West Wing Briefing

A Blagojevich retrial? Don't expect smiles from White House

Ex.-Ill. Gov. Blagojevich says he and his family are victims of federal government persecution. But he says the government was unable to prove he did anything wrong. (Aug. 17)
By Michael D. Shear
Wednesday, August 18, 2010; 9:00 AM

The nearly instant decision by federal prosecutors to retry former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich is bad news for the disgraced politician, who was convicted Tuesday of only one of 24 counts in his conspiracy trial.

It also means a headache for the White House.

(Coverage of Blagojevich verdict)

President Obama and his top aides had come through the two-month trial with precious little damage to either their reputations or their agenda. What had once appeared like it could be a political minefield for Obama -- the trial centered, after all, around whether Blagojevich desired to sell his old Senate seat -- instead became a sideshow with relatively little impact, and neither the sitting president nor any of his senior aides had been dragged into testifying.

But if U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald has his way, there will be a new trial. New attempts by the prosecution to build a case against Blagojevich. New efforts by the defense to subpoena Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and senior adviser Valerie Jarrett to the stand.

It might be no more likely that Jarrett and Emanuel would actually testify in court, but just the prospect will generate headlines again -- headlines that would not aid the president's goal of keeping his administration focused on the economy.

Meanwhile, the Blagojevich saga will continue.

At an impromptu news conference after the verdicts on Tuesday, the former governor was unbowed. He declared that the verdicts were a vindication, and he vowed to continue to fight the prosecution by Obama's Justice Department.

"The government threw everything but the kitchen sink at me, and on every charge except for one, they could not prove that I did anything wrong and that I did break any laws except for one nebulous charge from five years ago," he said.

(The Fix on Blagojevich's "victory")

Perhaps only one thing about Blagojevich could cause the White House more grief than another trial -- another run for political office.

When Blagojevich was impeached from office, the state legislature that ousted him specifically barred him from holding any state office again. But nothing blocks the former governor and congressman from moving to another state to run. Or from holding federal office in Illinois -- something lawmakers in Springfield have no power to prevent.

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