Appearing to end a long but politically undamaging saga for the White House, former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich (D) was found guilty Monday on 17 counts of corruption, including for attempting to sell President Obama’s former Senate seat for personal gain.
Blagojevich, who survived a mistrial last year, wasn’t so lucky Monday, as the jury returned to find him guilty on all but three of 20 counts, not guilty on one count, and deadlocked on two others. He faces decades in jail.
Blagojevich was convicted of wire fraud, attempted extortion, bribery and conspiracy. He was found not guilty of soliciting a bribe from a construction executive. The jury deadlocked on whether he tried to extort now-Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel , who at the time was a member of Congress.
The verdict ends — apparently — a long saga that has hung over the Obama White House but never really cost it anything politically.
Obama and his staff have never been implicated in anything that Blagojevich did or even tied closely to the governor, who often acted as a sort of lone wolf in the rough-and-tumble world of Illinois politics. But John Harris, Blagojevich’s chief of staff, testified that senior White House adviser and close Obama friend Valerie Jarrett had at one point been recommended by former White House Chief of Staff Emanuel as the president’s pick to fill the seat. Harris testified that Emanuel later withdrew Jarrett’s name.
At the same time, Blagojevich’s exploits have been a constant reminder of the political world from whence Obama’s career sprung, and the former Illinois senator’s birth in the world of Chicago politics has never been terribly helpful to the president.
In the weeks after Obama’s 2008 presidential election, Blagojevich was taped talking about what he could gain from the appointment he was about to make, including at one point referring to the appointment as “(expletive) golden.”Other tapes revealed Blagojevich exploring those options.
Before he could make the appointment, though Blagojevich was arrested. Eventually, he appointed Roland Burris to the seat. Burris went on to have an at-time-interesting but altogether undistringuished tenure in the Senate.