Blago's Bleeping Tapes Released

FBI wiretap tapes played in the Senate chamber

The voice of Gov. Rod Blagojevich boomed through the Illinois Senate chambers as senators listened to secretly recorded conversations in which Blagojevich appears to talk about pressuring people for campaign donations.

The senators conducting the governor's impeachment trial listened intently to the few minutes of tape Tuesday.

Federal prosecutors say the subject of the conversations was whether a horse-racing lobbyist would make a campaign donation. If he didn't, prosecutors say, Blagojevich and his allies were threatening not to sign legislation the racing industry wanted.

[Live Video: Watch the Trial (Recessed until 9:30 a.m. Wednesday | Live Blog: Follow Developments | Wiretaps: Tape 1 Audio, Transcript | Tape 2 AudioTranscript | Tape 3 AudioTranscript | Tape 4 AudioTranscript | Read the FBI Affidavit | See Blago Quotes Used in Trial | View Senate Trial Exhibits]

Blagojevich never specifically mentions money, but he and the others on the recordings talk about a lobbyist being "good for it" and keeping his "commitment."

At one point, the Democrat says the lobbyist should be told they hope to get done so the two sides can pick a date to sign the legislation.

The governor never denied the remarks federal prosecutors attribute to him, but insists they were taken out of context and he did nothing illegal. 

Late Tuesday, the lawyer for John A. Johnston said the horse racing track owner did not contribute money to Blagojevich in exchange for the governor signing legislation Johnston favored. Johnston, whose voice is on one of the tapes, runs Maywood Park and Balmoral Park in the Chicago area.

Dan Reinberg, Johnston's lawyer, said his client's last contribution to Blagojevich was in December 2007, a year before the conversations.

FBI Agent Testifies

Impeachment prosecutor David Ellis questioned the star witness of the day, FBI agent Daniel Cain, about the 76-page affidavit and how federal investigators confirmed the veracity of the tapes.

"The governor is a very public figure. We placed the bugs in the campaign office and we tapped his telephone, " Cain said. "At times he would self identify during those conversations."

When asked directly if investigators positively identified the governor's voice, Cain said "yes."

Federal investigators first obtained court authorization to wiretap the governor's office on Oct. 21, 2008, and started recording the next day.  Then, on Oct. 29, they obtained another court order and immediately began recording conversations on the governor's home phone.

Ellis read the text of the wiretaps off of large white poster-boards in front the of the Senate floor  -- with expletives marked out using dashes.

Senators prepared questions for Cain, most of which he answered by simply referring to the affidavit.  At the end of his testimony, he re-read the criminal complaint aloud, which charges that the governor and his chief of staff conspired to defraud the state of Illinois and tried to get members of the Tribune editorial board who were critical towards the governor fired.  Cain was then dismissed from the stand.

Blago Still in New York

Meanwhile, Blagojevich skipped his trial again Tuesday and continued the rounds of national TV shows in New York, mostly repeating what he's been saying for the last several weeks -- that he won't participate in the impeachment process because "the fix is in."

Proclaiming his innocence on just about any television program that would have him on their air, the governor said the rules of impeachment do not offer him a fair opportunity to defend himself.  

Blagojevich told The Associated Press in New York on Tuesday that he would respect "the law and the Constitution and the rules" if legislators vote him out of office. But he said he'll explore his legal options if he does lose his job.

Legislators expressed concern over the governor's choice to be in New York over Springfield, but the trial began Monday nonetheless.

State Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Fitzgerald ordered the proceedings to be held as if Blagojevich had entered a plea of not guilty.

Testimony in Springfield on Monday centered around how wiretaps are obtained and verified.  John Joseph Scully, a former assistant U.S. attorney,  was questioned as an expert witness about his experience with wiretaps.  Scully said that in his time with the U.S. attorney's office, no request for a wiretap was ever turned down by a judge.  He said that prosecutors are very careful about when and how they request wiretaps, and by the time it goes before a judge, they are sure they're abiding by the law.

It would take a two-thirds vote in the Senate to convict Blagojevich and remove him from office. Senators also could vote to bar him from ever holding office again.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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