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A top aide to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich said he believed Barack Obama knew of Blagojevich's plot to win himself a presidential Cabinet post in exchange for appointing Valerie Jarrett to the U.S. Senate.
John Harris, Blagojevich's former chief of staff, testified Wednesday in the former governor's corruption trial that three days after the Nov. 4, 2008, presidential election, the ex-governor told Harris he felt confident Obama knew he wanted to swap perks.
Testimony: Obama Had 4 Senate Successors In Mind
CHICAGO (CBS) ―
Jurors in ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich's corruption trial got a purported look Thursday at a short list of candidates President Obama favored to replace him in the U.S. Senate.
Federal prosecutors played a tape that revealed the first official message from the budding Obama administration about who the president supported for the Senate seat.
In the call, Blagojevich's chief of staff, John Harris, tells his boss that Rahm Emanuel, Obama's soon-to-be top aide, had called him to give him a list of four people that Obama would find acceptable as his successor in the Senate
Blagojevich on tape: Get Obama to fund-raise from Warren Buffett, Bill Gates
on June 24, 2010 11:57
In the next tape, Blagojevich is heard floating another idea -- to ask the president-elect to ask Warren Buffett or Bill Gates to throw $15 million into a health-care related charity account that Blago could manage and live off. In exchange, of course, he'd appoint Valerie Jarrett to Obama's Senate seat.
Blago had just seen on the news that Obama didn't want Jarrett in the Senate anymore; instead, he was considering her for a cabinet post. But Blago's not convinced, and he floats this new fund-raising idea.
Rod: This is one of those things where you're the president-elect of the United States. His people, they go get the money.
Harris: I think that's a lot easier for them than an appointment, sure...
Rod: You go to these big Democratic multi-billionaires ... and you ask them all to give 2, ... a couple million each ... That's all they got to do for Valerie Jarrett... that's not hard for them.
Tom Balanoff: Obama called day before election about Jarrett appointment
Reporting with Natasha Korecki
Top union leader Thomas Balanoff said he was at dinner the night before the November Presidential election when he got a call that was blocked.
So he didn't take it.
Later he listened to his messages: "I walked outside, listened to it and it was from President Obama," Balanoff said.
"Tom, this is Barack, give me a call," the soon-to-be President-Elect said on the message.
After Balanoff sent word through an Obama aide to call him back, Obama returned his call later that night.
"Tom, i want to talk to you with regard to the Senate seat," Obama told him.
Balanoff said Obama said he had two criteria: someone who was good for the citizens of Illinois and could be elected in 2010.
Obama said he wasn't publicly coming out in support of anyone but he believed Valerie Jarrett would fit the bill.
"I would much prefer she (remain in the White House) but she does want to be Senator and she does meet those two criteria," Balanoff said Obama told him. "I said: 'thank you, I'm going to reach out to Gov. Blagojevich."
Balanoff then described a Nov. 6, 2008 meeting he had with Rod Blagojevich to recommend Valerie Jarrett for Barack Obama's Senate seat.
Blagojevich responded that he was in "active discussions" with the Madigans about appointing Lisa Madigan and was holding out for a legislative package with the House speaker.
"I said that could be months. He said, 'Yeah'. I said Valerie Jarrett, I don't believe she has that kind of time," Balanoff testified.
Blago then turned the conversation to a cabinet position, Balanoff said.
"He said, 'You know, I love being governor, but my real passion is health care,'" and then he asked about the Health and Human Services cabinet post.
"I told him that's not going to happen," Balanoff said. "He said, "Is that because of all the investigations around me?"