Rod Blagojevich trial: Infamous 'golden' comment on display

Rod Blagojevich and his penchant for profanity was on display Tuesday when his 'golden' comment was played.

Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich buckles in as he leaves the Everett McKinley Dirksen United States Courthouse in Chicago, Illinois, on Tuesday, June 8, 2010, following the completion of jury selection and opening statements in his trial.

Rod Blagojevich's penchant for profanity has been on display on wiretap recordings throughout his nearly monthlong corruption trial — but never more notably than in one infamous comment.

Jurors heard it just before the court adjourned Tuesday.

"I've got this thing and it's (expletive) golden," the former Illinois governor can be heard saying about the new U.S. senator he has the power to appoint now that Barack Obama is White House-bound. "And I'm not just giving it up for (expletive) nothing."

The statement appears in a federal affidavit filed in December 2008 when Blagojevich was arrested, and it has been the topic of TV talk-show jokes and quoted in news accounts often since then.

Blagojevich made the colorful comment to former deputy governor Doug Scofield, who is expected to testify about those and other comments by Blagojevich when he retakes the witness stand Wednesday.

The tape played for jurors came after a day of testimony in which Obama's name featured prominently.

A union official with close ties to Obama, Tom Balanoff, described how Blagojevich brought up the possibility of a Cabinet post for himself after Balanoff urged the governor to appoint a friend of the president-elect to the U.S. Senate.

Balanoff, of the Service Employees International Union, said he told Blagojevich after the election that he had spoken with Obama and the president-elect believed Valerie Jarrett had the qualifications he was looking for in a senator.

Balanoff said Obama told him in an election eve phone call he was taking no position on who should get the Senate seat he was leaving to become president and that he would prefer to have Jarrett as a White House adviser — but that she wanted to be a senator.

But when he mentioned the possible Jarrett appointment to Blagojevich, Balanoff said, the governor immediately brought up his interest in becoming secretary of health and human services in Obama's Cabinet.

Balanoff quoted Blagojevich as saying he loved being governor, but had a "passion for health care" and "if I could be secretary of health and human services I could carry out my passion." Balanoff said that sounded like an offer to trade the seat for the Cabinet post.

"I said that isn't going to happen," Balanoff testified.

The testimony from Balanoff, a political insider and close ally of Obama, was at the heart of the most prominent charge in the 24-count indictment against Blagojevich — that he schemed to get a payoff in the form of a major job or a massive campaign contribution in exchange for an appointment to the U.S. Senate seat.

The ousted governor, 53, has pleaded not guilty to scheming to sell or trade the Senate seat and to plotting to launch a racketeering operation within the governor's office. If convicted, he could face up to $6 million in fines and a sentence of 415 years in prison, though he is sure to get much less time under federal guidelines.

His brother, Robert Blagojevich, 54, has pleaded not guilty to taking part in the alleged scheme to sell the seat and to illegally pressuring a campaign contributor for money.

Defense attorney Sheldon Sorosky hammered at Balanoff, pressing him about whether he could have misunderstood Blagojevich's meaning.

"The governor did not say to you, 'I will appoint Valerie Jarrett if the president appoints me,' right?" he asked.

After first responding that he took Blagojevich to mean that, Balanoff conceded those were not the governor's exact words.


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