Wiretaps and Bugs Used in Rod Blagojevich Investigation

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and FBI Agent Robert Grant are giving a press conference on CNN about the arrest of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Fitz reminds me more and more of Eliot Ness.

Fitz says "there's politics and there's crime" and sometimes people "blur the lines."

There were others involved. FBI Agent Grant said he called the Governor at 6:00 am and told him there was a warrant for his arrest and the FBI was outside. He asked him to come quietly. The Governor said, "Is this a joke?" and Grant said "No." He went quietly, was handcuffed, and as he was leaving, his wife and kids were "beginning to stir."

The press release is here (pdf) and the 78 page complaint is here (pdf.) In addition to wiretaps, including one on Blagojevich's home phone, Blagojevich's personal office and a conference room were bugged.


The FBI began intercepting conversations in those rooms on the morning of October 22. A second court order was obtained last month allowing those interceptions to continue. On October 29, a court order was signed authorizing the interception of conversations on a hardline telephone used by Blagojevich at his home. That wiretap was extended for 30 days on November 26, according to the affidavit.

Via Raw Story:

Blagojevich and aide allegedly conspired to sell U.S. Senate appointment, engaged in“pay-to-play” schemes and threatened to withhold state assistance to Tribune Companyfor Wrigley Field to induce purge of newspaper editorial writers.


"The breadth of corruption laid out in these charges is staggering," the federal prosecutor said. "They allege that Blagojevich put a 'for sale' sign on the naming of a United States Senator; involved himself personally in pay-to-play schemes with the urgency of a salesman meeting his annual sales target; and corruptly used his office in an effort to trample editorial voices of criticism. The citizens of Illinois deserve public officials who act solely in the public’s interest, without putting a price tag on government appointments, contracts and decisions."

....A wiretap on Nov. 3 recorded the governor exclaiming to an advisor that the seat "is a [expletive] valuable thing, you don't just give it away for nothing."

Fitzgerald says at the press conference there is no information President Elect Barack Obama was aware what was going on.

Blagojevich's Chief of Staff, John Harris, was also arrested and charged. More Fitz: They charged conspiracy because the substantive crimes weren't carried out. He's hoping others will come forward and cooperate.

Other agencies involved: Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General. From the press release:

The probe is part of OperationBoard Games, a five-year-old public corruption investigation of pay-to-play schemes, including insider-dealing, influence-peddling and kickbacks involving private interests and public duties.
An SEIU union and Change to Win are involved. A search warrant is being executed now at the offices of Friends of Blagojevich.
< Illinois Governor Indicted For Trying To Sell Obama's Senate Seat | Blagojevich Insults Obama on Tapes >
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  • Display: Sort:
    Patrick Fitzgerald (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by Fabian on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 11:39:50 AM EST
    hasn't failed me yet.  Let's watch the wheels of justice turn.

    He actually reminds me of. . . (5.00 / 2) (#6)
    by LarryInNYC on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 11:48:17 AM EST
    Eliot-someone-else as well, pre scandal.

    Will Pres. Obama accept his (none / 0) (#7)
    by oculus on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 11:52:05 AM EST

    Pre scandal Spitzer wasn't a crook (at least (none / 0) (#8)
    by tigercourse on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 11:53:18 AM EST
    for financial gain) but a bully and raging egotist.

    Yes, I'm comparing. . . (5.00 / 1) (#22)
    by LarryInNYC on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 12:16:15 PM EST
    Fitzgerald, not Blagocevich, to Spitzer.  And I was commenting on his hard-charging prosecutorial style rather than his egotism.

    Don't forget... (none / 0) (#12)
    by kdog on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 12:01:40 PM EST
    big fat hypocrite!

    Bully? (none / 0) (#30)
    by squeaky on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 12:48:16 PM EST
    I did not know him personally, but a close friend of mine worked for him and he was certainly no bully as a boss. Very kind and super thoughtful.  

    And I do not think I ever heard of a Pol who was not a raging egoist, part of the job description, imo.


    heh (none / 0) (#9)
    by andgarden on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 11:53:40 AM EST
    Funny how that describes the investigator and not the Governor.

