No Expectation of Honest Services, No Reason to Expect the Above-Board Service and Protection of the Public Trust. The guy would sell the State Seal if he thought it would get him something, and he believed he could get away with it.

    When the Governor’s word becomes Unreliable, there can be no Trust and no Faith in his Government.

    This is why Impeachment is listed as a Remedy in the Constitution – it’s the fix for Broken Public Trust – it’s the fix for Abusing the Power vested by the Public in a Postion of Authority for Craven Self-Service, instead of Honest Service for the Public Good.

    Blago is not a Leader, he’s a Manipulator without Conscience, sitting in the Governor’s Chair, Secretly Bullying and Siphoning-Off his Share of the Money going to Healthcare, Secretly Bullying and Extorting the Newspaper to Fire Certain Editorial Staff in return for Money, and Secretly Bullying and Auctioning-Off Open Political Seats to the highest bidder.

    His method is Secret Bullying behind Staged Public Appearances, and his madness is Power and Money – the People are just Props – Dupes, one and all.

      • radiofreewill says:

        I read Cheney as a ‘high-functioning’ Sociopath – he can smother most challengers to his plans by masterfully using the bureaucracy – but, when he makes open displays of power, he’s decidedly clumsy, at best. He doesn’t think well on his feet, but he’ll mull over ‘getting’ someone obsessively in his free time.

        Bush, otoh, is much closer to Blago, imvho – impulsive, raw, over-driven with bravado – but ‘knows’ how to work a crowd emotionally to obfuscate his actual intent.

        At this point, at least, Bush appears to be ringed by much better flunkies than Blago – if Blago’s guys had the wink-and-nod down, they wouldn’t get caught on tape talking Pay-to-Play.

        • Palli says:

          You are right in descriptions of all three- though my disgust for Cheney’s banal evil is a less scholarly word than sociopath and isn’t Bush one of the flunkies for Cheney.
          OT But I got to say how alienating it feels to be able to see/feel these guys for what they are and watch so many others not recognize the obvious, or more likely, subjugate their authentic response out of some innate self-loathing. My skin cringes. It doesn’t take much experience to “read” them, so how do they get positions of power? Why do other polititians tolerate it in early careers? I know it is the eternal question but it needs to be understood in this age of media manipulation.
          Fox brings on that woman to read body language…has she or anyone else on “real” TV ever called out Steven’s scurried rat walk, Cheney’s hate-filled sneer, or really heard McCain’s interminable “my friends” or even acknowledged Valerie Plames calm testimony without a single flirtacious flip of her hair? Carter stood a bit off from the presidential alumni line up the other day, notice and perfectly understandable to me! Once noticed has the meaning been validated so as to train viewers to trust their first impressions.

  5. BoxTurtle says:

    Does anyone have a schedule for the senate impeachment process? That timeline is going to be crucial to Blago, I don’t think he can let the Senate vote.

    Boxturtle (The man has no shame, is proud of it, is openly looking for the best offer)

  6. Palli says:

    A question I ask as simply as possible: How can creeps remain members in good standing with the parties? Is it so tight a club that shunning is merely ceremonial and has no effect on public percption and/thus the ability to enter primaries? Does $ alone cast the cloak of respectability?

  7. foothillsmike says:

    Couple of points: Early on Davis said he reccommended Burris in his rejection of the offer. Davis already has a seat in congress that he can sit in until he retires without having to do any state wide races. Burris has an empty place on his mausoleum.
    240 hrs & 15 min

  8. bgrothus says:

    I left this downstairs, but I wondered if anyone saw the TV interview last night with a woman who wore a wire for months? I think she worked for the hospital in Chicago and was the whistle blower, or at least one of the first.

    I was surprised it would be on TV, and I did not see the whole thing to be sure it was Blago-related, but I think it was.

  9. AitchD says:

    Is it a federal crime (obstruction of justice) to conspire to portray cleanliness while being a party to a federal criminal investigation? No, but it will be?

  10. BoxTurtle says:

    OT – Didn’t I say this was the plan all along?

    Boxturtle (This should thoroughly destroy whatever street cred Fatah had left)

  11. Adie says:

    Hi Gang. Hey, when does Perry Mason show up?

    And is that pic perfect for the occasion or what?! Blotto looks terrified that Burris will mess up his script. hm-m-m.

    Fine series of intriguing twists & turns, EW. You ought to string these together, fudge a few details, and make write a novel. It writes itself. Oye.

    I especially like previous scenes wherein current state lege members virtually beg the country to forgive their mess of a government. T’is indeed.

    Remember the M.A.S.H. episode when the bored medicos split up and shared a pot-boiler of a novel, and then someone lost the last chapter and all heQQ broke loose? Don’t you do that to us EW. We’re hanging on every word. Will it come out as “pay per view?” as it were?

  12. tanbark says:

    Good stuff, ‘Wheel. :o)

    We could make a ‘toon strip out of it, with thought-balloons over Burris’s head, as the idea of his being in the U.S. Senate sinks in:

    “Lessseee…just HOW fucking crooked will I look if do a sorta-kinda 180 on Blago’s fitness to do JUST this kind of thing, as he appoints ME to the Senate? I mean, i DID say that Madigan was right when she called for the state Supremes to dump him…and there is that little thingy of me saying that he was incapacitated. Some people might think that I was just one more political sleaze, whoring himself out, and I wouldn’t want that……………………………..would I?”

    (Little-Red-Devil-with-pitchfork, sitting on Burris’s shoulder:

    “To hell with that! We’re talking power! A fat salary! Prestige! (Okay; the last one, only with people from murky gene pools, and republicans who want to be able to point to you when Blago finally eats it, but it’ll be too late by then. Once you get in, no one will be able to come after you. All you’ll have to do is scream that they keep a tear-stained copy of “Gone With The Wind” under their beds, and a “Stars and Bars” flag in their closet, and they’ll go away.”

    Burris: “You think?”

    Little Devil” “i KNOW! After the past 8 years, what’s one more George-Bush-style ethical shitmire? Fer chrissakes, LIndsay Graham is bragging about about what a success Iraq is. You think they’ll worry about a 60 second porn-flick of you going soixante-neuf with a crooked governor? Just keep shreiking “rule of law!”…”rule of law!” and no one will be able to stop you.


    “Okay! I’ll take it! Gimme that cell phone…”

    Little Devil, with open-handed slap on Burris’s head:

    “NO! You dumbshit peckerhead! NOT with the phone. Meet someone at a bus-stop under the loop El…as the train goes by, in case he’s wearing a wire.”

    Burris, reaching for overcoat: “Oh. Yeah….”