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. Read more

Lon Monk and Roland Burris

There were two things of note that came up at yesterday’s Roland Burris testimony before the IL impeachment committee. His $1.2 million campaign loan gift from Joseph Stroud–who was also giving to Blagojevich at the time (who, incidentally, also employs Vicki Iseman as a lobbyist). And, his discussion(s) with Lon Monk about wanting the Senate Seat.

The Monk revelation is important for several reasons:

  • It violates the spirit–though not the letter–of Burris’ affidavit describing his appointment
  • Monk is a central player in the Blago complaint–and was wiretapped himself
  • The wiretaps Fitz was trying to get the legislature pertain to a scheme between Blago and Monk

The Monk disclosure violates the spirit of Burris’ affidavit

In the affidavit he submitted to the committee, Burris claimed that, 

Prior to the December 26, 2008 telephone call from Mr. Adams Jr., there was not any contact between myself or any of my representatives with Governor Blagojevich or any of his representatives regarding my appointment to the United States Senate.

Yet, in response to a question from State Rep Jim Durkin about whether he had talked to anyone "associated" with Blago, Burris reluctantly admitted he spoke with Monk about the seat, "in September or maybe it was in July."

Now, Burris may well say that he didn’t consider Monk a "representative" of Blago. Monk used to be Blago’s Chief of Staff, but was no longer employed by Blago when Burris had the conversation(s) with him. Furthermore, Burris claims he didn’t read the Blago complaint, which doesn’t name Monk by name anyway, so there’s no reason why the repeated mention of Lobbyist 1 in the complaint should have led Burris to reveal his contacts with that same Lobbyist 1. So Burris’ conversation with Monk certainly doesn’t contradict the letter of his affidavit.

Nevertheless, Burris was chatting about the seat with someone close to Blago, in the process of trying to drum up state business from that lobbyist specifically in context of his ties to Blago.

Monk was a central player in the Blago complaint

Burris’ revelation is all the more interesting given Monk’s role in the Blago complaint. Blago apparently used him to pressure potential donors on several schemes. Blago said Monk was going to hit up a Tollway Contractor for $500,000 tied to a $1.8 billion road project. 

According to Individual A, after Individual B left the meeting on October 6, 2008, Read more

Blagojevich Impeached

When it became clear that Nixon would be impeached, he had the good sense to step down. Not so Blago, who vowed today to remain governor in spite of the 114-1 vote in the IL House in favor of impeaching him today.

In a historic vote, the Illinois House has impeached Gov. Rod Blagojevich, directing the Senate to put the state’s 40th chief executive on trial with the goal of removing him from office.

The vote by the House was 114-1 and marks the first time in the state’s 190-year history that a governor has been impeached, despite Illinois’ longstanding reputation for political corruption.

Rep. Milt Patterson (D-Chicago) was the lone vote against impeaching the governor. Patterson, from Chicago’s Southwest Side, said after the roll call that he didn’t feel it was his job to vote to impeach the governor. He declined comment on whether he approved of the job Blagojevich is doing.

A Blagojevich spokesman said the governor will not resign. A 2 p.m. news conference with the governor is scheduled for the James R. Thompson Center in downtown Chicago.

Then again, resignation is the one chit that Blago has to use with Fitz, so it’s no surprise he won’t resign … yet.

Next up, a trial in the IL Senate.

Five Years After Pay-to-Play Gang Tried to Get Fitz Fired, Blagojevich Tries Again

IMO, Blago’s been playing his whole post-arrest period about as well as could be expected, up to and including making the Senate Majority Leader look like an amateur. But today’s latest move may well backfire.

Blago’s lawyers just filed (in a motion they tried to keep sealed) to get Fitz dismissed from his case.

Lawyers for Gov. Rod Blagojevich have filed a sealed motion to remove U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald and his assistants from prosecution of the case against the governor, a federal judge disclosed today.

U.S. District Chief Judge James Holderman ordered the defense today to file that motion publicly.

After today’s court session, Sheldon Sorosky, a Blagojevich lawyer, said the defense wanted Fitzgerald’s removed "because of the statements made in the announcement of the arrest of Gov. Blagojevich."

Sorosky was asked if the defense believed Fitzgerald used inflammatory language in the announcement. "The motion speaks for itself," Sorosky said.

Mind you, I’m sure Blago can find all manner of discredited shill who will argue that Fitzgerald spoke improperly at his press conference announcing Blago’s arrest. But that doesn’t change the fact that Blago is now asking for something his alleged confederates tried to do over four years ago–get Fitz fired (or at least removed from this case). The same Rezko trial witnesses that form the foundation of Fitz’s case against Blago, after all, also testified that the gang tried to get Fitz fired.

