Federal prosecutors had their first chance to cross-examine Rod Blagojevich on corruption charges Thursday, and they had a doozy of an opening question lined up: “Mr. Blagojevich, you are a convicted liar, correct?”
Blagojevich responded, “Yes.”
The ousted Illinois governor is facing a retrial on 20 federal corruption charges after a jury was deadlocked on all but one count of lying to federal agents last summer.
Blagovech opted against taking the stand at his original trial, but decided last week that he'd testify in his own defense this time around. He spent much of the week answering question from his own lawyers, and the federal government was clearly eager to get its chance to grill the politician in front of a jury.
Secret FBI tapes made in 2008 recorded Blagojevich as he appeared to attempt to sell the Illinois Senate seat that would be vacated by Barack Obama. On Nov. 5, 2008, the day after Obama was elected president, Blagojevich was recorded telling an adviser, “I’ve got this thing and it’s [expletive] golden, and, uh, uh, I’m not just giving it up for [expletive] nothing.”
The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Blagojevich openly ignored the advice of his three lawyers on multiple occasions during Thursday's proceedings. The judge said Blagojevich was essentially acting as “his own lawyer,” according to the paper.
The prosecution focused on pointing out inconsistencies in Blagojevich’s past statements, while trying to “expose the man the jury got to know over the last few days as someone who baldly lied to the public,” the Sun-Times reports.
The New York Times reports that prosecutors asked Mr. Blagojevich if he had planted a false article in a local newspaper regarding his pick for a U.S. Senate seat. Blagojevich said he had, but that this was a standard political move.
The deadpan reporting of the Times really highlights the absurdity of the proceedings. Take this gem, for example:
In one of the odder moments in court, Mr. Blagojevich said one of his many ideas for the Senate seat was to seat himself and then go to Afghanistan to hunt down Osama bin Laden. Before he could expand on the idea, prosecutors objected.