Blagojevich prosecutor's laser-like focus

May 10, 2011

Robert Wildeboer and AP Wires

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(WBEZ/Robert Wildeboer)
Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich leaves federal court.

Prosecutors are continuing their laser-like focus on the so-called Senate seat allegations in the retrial of former Illinois Gov.Rod Blagojevich. 

The strongest evidence in the first trial came from secret recordings of Blagojevich's phone calls so that's what prosecutors are focusing on with their first witnesses this time around.

Tom Balanoff is a union president, and he told jurors that after Barack Obama was elected president, he became a messenger between Obama's people and Blagojevich. 

Balanoff told Blagojevich that Obama wanted his advisor Valerie Jarrett appointed to his old Senate seat and on a secretly recorded phone call, Blagojevich responded that he'd like to head up a national non-profit that advocated for healthcare. 

"That'd be very attractive," said Blagojevich.  "And you know George Soros and Buffet and all those guys, you know, overnight can put 10, 15, 20 million dollars in an advocacy group like that couldn't they? Yeah, and then we could help our new Senator Valerie Jarrett go out and push that."

Balanoff testified that he thought Blagojevich was suggesting a trade, one for the other.  Jurors have heard other tapes in which Blagojevich talks about getting a huge salary from the suggested non-profit.

Balanoff takes the stand for a second day Tuesday to face more question from the former Illinois governor's defense attorney.

As testimony wound to a close Monday, Judge James Zagel warned defense attorney Aaron Goldstein not to keep trying to make arguments in the form of questions to jurors.

Zagel told Goldstein he could cut his cross examinations short and have him sit down if he persisted.

When Goldstein asked if he could respond to the judge's admonition, Zagel responded, "I don't want you to respond to it. I want you to comply with it."