Saturday, August 14, 2010

What will happen to Blago?

It occurred to me today that that the jury has been taking quite a while deliberating the fate of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, who was indicted in late 2008 by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald for allegedly trying to sell the Senate seat of then President elect Obama. Because I sometimes go for a day or two without catching the news, I figured that surely I must have missed the verdict.

Not so. Today I googled “Blagojevich”, and the most recent news I could find was from August 12, indicating that jurors deliberating on the case have advised the judge that they could only agree on two of the twenty-four counts of the indictment. As far as I know, they are still deliberating.

The suspense got me to thinking of a post I had written on the subject shortly after the indictment (where I used to blog at “Down With Absolutes!”, a site that is no longer available). The post took the form of a somewhat tongue-in-cheek congratulatory note to Roland Burris, whom Blagojevich defiantly appointed for the Senate seat he had already been indicted for trying to sell. Given the imminent verdict or lack thereof, I thought the post might again become relevant, so I have reposted it here:

Congratulations, Mr. Burris. I understand that the conscientious Democratic leaders of the U.S. Senate have decided it is okay after all to admit you to their august body. I really don’t know much about you. I can give you the benefit of the doubt despite the fact that you were appointed by a governor who is under indictment. I have no right to associate you with the alleged actions of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, and that is even assuming that Blagojevich is eventually found guilty. I must keep in mind that:

1. “Alleged” is the operative word. Yes, there were some recorded phone conversations that were pretty damning, containing a lot of talk about asking for remuneration and other favors in exchange for a Senate appointment. But talk is cheap. Bottom line: was the dirty deed ever done? I think not.

2. Under indictment or not; guilty as sin or not: Mr. Blagojevich is still the Governor of Illinois, and it is therefore his right—indeed his duty—to name a successor for the good Senator Mr. Obama. The people of Illinois have every right to full representation in the world’s greatest deliberative body.

Back when your benefactor was first indicted, some were insinuating that conservatives like me would no longer have a basis for suspecting the motives of the indictor, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald. After all, he doggedly went after both Democrats and Republicans in his pursuit of justice. Fair enough, but his actions do leave me somewhat puzzled, and here’s why.

In the first case that made him famous, Mr. Fitzgerald was tasked with finding out who was the dirty fiend that leaked the identity of CIA employee Valerie Plame. Of course, it was never at all clear that this was an actual crime or misdemeanor (much less one worthy of the time and effort of a US Attorney), because it was never clear that Ms. Plame’s status was covert. According to published reports, she had no qualms about telling her neighbors where she was employed. Nonetheless, Mr. Fitzgerald pursued all leads like a bloodhound. Within 24 hours, Mr. Fitzgerald obtained a groundbreaking admission from Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. He had inadvertently leaked the name to columnist Robert Novak and apologized profusely. Now an amateur like me would say, “Okay. All in a days work. Case closed. The people’s business is done.” But not Mr. Fitzgerald! Though it still was not clear that an actual crime had been committed, he doggedly pursued all leads in search of co-conspirators. Who knows if they might lead to the highest levels of government, even to the President of the United States? He even used his powers to jail reporters for contempt of court if they refused to reveal their sources. He interviewed and re-interviewed White House staff times innumerable until he got the Vice President’s Chief of Staff to contradict himself. Perjury! Obstruction of justice! Now there is an indictable offense that is worthy of months of investigation and millions of taxpayer dollars. Justice has been served!

The reason I am confused is Mr. Fitzgerald’s decidedly different approach in the present case. But then again, I am an amateur and he is a trained professional. It seems that Mr. Blagojevich had been under investigation for some time, being up to his eyeballs in that seedy world of Chicago machine politics, with famous names like Richard Daley, Tony Resko and the like. One thing led to another in the investigation, and late last year, the investigators hit pay dirt with the conversations about selling the Senate seat. I would have expected Mr. Fitzgerald to doggedly follow every lead. Who knows if they might lead to the highest levels of the Chicago machine or even to high officials in the federal government? Of course, it would be ludicrous and uncharitable to suggest for even a moment that the President elect would have any knowledge or involvement in this unfortunate business. Though he had conversations with the New York governor about a possible successor to Senator Clinton, it is simply a non sequitur to suggest that the President elect would have any involvement with regard to his own replacement. Furthermore, Mr. Fitzgerald thought it more prudent to go ahead and indict Mr. Blagojevich before he had a chance to taint the sacrosanct U.S. Senate by actually going through with selling the Senate seat and tarnishing the image of the great state of Illinois.

The only problem is that Mr. Blagojevich went ahead and appointed someone anyway. I am not sure I follow the logic, but again, I am an amateur and Mr. Fitzgerald is a trained professional.

Good luck, Senator Burris. I am so sorry that the honor you have received has been tainted by this cloud of controversy. I sincerely wish you the best in your service to the people of Illinois.


JD Curtis said...

In reference to the "Blago trial", might I ask that you examine this entry and let me know your opinion?

The Maryland Crustacean said...

I wouldn't care to comment on some of the seedy innuendo suggested by the post. There is plenty of legitimate, public record information that is sufficient for me to conclude that Mr. Obama is unqualified to be President and that his policies are disastrous. No need to make unsubstantiated suggestions about his private life.

On the other hand, assuming that Blago is found guilty on at least a couple of counts, he has excellent grounds for appeal in that he can claim that the judge wrongly suppressed some potentially exculpatory evidence.

Anonymous said...

"" The judge wrongly suppressed some potentially exculpatory evidence. ""

Could it be that they threw out so much evidence to protect others, including OBAMA, that it totally gutted their case, and the jury saw though all this.