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Rod Blagojevich trial: Blago excited by value of senate seat

Rod Blagojevich sorted through ways he could benefit personally from the senate seat vacated when Obama won the presidential election, according to testimony and wiretap recordings.

By Don Babwin, Michael TarmAP / June 23, 2010

Rod Blagojevich arrives at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse in Chicago, Illinois

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Rod Blagojevich sorted through ways he could benefit personally from the U.S. Senate seat vacated when Barack Obama won the presidential election, according to testimony and wiretap recordings played Tuesday at the former Illinois governor's corruption trial.

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Speaking on the day of Obama's election, Blagojevich can be heard on one recording saying he'll make a good-faith effort to fill the open seat but hastens to add that "it's not coming for free."

"It's gotta be good for the people of Illinois — and for me," he says.

In talking about his once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to appoint a senator, Blagojevich considered several ideas in a bid to get the best possible deal for himself, according to testimony by his former chief of staff John Harris — including feeding misinformation to the Obama camp and others.

Blagojevich tells Harris in one wiretap recording about trying to mislead Obama and his advisers as a way to gain leverage over them regarding their preferred candidate.

"There's a carrot and stick thing going on right now," Blagojevich says.

He also seems to delight in the option of appointing himself to the seat, calling that "my ace in the hole." Another time he sounds eager about the range of possibilities, laughing and saying to Harris, "I'm crazy, but I'm not nuts."

Sitting at the defense table Tuesday, Blagojevich appeared to display at least some signs of strain for one of the first times during the trial. He smiled less than on previous days, at one point rubbing his chin and cheek, then writing feverish notes.

Harris told jurors that Blagojevich suggested leaking false reports that he was thinking about appointing state officials, including Attorney General Lisa Madigan, to give Obama and his advisers the impression that he would be expending a lot of political capital in appointing their preferred candidate Valerie Jarrett — and so would expect more in return.

Among a list of appointments he thought he might be able to secure in the new administration in exchange for appointing Jarrett to the seat was U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, or ambassador to the U.N., Canada, Germany, England, France or India, according to the tape.

Harris implied that ambassador to India might be too important a position for a former Illinois governor.

"I'm the governor of a $58 billion corporation," Blagojevich said on the tape, referring to Illinois and cursing. "Why can't I be the ... ambassador to India?"