CHICAGO — Prosecutors in the corruption retrial of Rod Blagojevich focused quickly yesterday on the most serious and sensational allegation: that the former Illinois governor tried to sell or trade an appointment to President Obama’s old US Senate seat.
At Blagojevich’s first trial last year, the government didn’t delve into that accusation until weeks into testimony. Prosecutors jumped into it this time on their first day of presenting evidence, calling a onetime Blagojevich confidant who claims the two discussed how the governor could leverage the appointment into campaign cash or a top job.
John Harris, his former chief of staff, described to jurors how Blagojevich talked about the Senate seat in in October 2008, allegedly asking Harris in one conversation, “What do you think I can get for this?’’
The government’s initial witnesses in the first trial were a series of experts and little-known players in the investigation, many of whom spoke about intricate financial transactions that many jurors said they found hard to understand.
But with Harris on the stand, prosecutors played for jurors excerpts from FBI wiretap recordings, in which Blagojevich is heard talking about how he might benefit from naming someone to Obama’s seat.
In recordings made in 2008, Blagojevich is heard mentioning Obama’s friend, Valerie Jarrett, and wondering if he could become the US secretary of health and human services or an ambassador, in exchange for naming Jarrett to the seat.