Blagojevich defense walks a fine line in cross examination

May 9, 2011

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(WBEZ/Robert Wildeboer)
Former Governor Rod Blagojevich chats with an admirer while leaving federal court.

This morning defense attorneys for Rod Blagojevich are expected to cross examine the first major witness in the former governor's retrial.  John Harris was Blagojevich's chief of staff and he spent three days on the stand last week testifying for prosecutors.  He was caught on federal wiretaps advising Blagojevich on how to use a senate seat appointment to enrich himself.  Harris hoped Blagojevich could become a member of Obama's cabinet and in exchange Blagojevich would appoint anyone to the Senate that Obama wanted.

Harris is caught on one phone call talking to another Blagojevich advisor about their attempts to get that offer to Obama's people. 

"We wanted our ask to be reasonable and rather than make it look like some sort of selfish grab for a quid pro quo, we had to lay the groundwork to show that we're going to be stuck in the mud here," said Harris.

Harris was an attorney and he's pleaded guilty in the case and is cooperating with prosecutors. 

In their cross examination Blagojevich's defense team could point out that Harris came up with many of the illegal schemes himself but that would be an admission that the schemes were indeed illegal.  Instead they'll probably focus on the idea that it was all just talk and no crimes were ever committed.