CHICAGO — Rod Blagojevich brought up the possibility of a Cabinet post almost immediately after an emissary for Barack Obama urged the Illinois governor to appoint a close friend of the president-elect to the US Senate, a union leader testified yesterday at Blagojevich’s corruption trial.
Tom Balanoff, an official with the Service Employees International Union, said he told Blagojevich of Obama’s interest in seeing Valerie Jarrett take the vacated seat right after the 2008 election.
Blagojevich, he said, countered by suggesting he wanted a position as secretary of health and human services.
Balanoff said he understood Blagojevich to be saying that if he got the job, he would appoint Jarrett to the seat.
“That’s not going to happen,’’ Balanoff recalled telling Blagojevich.
Balanoff said Blagojevich also brought up the possibility of a foundation job or a post with a labor union.
The testimony from Balanoff, a political insider and close ally of Obama, was at the heart of the most prominent charge in the 24-count indictment against Blagojevich: that he schemed to get a payoff in the form of a major job or a massive campaign contribution in exchange for an appointment to the US Senate seat that Obama left to move to the White House.
Balanoff, president of the Service Employees International Union Local 1, followed former Blagojevich chief of staff John Harris to the witness stand. Harris had testified earlier in the trial that Blagojevich told him he had sent a message to Obama that he would trade the Senate seat for the Cabinet appointment.