    For everything that you could say about Spitzer, I don't think there was any suggestion that he ever engaged in public corruption like this.


    I don't know... (none / 0) (#14)
    by kdog on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 12:02:56 PM EST
    prosecuting prostitutes and johns as DA, while being a john patronizing prostitutes...I'd call that public corruption.

    I think that's just hypocrisy (none / 0) (#16)
    by andgarden on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 12:05:12 PM EST
    Definitely... (none / 0) (#18)
    by kdog on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 12:07:08 PM EST
    but not sicking the cops on the escort service he knew was in business, since he was a customer and all...I think it is safe to call that corrupt as well as hypocritical.

    It would be true public corruption (none / 0) (#39)
    by Joelarama on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 01:29:33 PM EST
    if he received payments to look the other way.

    BLOGa (none / 0) (#21)
    by Daniel on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 12:14:37 PM EST
    Well, the Dems don't disappoint. Who says criminal activity and scurulously unethical politicians are the ballywick of the Republicans. What a jerk, who may have made Obama's governing a bit more difficult. If all they have on him that is known proves true, he'll be warming a cell.

    I can't resist (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by jimakaPPJ on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 11:59:10 AM EST
    Looks like he has finally broght us a "Fitzmas."

    I love it when bad guys get caught (5.00 / 1) (#25)
    by ruffian on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 12:27:26 PM EST
    No matter their party.  OK, alleged bad guys, but the transcripts are very illuminating.

    May be (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by koshembos on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 12:02:39 PM EST
    the seat "is a [expletive] valuable thing, you don't just give it away for nothing."
    may be a political statement, it doesn't have to be money.

    From first blush, the whole indictment seems flimsy; we'll have to wait for the movie.

    By the way: why is Fitzgerald the nominee for AG instead of the king of insiders Holder?

    Flimsy? (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by coast on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 12:21:10 PM EST
    You must have just read the headlines and not the details of the whole indictment.

    The man is up the river and you can hear the banjos beginning to play.


    I was wondering the same thing (none / 0) (#26)
    by ruffian on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 12:29:28 PM EST
    If Obama felt such a compelling need for a Repoublican int he cabinet, why can't it be this one?

    But would it look like he was promoting Fitz up and out to protect Illinois' dirty politicians?


    You answered your own question (none / 0) (#33)
    by jimakaPPJ on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 12:52:27 PM EST
    I still wonder (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by OldCoastie on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 12:08:04 PM EST
    if Fitz will have a job come the new administration...

    All US Atty's fired by Bush should be offered (5.00 / 1) (#23)
    by magster on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 12:16:35 PM EST
    jobs, as they showed that justice trumped politics.

    I hope Obama leaves him in place (none / 0) (#27)
    by ruffian on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 12:31:36 PM EST
    He would be perfectly within his rights to replace him of course - that is the custom - but it would be a great 'clean government' statement to leave him in.

    Well, this will certainly make the selection of (none / 0) (#1)
    by Angel on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 11:39:29 AM EST
    the new Senator interesting.

    "Did you ever have fiscal relations (5.00 / 2) (#3)
    by Fabian on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 11:41:32 AM EST
    with this man?"

    Ha! That's very funny. But this could end up (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by Angel on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 11:43:49 AM EST
    being a very good thing, IMO.  Gets rid of a corrupt governor and puts a lot of emphasis on getting a good senator to replace Obama.  

    Digging out the corruption (none / 0) (#20)
    by Fabian on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 12:08:27 PM EST
    is always a good thing, IMO.  

    Encouraging corruption by ignoring it gets you third world governments where the administration is expected to cash in as long as they can.  My husband's company won't do business with these places.  Their mode of doing business runs something like "Hello.  How are you?  Let's talk about my kickback.".  


    Who is left untainted? (none / 0) (#28)
    by ruffian on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 12:33:42 PM EST
    Yes, it will be interesting.

    So it begins... (none / 0) (#61)
    by marian evans on Wed Dec 10, 2008 at 09:25:31 AM EST
    This looks like a hurricane developing out over the ocean...batten down the hatches...it is going to head inland.

