CHICAGO – Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich said Tuesday that statements he made on secret FBI wiretap tapes were taken out of context by prosecutors and that he might try to call senators and a top White House official as witnesses at his racketeering and fraud trial to back his version of events.
Blagojevich told The Associated Press in a phone interview that he might even try to subpoena President Barack Obama as a witness at his trial, but the court is unlikely to compel the president to testify.
The former governor, whose trial is scheduled to begin June 3, said he expects to be cleared of charges that he tried to sell or trade Obama’s former Senate seat for campaign money or a high-paying job for his wife or himself.
“I will be vindicated because I haven’t done anything wrong,” Blagojevich said.
He said he sometimes stays awake and worries that justice – as he sees it – won’t prevail and he will go to prison.
“I think about it in the wee hours, in the witching hour – I’m only human,” Blagojevich said.
Blagojevich said he is not tempted to ask his attorneys seek a plea deal that could cut years off any prison sentence.
“Never,” he said, raising his voice.
The former governor spoke by phone from New York, where he was promoting his book, “The Governor.”
According to prosecutors, the FBI secretly recorded Blagojevich last November saying he wanted something in exchange for the Senate seat.
“I’ve got this thing and it’s (deleted) golden, and uh, uh, I’m just not giving it up for (deleted) nothing,” he is quoted as saying. He was later recorded saying “I want to make money” off the seat, prosecutors said.
As he argued in his book, Blagojevich said his words were taken out of context.
Under that plan, Michael Madigan would push a public works bill designed to create thousands of jobs and health care legislation through the state House, while guaranteeing there would be no tax increase for Illinois residents.
In exchange, his daughter would get the Senate seat.
In his book, Blagojevich said he told his chief of staff, John Harris, to start implementing the plan the day before his arrest.
Harris also was charged in the indictment and has agreed to cooperate with the government. He is expected to be a witness at Blagojevich’s trial. The former governor was asked if he thought Harris would support his story on cross examination.
“If he tells the truth, that’s what happened,” Blagojevich said.
Blagojevich said he might subpoena White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, Senate Democrat Majority Leader Harry Reid and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Robert Menendez to back up his version of what happened.
He said he discussed his plan with all of them.
Another possible witness he said would be former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.
Blagojevich said in his book that he was surprised to find out that one of his chief fundraisers, Tony Rezko, was involved in corruption. Rezko has been convicted of taking part in a $7 million payoff scheme and is now believed to be cooperating with federal prosecutors.
Blagojevich was asked if he had been naive in bringing Rezko into his circle of advisers after the real estate developer raised campaign money for him.
“That is correct – I was naive about Tony Rezko,” Blagojevich said.
He also said that while another former chief of staff, Alonzo Monk, had been one of his closest friends for 30 years, Monk had never told him that he had received thousands of dollars from Rezko.
“If true, I’m shocked,” Blagojevich said.