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Ill. Senators Hear FBI Tapes Of Blagojevich

LINDA WERTHEIMER: Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is boycotting his impeachment trial, choosing instead to defend himself in national media interviews. But his voice still echoed through the Illinois State Senate chamber yesterday. That's where the prosecutor played tapes of the governor's conversations that were secretly recorded by FBI wiretaps. NPR's David Schaper has this report.



ROD BLAGOJEVICH: Hey. How you doing?


DAVID SCHAPER: Chances are, many phone conversations between Governor Rod Blagojevich and his brother Rob started this way. But federal prosecutors say this call was all about money. Brother Rob is chairman of Blagojevich's campaign fund. And prosecutors allege Rob is telling the governor about the status of a hefty campaign contribution they want from the owner of a couple of Illinois horse racing tracks.


BLAGOJEVICH: He's going to give you, you know, he didn't get it, but he's, you know - I'm good for it, I got to just decide what - what accounts to get it out of, and Lon's going to talk to you about some sensitivities legislatively tonight when he sees you, with regard to timing of all of this.

BLAGOJEVICH: Right, before the end of the year though, right?

BLAGOJEVICH: Oh, yeah, yeah.

SCHAPER: This call was record in mid-November. Prosecutors contend Governor Blagojevich was in a rush to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for his campaign fund before new campaign finance restrictions went into affect January 1st. It's a point they say Blagojevich emphasizes again in the call.


BLAGOJEVICH: So, but clearly before the end of the year, right?

BLAGOJEVICH: Yeah, yeah.

SCHAPER: The criminal charges against the governor allege he was extorting this campaign contribution by refusing to sign legislation that would benefit the horse racing industry until he received the donation from the race track owner. In conversations with a lobbyist identified as Lon Monk, Blagojevich's former chief of staff, Monk calls Blagojevich to tell him he just met with the race track owner to remind him of his commitment to the governor. The next day, Blagojevich is asking whether he should give the race track owner a call. Monk responds, quote, "It might be better if you do, from a pressure point of view."


BLAGOJEVICH: I'll call him and say, yeah, and we want to do an event downstate. We want to do it, and we hope to do this so we can get together start picking some things to do to get the bill signed.

SCHAPER: Moments later, the lobbyist adds this.


LON MONK: I'm telling you he's going to be good for it. I got the state.

SCHAPER: Blagojevich responds, "Good." Prior to the tapes being played, FBI agent Daniel Cain, who oversaw the wiretapping of Governor Blagojevich, testified the voice and the words are that of Blagojevich. Cain also testified that other comments attributed to Blagojevich are accurate, too. Such as when he allegedly called the Senate seat vacated by President Obama "a bleeping valuable thing." In continuing his blitz of media interviews, Blagojevich doesn't deny making these comments, but he says the excerpts are being taken out of context. The recordings did seem to make an impression on the jury for his impeachment trial, Illinois state senators.

WERTHEIMER: I think it kind of grabs you when you hear the voice, you know. The live tape. You know, clearly, if nothing else, led to better theatre here today.

SCHAPER: But Republicans Dave Luechtefeld and Kirk Dillard and other senators say they won't offer a judgment until after they've heard all the evidence in the impeachment trial which continues today. David Schaper, NPR News in Springfield, Illinois. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Schaper
David Schaper is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, based in Chicago, primarily covering transportation and infrastructure, as well as breaking news in Chicago and the Midwest.
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