    Information obtained from (none / 0) (#5)
    by oculus on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 11:43:57 AM EST
    Tony Rezko post-conviction is included in the affidavit attached to the complaint.  

    Eliot Ness Fitzgerald (none / 0) (#10)
    by diogenes on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 11:53:59 AM EST
    If Fitzgerald is such a crusading square shooter against corrupt politicians then can we assume that his failure to indict anyone (Rove? Armitage?) for the crime of outing Valerie Plame means that no such crime was committed?

    Heck he got a confessiom (none / 0) (#31)
    by jimakaPPJ on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 12:49:59 PM EST
    by Armitage and a conviction of Libby..

    The Gov should be a snap.


    You make a career (none / 0) (#54)
    by jimakaPPJ on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 06:33:03 PM EST
    of picking trivial points...

    OK..... Armitage and said he was the man and Fitz knew it...

    There. Make you feel better?

    Yadda yadda dude, come back when you have something of substance.


    I crown you "Sir Dense." (none / 0) (#56)
    by jimakaPPJ on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 07:41:57 PM EST
    My point was that he was visited by the Canadian Counsel who also brought a lawyer.

    My other point was that the Canadians didn't want him.

    If you have a problem with that please, please, I beg of you, keep it to yourself.


    yawn yadda yadda (none / 0) (#58)
    by jimakaPPJ on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 09:53:53 PM EST
    Silly Gov... (none / 0) (#15)
    by kdog on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 12:04:59 PM EST
    ya gotta pay bribes in order not to be prosecuted for asking for bribes Gov...didn't this guy ever study political science and civics?  That's 101 sh*t...

    someone leaked the recording (none / 0) (#29)
    by txpublicdefender on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 12:42:56 PM EST
    At almost the very end of the affidavit, it mentions a Tribune article disclosing that Blago had been surreptitiously recorded as part of the investigation.  If that was an FBI intercept, and not one of the recordings that was done by one of the parties to the call, one has to wonder who leaked that to the media.  That would seem like a HUGE no-no that Fitzgerald, in particular, would be livid about.  Of course, later that day, Blago uses the phone to tell his person to call off the "bribe" attempt on Candidate 5's contact.  Is that guy a genius or what?

    I loved how he used the phone (5.00 / 1) (#38)
    by ruffian on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 01:16:30 PM EST
    to tell people to stop using the phone for the discussions. Real genius.

    Classic (none / 0) (#32)
    by nycstray on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 12:52:12 PM EST
    I had to read this a couple of times

    Blagojevich took the chief executive's office in 2003 as a reformer promising to clean up former Gov. George Ryan's mess.

    Ryan, a Republican, is serving a 6-year prison sentence after being convicted on racketeering and fraud charges. A decade-long investigation began with the sale of driver's licenses for bribes and led to the conviction of dozens of people who worked for Ryan when he was secretary of state and governor.

    I don't know... (none / 0) (#35)
    by kdog on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 01:00:43 PM EST
    if this speaks highly of Illinois...crooked get pols get caught more often there than other states.  Or if it speaks badly, that every governor they elect is as corrupt as a motherf*cker.

    1991's "Lizard vs. the Wizard" in La. (5.00 / 1) (#47)
    by oldpro on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 03:22:57 PM EST
    In the Edwin Edwards vs. David Duke race, that was one of the famous bumperstickers..."Better a lizard than a wizard" referring to the KKK.

    My favorite pro-Edwards slogan was "Vote for the crook.  It's important."

    The crook won but both he and Duke went up the river for their crimes.

    Since the 70's, though, four Illinois governors have been prosecuted.  Dunno who can beat that record.


    Yeah... (none / 0) (#48)
    by kdog on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 03:34:48 PM EST
    that is one piss poor record for Illinois governors.

    Though, on the other hand, I'm confident there have been 4 governors from every state in the union in the last 30-40 years that have committed crimes that could have lead to an indictment...they just didn't get caught.

    I'm forced to conclude we really don't have a problem with law breaking in this country...how many times have you heard "just don't get caught" in your life?  We value sneakiness...not honesty, not integrity, not character, not respect for the law...sneakiness.  If we respected the law we'd repeal half the criminal code.