In a hearing before court began, prosecutors said they hoped to call Ali Ata, the former Blagojevich administration official who pleaded guilty to corruption yesterday, to the stand.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Carrie Hamilton said she believed Ata would testify to conversations Ata had with his political patron, Rezko, about working to pull strings to kill the criminal investigation into Rezko and others when it was in its early stages in 2004.

"[Ata] had conversations with Mr. Rezko about the fact that Mr. Kjellander was working with Karl Rove to have Mr. Fitzgerald removed," Hamilton told U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve.

The one member of the pay-to-play gang who has not yet publicly admitted they tried to take Fitz out–Rezko–is, by all appearances–getting more cooperative by the day.

 So while maybe I’m misreading how this latest play will go over, I gotta say the optics of it stinks. Blago’s alleged accomplices have been gunning for Fitz for years. And now, post-arrest, the first thing he does is try once Read more

Draft Blagojevich Impeachment Report Released

Here. The Trib’s overview is here.

I think the head cold is sufficiently at bay so I can read along with you.

One thing to note as you read: how the Committee has used (in limited fashion) Fitz’ evidence from the complaint. Note they’re focusing on the flashy stuff: Wrigley Field and the Senate seat. The pay to play stuff has been lumped in with testimony from the Rezko and other trials.

Also note a few of these items are things that are reasonably laudable–better services–but which  Blago tried to accomplish through illegal means.

And finally, note the Executive Ethics Commission Report, starting on page 53. This is basically about Blago breaking all sorts of hiring rules. I raise it for you to keep in mind as Dems start cheerleading this impeachment. The charge is something that Bush is equally guilty of–but there was no squawk of impeachment for him.

Starting on page 60, there is a list of all the evidence they’ve used thus far. You can access almost all of those at this website.

Rahm's Contacts

I’m still trying to sort through the conflicting stories on contacts Rahm Emanuel had with Rod Blagojevich and his crowd. One of two things is going on:

1. Rahm has been less than forthcoming in describing his contacts with Blagojevich and his minions.


2. There has been a sustained effort to misrepresent Rahm’s contacts with the governor.

Note the AND/OR there: I believe both are true, to a point. Which is why I’m still trying to wade through these details.

Did Rahm call Blago in December?

The most recent conflicting data point is this one, included in a Sun-Times story reporting on Reid’s contact with Blago:

Before [Reid’s and Menendez’s conversations with Blago on December 3], Obama’s chief of staff Rahm Emanuel called Blagojevich to tell him to expect to hear from Senate leadership because they were pushing against Jackson and others, according to statements the governor made to others.

This would seem to conflict with Rahm’s representation to Obama’s team, which asserted that he had only spoken directly to Blago one or two times–both in early November.

Mr. Emanuel had one or two telephone calls with Governor Blagojevich. Those conversations occurred between November 6 and November 8, 2008.

There are a couple of ways to resolve this contradiction, neither one of them very satisfying. First, it is possible (though highly improbable) that Rahm told Blago on November 8 that Senate leadership would call him (though note that–at that point–Schumer had not yet announced his resignation as DSCC Chair), and they simply didn’t get around to calling him until December. This is unlikely for two reasons: Obama’s team hadn’t even given Blago their "list" yet, so it seems unlikely that Reid and Menendez or Schumer were already lobbying heavily. And then there’s the unrealistic delay of almost a month, during a period when it was never clear whether Blago was about to appoint someone in the near future or not.

The other way to resolve the contradiction is via the dodge I pointed out earlier. The Obama report does not claim to be a comprehensive on all contacts between Obama’s team and Blago’s team; Read more

Roland Burris Subpoenaed

I’m one of those who believes that Blago made no monetary deal with Roland Burris in exchange for the Senate seat (which is not to say that Blago didn’t make it very clear that Burris would have to stop calling on Blago to resign).

But IL’s legislative impeachment committee appears to want more assurances from Burris that that is the case. They subpoenaed Burris on Saturday, to appear before the committee on Wednesday.

The group has also issued a subpoena that was served Saturday on Roland Burris, the governor’s controversial choice to fill Illinois’ vacant U.S. Senate seat. The order compels Burris to testify Wednesday.

Given that Burris will be in DC today and tomorrow trying to be seated as Senator, I’d say he’s got a busy few days.

Blagojevich, Reid, and Rahm: Who Is Distorting Claims about Jesse Jackson Jr.?

The Sun-Times has updated its story on Reid’s calls to Rod Blagojevich with this statement from Harry Reid:

Gov. Blagojevich appears to be trying to distract attention from his daunting legal problems and damaged credibility by distorting information about private phone calls between himself and other public officials. It is regrettable and reprehensible.

Gov. Blagojevich’s efforts to try to tarnish others while the cloud of suspicion continues to grow over him are shameful, as are his efforts to further betray the public trust and sow seeds of division. As each day passes it becomes increasingly clear that Gov. Blagojevich is not fit to lead, and he should resign.

