Rod Blagojevich claims conversation record 'missing'

The Associated Press
Tuesday, February 8, 2011; 2:36 PM

CHICAGO -- Attorneys for Rod Blagojevich filed a pretrial motion Tuesday seeking what they claimed was missing evidence in the impeached Illinois governor's corruption trial, including records of a phone call between a Blagojevich aide and then White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel.

The motion claims the telephone conversation took place just a day before Blagojevich's December 2008 arrest on charges that include allegations he sought to sell or trade the appointment to President Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat for personal gain.

The motion says details of that conversation could bolster a defense contention that Emanuel, who has not been accused of any wrongdoing, was willing to help with a political deal in which Blagojevich would have named Illinois' attorney general to the seat.

But the call between Emanuel and then Blagojevich chief of staff John Harris is not among hundreds of transcripts of secret FBI wiretaps recorded before Blagojevich's arrest. The defense motion points only to circumstantial evidence that it even happened, including a reference in a White House transition-team report from after the arrest that said Emanuel had "about four" conversations with Harris.

The defense was given records of only three conversations, according to the motion.

"The fourth and final phone call is the call that is mysteriously missing," it adds. "Piecing together multiple documents after the first trial, Blagojevich uncovered the fact that the December 8th phone call ... took place."

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's office in Chicago, Kim Nerheim, declined any comment on the motion.

Emanuel, in the midst of a campaign to replace Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, downplayed the importance of the court filing.

At a campaign stop Tuesday morning, he said that a White House transition team conducted a "comprehensive review" in 2008 and found "nothing inappropriate or any deal making" in his contacts with Blagojevich's staff regarding the senate seat.

He said at the time he was asked by the transition team to propose a list of four possible candidates for the seat, which he offered to Blagojevich's staff. He said the report noted "about four conversations" and a conversation about the attorney general.

"That's all in the report from two years ago," he said.

Blagojevich faces 23 charges at his April retrial, after jurors at his first trial last year agreed only on one of 24 counts and convicted him of lying to the FBI. Both prosecutors and defense attorneys have been ordered to file all pretrial motions by next week.

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