    May as well print "Don't Get Caught" on the dollar bill instead of "In God We Trust".


    Beyond cynical. (none / 0) (#53)
    by oldpro on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 04:59:23 PM EST
    You need a break.

    You are not 'confident,' you are overconfident.

    When people believe whatever they want, evidence or no, there is no point in discussing anything with them.

    So, why are you here?


    To see how others think.... (5.00 / 1) (#60)
    by kdog on Wed Dec 10, 2008 at 08:45:12 AM EST
    That's why.  You may not believe it, but I have changed my mind a few times thanks to this blog.  

    Yeah, I'm a cynical f*cker with little to no faith in government...guilty as charged.  Blagojevich reinforced my prejudices.  I can admit my prejudices.

    Feel free to believe Blagojevich is the exception, I believe he is closer to the norm.


    A very good reason...thanks. (none / 0) (#62)
    by oldpro on Wed Dec 10, 2008 at 01:25:15 PM EST
    I agree...it's important to know (and be able to admit) our prejudices.  In my experience, few of us can or do.

    Also in my experience, Blagojevich is the exception.  Of course, my experience is in squeeky-clean Washington State with a far different political history than Illinois!  Still, we haven't had a political scandel to speak of since the 60s-70s and even then it was pretty tame involving a couple of legislators...never a governor.

    People are individuals but they enter politics (or even the workplace..ie police department) in the system in place.  If the system is corrupt and bribes/pay-to-play are endemic, many who would not otherwise be corrupt may play along to get along.  And the corrupt will be drawn to run for office in such a system where their connections will pay off.

    FYI - I've been politically active for over 55 years in WA.  In 1992 a friend was elected to the state legislature and dragged me off to run her office, which I did 'til '99.  I saw state government up close and personal and was both surprised and impressed with the quality and integrity of both electeds and employees, for like you I am - for the most part - a cynic.

    On the other hand, I am not a believerperson, so I look for the evidence of whatever it is I think that I think and what others may actually believe.  For most people, I find that 'believe' is the operative word.  People just 'believe' stuff with little evidence to cover the glittering generalities.  The reason is that believerpeople don't NEED any evidence...do they?

    Hence, myth and propaganda...and how pervasive and effective they are!


    Not for nothing... (5.00 / 1) (#63)
    by kdog on Wed Dec 10, 2008 at 02:34:41 PM EST
    I find peoples beliefs and prejudices, how they came to them, etc. very interesting stuff to ponder.

    And though I'm generally aware of my unfounded beliefs and prejudices, I do appreciate being called out on them, just in case:)  You're quickly becoming one of my favorite commenters oldpro, for that very reason.

    Being a New Yorker, I side towards corruption as the norm.  Illinois, New York, Louisiana...we're the league leaders in corruption!


    You left out New Jersey! (none / 0) (#64)
    by oldpro on Wed Dec 10, 2008 at 05:35:53 PM EST
    Thanks for the dialogue.

    I don't know Ryan's whole story, but (none / 0) (#42)
    by nycstray on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 01:54:13 PM EST
    that lil' blurb makes him sound tame compared to the Gov, lol!~

    This all seems pretty ridiculous to me (none / 0) (#34)
    by Exeter on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 12:54:59 PM EST
    It stinks of a overly zealous prosecutor that didn't get what he wanted from Rezko, been stalking the guy ever since, and is now charging him with this... the kind of quid pro quo that is goes on every day in politics.

    Surely you jest? (5.00 / 2) (#36)
    by oculus on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 01:05:12 PM EST
    No... (none / 0) (#44)
    by Exeter on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 02:50:45 PM EST
    I thought most of the case was mostly centered around him trying to get something in return for nominating someone to the Senate.  The pay-to-play for campaign donations stuff is wrong and illegal, but its also a fundamental part of the way politics is done in Chicago. I know that "everybody does it" is not an adequate defense, but everybody really does do it.

    I do not think (none / 0) (#46)
    by Steve M on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 03:09:50 PM EST
    that everyone in Illinois politics insists on a high-paying job for their spouse before they will do anything for you, although I know it's fashionably cynical to make such claims.