I will not allow his corruption charges or his antics to distract me from leading the Senate, to drive a wedge in our party or to obscure the facts. [my emphasis]

(Reid just accused Blago of lying about it on MTP, as well.)

I’m fascinated not only by Reid’s decision to respond to what he apparently believes is a Blago leak, but by his accusation that Blago is lying. That’s because there are now three different versions about whether or not Jesse Jackson Jr. was acceptable to Obama and Reid.

Recall that, several weeks ago, someone leaked to the Trib details of Rahm’s discussions with Blago about "acceptable" candidates for the Senate seat. That list rather notably did not include JJJ.

Emanuel delivered a list of candidates who would be "acceptable" to Obama, the source said. On the list were Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, Illinois Veterans Affairs director Tammy Duckworth, state Comptroller Dan Hynes and U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Chicago, the source said. All are Democrats.

Sometime after the election, Emanuel called Harris back to add the name of Democratic Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan to the approved list, the source said.

In fact, except for Jarrett, that list did not include any African-American candidates.

But that’s not who Rahm says was on the list.

Between the time that Mr. Emanuel decided to accept the position of Chief of Staff in the White House and December 8, 2008, Mr. Emanuel had about four telephone conversations with John Harris, Chief of Staff to the Governor, on the subject of the Senate seat. In these conversations, Mr. Emanuel and Mr. Harris discussed the merits of potential candidates and the strategic benefit that each candidate would bring to the Senate seat. Read more

Burris: Why Not Withhold Committee Assignments?

There’s been a lot of discussion about whether or not the Senate has the ability to refuse to seat Roland Burris–the guy Rod Blagojevich appointed to replace Obama. I see some merit on both sides, but above all, I see an awfully weird time to purport to discipline and rule of law.

That said, perhaps there is a reasonable solution which is entirely in line with other moves the Senate has made of late: seating Burris, but refusing to give him any committee assignments in the Senate, at least pending some resolution of Blagojevich’s affairs.

When long-serving Toobz Stevens was indicted, the Republicans took away his committee assignments. When Larry Craig got caught being gay, the Republicans took away his committee assignments.  (Somehow, David Vitter’s solicitation of a prostitute didn’t require he lose his committee assignments.)

While, in both cases, the Senate chose not to move to expel the Senators, pulling committee assignments was a way pull the perks of the seat in an attempt to convince the Senator to resign. While both retained a vote, they lost any real influence in the Senate.

Burris would, of course, have a means to get committee assignments: he could caucus with the Republicans, if they would have him. Which would make it a lot harder for Burris to run as an incumbent Democrat in 2010. Not necessarily a bad thing, IMO.

Maybe a week hanging out with the family has made me all Solomonic, but withholding all committee assignments from Burris seems like a sound way to discourage him from sticking around with a tainted–but (by all appearances) legally sound appointment. 

Blagojevich’s Next Move

It’s probably not a good thing for a potentially-tainted politically appointee–in this case, former IL AG Roland Burris, the guy whom Blagojevich appointed to replace Obama–to be engaging in discussions of precisely what kind of tool he is on the same day he’s appointed.

"I am not a tool of the governor. I’m a tool of the people of Illinois," Burris told the Tribune Tuesday evening. "If I was worried about the taint [of Blagojevich], I would never have accepted that. I don’t have any taint from Gov. Blagojevich."

As you’ve no doubt gathered, Blago’s move to name Burris as Obama’s replacement puts a lot of pressure on Senate Democrats to refuse to seat Burris (here’s the always-interesting John Kass on the race politics involved).

But it also puts more pressure on Fitzgerald to come forward with his case in the near future.

Remember that Fitz has 30 days to indict Blagojevich, or until January 6. He could, if he needed to, ask for an extension (in which case we’d only see the request but not the justification for it, which would probably remain sealed). But with this latest move from Blago, if Fitz does so, it will be against the background of Senate Democrats trying to make the legally touchy case that they can avoid seating Blago’s choice. If nothing else, Blagojevich’s move yesterday may have been an attempt to try to get Fitzgerald–for the second time–to reveal his cards before he otherwise intended to.

And, of course, it adds to the pressure on the legislative impeachment committee. While the committee wrestles to decide how legalistic they want to get with their inquiry, Blago is making very public moves to establish that he retains the full power of governor. While from my limited review, it looks like few are backing Blago’s move, this does give Blago some momentum in the face of the committee’s deliberation. 

One more detail. Remember that Blago’s defense attorney, said, two weeks ago, Blago would not appoint anyone. Yet even a week ago, Blago was offering the seat to Danny Davis.

Yet Burris was the second of two post-arrest finalists for Blagojevich when the governor offered him the job Sunday night. U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, a black congressman from the West Side, said he was offered the post by a Blagojevich representative a week ago and told the governor’s office Friday he declined the offer.

Read more