I posted last week about the arrest of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich on federal corruption charges. At the time it didn’t make sense that The Chicago Tribune was calmly reporting on its own corrupt dealings with Blagojevich concerning the sale of Wrigley Field, which is owned by the newspaper’s parent company.
But now it all makes sense: the Trib was cooperating with the Feds all along, but was in the end unable to restrain itself and had to break the juicy story. This forced the hand of the FBI, which then had to rush in and bust Blago.
At least that’s what the WSJ blog says:
Conventional wisdom holds that U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald ordered the FBI to arrest Rod Blagojevich before sunrise Tuesday in order to stop a crime from being committed. That would have been the sale of the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.
But the opposite is true: Members of Fitzgerald’s team are livid the scheme didn’t advance, at least for a little longer, according to some people close to Fitzgerald’s office. Why? Because had the plot unfolded, they might have had an opportunity most feds can only dream of: A chance to catch the sale of a Senate seat on tape, including the sellers and the buyers.
The precise timing of Tuesday’s dramatic, pre-dawn arrest was not dictated by Fitzgerald, nor was it dictated by the pace of Blagojevich’s alleged “crime spree.” It was dictated by the Chicago Tribune, according to people close to the investigation and a careful reading of the FBI’s affidavit in the case.
At Fitzgerald’s request, the paper had been holding back a story since October detailing how a confidante of Blagojevich was cooperating with his office.
Gerould Kern, the Tribune’s editor, said in a statement last week that these requests are granted in what he called isolated instances. “In each case, we strive to make the right decision as reporters and as citizens,” he said. [Go ahead, pull the other one! — BB]
But editors decided to publish the story on Friday, Dec. 5, ending the Tribune’s own cooperation deal with the prosecutor.
Consider what had been dangling in front of FBI agents and federal prosecutors one day earlier.
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Perhaps even more encouraging to the feds listening in on Dec. 4 was what they knew about the first time such a deal was discussed. About a month earlier, Blagojevich was caught on tape describing an approach by an alleged associate of Jackson. Blagojevich’s now-infamous quote about that meeting had been tantalizing. “We were approached ‘pay to play.’ That, you know, he’d raise me 500 grand. An emissary came. Then the other guy would raise a million, if I made him (Senate Candidate 5) a Senator.”
On Dec. 4, with the feds listening in, Blagojevich was allegedly putting this deal back into play.
The next morning, on Friday, Dec. 5, it all came crashing down for the FBI agents underneath the headphones.
The Tribune’s front page screamed: “Feds taped Blagojevich; TRIBUNE EXCLUSIVE: Adviser cooperated with corruption probe, sources say.”
Blagojevich read the same headline. “Undo” that “thing,” the governor allegedly told his brother, according to the FBI. And just like that, the meeting was off, only one day after it had been put back into play.
Had it not been for the Tribune’s Dec. 5 story, the meeting Blagojevich’s brother was arranging might have proceeded. Mr. Blagojevich is quoted as citing the story, in the affidavit, then calling off the meeting. At a minimum, the FBI’s recorders would have been rolling when he reported back. The feds also probably would have tried to bug the session live, or at least to tail the participants and secretly film or photograph them. That’s what feds do. Jurors love video.
There are a lot of other tantalizing factors at work here. Virtually everyone involved — the prosecutor, federal employees, the governor, the Illinois pols, the media — is a good liberal and wants to advance the career of Barack Hussein Obama.
The media are pulling out all stops to make sure that there is no connection between their golden boy and the corrupt governor. It seems likely that an eventual deal will be struck that allows Blago to spend the absolute minimum amount of time playing tennis in Allenwood while the Obama administration gets by unscathed. Except maybe for Rahm Emanuel, who seems to have a date with the wheels of a bus.
Hat tip: Larwyn.