    Another fun allegation is that Blagojevich threatened to withhold state financing for the sale of Wrigley Field unless the Tribune Co. stopped writing editorials against him.


    Zell (none / 0) (#50)
    by jedimom on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 04:43:32 PM EST
    I am really interested to hear what Zell says about this. His financial adviser is in the meetings and on the calls with the co defendant in the complaint, and apparently one or more of the Tribune/Zell people said they understood what was necessary and were going to 'take care of it' in the next round of layoffs. I think people will be talking as Fitz encouraged them to come forward today. Come forward or they will come get them...

    (disclaimer-I cannot stand Zell, I think he is an Evil little individual with a foul mouth and a lack of heart, but trying to fire the editorial staff is to me one of the worst things Blago is accused of)


    Heh (none / 0) (#51)
    by Exeter on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 04:44:59 PM EST
    I like the phrase "fashionably cynical."  I had not heard the spouse stuff, that goes toward direct personal gain and is different than pay to play campaign finance schemes

    disagree (none / 0) (#52)
    by jedimom on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 04:45:34 PM EST
    No Fitz made the clarification clear in response to a question from the press, horse trading to get legislation done is one thing, selling or trading political appointments for PERSONAL PROFIT is totally criminal dude and quite a different thing, especially when he elucidates the ways in which he plans to profit on tape for the Feds..a maroon

    The complaint reads like a (none / 0) (#37)
    by KeysDan on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 01:05:29 PM EST
    political thriller.  Boy, it sure looks devastating for Blagojevich--going back to 2003 when still a US. congressman from the fifth district of Illinois right up to this week.  The complaint reveals a corrupt, greedy, scheming and dumb man, aided and abetted, to an extent, by his nasty wife. His own father-in-law, a long-time Chicago Alderman and one time mentor 'divorced' him long ago which should have said something. Based on the intercepted conversations, his actions are hard to understand especially knowing that he was under federal investigation. Hope he has a real good criminal defense team if he hopes to escape a guilty verdict and avoid a long prison term.  Maybe he will resign, so that the vacant senate seat can be identified by the Lt.Governor, Pat Quinn, without Blago's taint and with the integrity of Quinn.

    I don't trust the 2003 stuff (none / 0) (#41)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 01:49:07 PM EST
    it's all from cooperating witnesses. These new wiretaps from Oct/Nov '08 with Blagojevich talking are another story. They are devastating.

    Unfortunately (none / 0) (#45)
    by Exeter on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 02:53:59 PM EST
    this is how political campaign cash is raised in Illinois. Is it wrong and illegal? Yes, and like in Wisconsin, you will see a prosecution of nearly everyone in state government -- including Obama -- by the the time this is all done.  "everybody was doing it" is not an adequate defense.

    5 possible fat, furry ratz in this tale--or more (none / 0) (#40)
    by wurman on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 01:49:03 PM EST
    Mr. Fitzgerald's reputation is one of running a very tight, leak-free, controlled investigative team that keeps things secret even through the grand jury process.  So . . . how did the Blago leak (especially the wiretaps) get to the press--did the FBI or the Postal Service or the Internal Revenue Service open a spigot?

    Did Blagojevich attempt to extort some people who then told president-elect Obama?  Did the Obama team drop a pair of quarters on team Blago?  Does this rat then ensure that one or more "straight-up" potential IL senate appointees will now get a fair chance at the job?

    Did one of the various senior law enforcement operatives, possibly even including Fitzgerald, spring a leak in order to smoke out more co-conspirators who may try to "earn" a plea deal for testimony?

    Did the Blago team leak in order to forestall any deeper investigation of the governor's staff?

    Or could it be that Mayor Daley's office sprung a leak to stop the investigation before it went into all levels of IL government?

    What a delightful mess!

    I heart Fitz (none / 0) (#49)
    by jedimom on Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 04:39:27 PM EST
    Fitz is teh best. Can we feel assured PEBO will not replace Fitz now in January? It would look bad and this way we get to keep Fitz :0)