Ever since disgraced Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich was arrested two and a half years ago for trying to sell Barack Obama's Senate seat, federal prosecutors have been waiting to cross-examine him on the witness stand. On Thursday, they got that chance. What ensued was a courtroom circus not even Blago's appearance on Celebrity Apprentice could prepare viewers for. Observe: the courtroom's five best moments:
"Yes," I'm a Liar
At the outset, the prosecution's first question went straight for the jugular. “You are a convicted liar, correct?” Refreshingly, Blagojevich answered "Yes," a response that drown out "an objection from one of his own lawyers," reports the Chicago Tribune. "It’s certainly an interesting strategy," notes The Wall Stree Journal's legal reporter Ashby Jones. "Admit that you are a liar and admit that, as a politician, you regularly traffic in deception. All in front of a federal jury who has the power to put you behind bars."
I Simply Wanted to Hunt Down Osama bin Laden
"In one of the odder moments in court," reports The New York Times." Mr. Blagojevich said one of his many ideas for the Senate seat was to seat himself and then go to Afghanistan to hunt down Osama bin Laden. Before he could expand on the idea, prosecutors objected." We will hopefully get more information on this later. But it's a shame he's so casually throwing around the idea of hunting bin Laden. It's an insult to the other vigilante Osama hunters who actually made the trip to Pakistan.
Listen to My Football Analogy
Blago used a football analogy to explain away accusations that he sold a U.S. senate seat. The Tribune sets up his remarkable quote. "Prosecutors contend that Blagojevich was angling to steer the pick to [Rep. Jesse] Jackson because supporters of the congressman had promised to reward Blagojevich with $1.5 million in donations," writes the paper. "Blagojevich, on the other hand, said he was merely floating Jackson as a stalking-horse to scare national Democratic leaders, who didn't want Jackson, into helping him with his real play: pressuring Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan into a grand deal to swap legislative action for the appointment of his daughter, Lisa, the state attorney general, to the Senate." Or as Blago explained. "It's the quarterback faking a handoff and throwing long... It's part of the business. That was designed for the inside political world."
It's Not Lying... It's "Misdirection"
At one point, the prosecution noted that Blago "once directed an adviser to plant a false item in a Chicago Sun-Times gossip column suggesting U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. was a rising contender for the Senate post," reports the Tribune. "Wasn't that a lie?" asked the prosecution. "That was a misdirection play in politics," Blagojevich said. "It was a lie," the prosecution repeated. "I don't see it that way."
I Wasn't Conspiring. I Was "Brainstorming"
Though Blago's conversations about selling the Senate seat were recorded for all to ehar, he had a nice way of depicting his actions, reports The Boston Globe. "Blagojevich told jurors that his talk about the possibility of getting a Cabinet post in exchange for the seat was just 'manic brainstorming.' He said he understood right away it was pure fantasy."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.