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Video: Prosecution failed, says Blagojevich

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    >> governor rod blagojevich is here for an exclusive interview. good morning to you.

    >> good morning.

    >> let's talk about where things stand today. you were once one of the most powerful politicians in this country. at one point you had ambitions to become president. as of today you're out of a job. your political future looks dead and you're now a convicted felon . do you take any responsibility with what's become of you?

    >> meredith, let me point out when the government targets you and prosecutors want to get you and they spent six years spending tens of mlts of taxpayer's money and so many have asked how much did he spend of the taxpayers 'money and he failed to get any corruption charges. there is a false statement they allege i made. but that's not true.

    >> you were convicted.

    >> we're going to appeal that. and as you point out we didn't put a defense on. my lawyers were very certain the government failed to prove any corruption --

    >> you don't take any responsibility for anything that happened to you?

    >> i would say that looking back, if i could change some things --

    >> what would you change?

    >> certain people i put faith in and trust and advisers and different people. but you have to understand, less than 2% of the tapes were played in court. the government put their best case on and failed to prove any corruption. "the wall street journal " just came out in an editorial suggesting the prosecutor should be fired or resign because it's been an abuse of his power. "the washington post " --

    >> right after the trial you said this was a persecution and not a prosecution and also said the jury agreed with you that the government did not prove its case. but the foreman of the jury was with us the next day and said that was not true and said the only reason you were not convicted of trying to sell that senate seat was because of one lone juror and in fact he voted to convict you on all counts. another juror said she's glad there's going to be a retry. a third juror said if they do retry him they might be in trouble. he was lucky. given that, do you want to gamble on another trial or would you like to make some sort of a plea deal ?

    >> no. i'm absolutely very determined to seek full vinld case.

    >> you will not seek a plea deal ?

    >> i have done nothing wrong. this is by a prosecutor who for six years targeted me and spent tens of millions of dollars trying to get me. the questions people should be asking and you should ask in the media what happened the day before when they came to my house at 6:00 and arrested me a sitting governor. i want to challenge this prosecutor. let me challenge this prosecutor -- the prosecutor to release all the evidence and every tape, every transcript that happened the day before i was arrested, two days before i was arrested, a week before i was arrested, ten days before i was arrested. this trial we put no defense on and they failed to prove any corruption charges.

    >> the main charge that you tried to sell that u.s. senate seat 11-1 in favor of convicting you that has got to be sobering to you.

    >> the fact of the matter is we didn't challenge it. there was no case that explained that conversations -- let me point that out. the very thing they're trying to convict me of, political horse trading and in this case it's really disgusting, possibility with political advisers. remember sent to me by the president himself political horse trading . this is what they're now trying to criminalize. these prosecutors who by -- who act in a way where they're making deals with convicted felons and in exchange for their testimony these felons come in and say what the prosecutors want them to say the very thing they're charging me with they ought to charge themselves with and add an additional count of hypocrisy.

    >> it sounds like you're saying this thing is so bleep gold i'm not going to give it away.

    >> there's a new federal judge today because reportedly a congressman voted for president obama 's health care plan and in exchange the congressman's brother became a fellow judge. that sort of politics is how our country operates.

    >> so that's business as usual in chicago , i'll scratch your back, you scratch mine.

    >> there is a u.s. congressman who voted for president obama 's health care plan whose brother is now a federal judge . political horse trading . they're trying to do selective prosecuting and criminalize what is political behavior but in this particular case there was no behavior. there was strictly discussion and ideas floated openly with lawyers and advisers --

    >> before the trial, during the trial you said repeatedly, i want to take that stand . i want to clear my name. you said it so many times. just watch. we put together a few of the comments.

    >> i expect to be fully vindicated and clear my name. i can't wait to take the stand and testify and get the truth out. every day gets by i get close to taking that stand myself. i will prove my innocence and i will testify.

    >> there have been reports since then your defense team did a mock trial to put you on the stand . that you did not do well and they figured you would be clobbered by the prosecution and that's why you did not take the stand . you're saying that is not true at all?

    >> they threw everything but the kitchen sink at me. the power of the federal government with millions and millions of dollars they can spend with taxpayer money. they failed to convict me of corruption charges without putting on any defense .

    >> why didn't you take the stand ?

    >> our legal team determined after the government put its case on that they didn't prove any corruption and as a result made a determination there was no credence to their trial.

    >> if there is a retrial will you commit that you take the stand since it meant so much to you to take the stand ?

    >> i wanted to take the stand the first time around and i would be fully prepared to take it the second time around if there is one. the big question is why are they wasting taxpayer money? in chicago , your network program "dateline" they showed police are gunned down and children are shot in front of their homes. instead they should use that money in my view to be able to address the real crime problems in places like chicago --

    >> i think some people would agree with you that having a retrial is going to cost a lot of money. in fact you're out of money as john yang said. you spend $3 million of your defense money. can you afford another trial?

    >> you fight against all odds. the fact of the matter is i'm up against a giant goliath and take solace in the biblical story of david. i don't have a slingshot but i have truth on my side. the government failed to convict me of any corruption charges. let me remind you that this prosecutor had me arrested a sitting governor. he said he was stopping a crime spree before it happened. december the 9th, 2008 . i challenge him --

    >> some would argue this is not failure by the prosecution. this was matter of poor jury selection and if there is a retrial because of that 11-1 vote on the most significant charge against you, you're going to be in trouble.

    >> no. the fact is when the government has all the advantages that they have and all the money that they have and in cases like this if you talk to the experts, they never, ever fail to get the guy they're trying to get. well, they didn't in this particular case. again, every charge related to corruption, 23 of them, none of them were guilty.

    >> let's put the criminal charges aside. no matter how you slice it it did not paint a pretty picture of you. came across as vulgar, interested in public office . even your defense referred to you as a dim bulb did basically what politicians do. that's got to hurt. those are the guys on your side.

    >> well, what i was about to do on december the 9th and 10th and december the 8th it was pretty much set up and the president's chief of staff rahm emanuel was part of the deal. that was to do things for people. again in america you're supposed to have the freedom to be able to talk freely on the telephone and in my case lawyers and advisers -- if there was any intent to break any law, i wouldn't be speaking so freely thinking out loud and brainstorming. there was a tape played before that jury that says it has to be done legally and obviously.

    >> this has got to have been very difficult for you and your family. going forward could -- i just wonder about how you can handle this mentally and physically.

    >> well, again, it's an upside down story. again, i want to challenge the prosecutor because i agree we'll release all the evidence to the public. there are 2,000 conversations with me. they refuse to play all of them. they ought to play the tapes on december the 8th, december 7th , two days and the day before i was arrested. they stopped jobs and health care and protecting taxpayers from higher taxes.

    >> under any circumstances, will you accept a plea deal ?

    >> absolutely not. we are going to win. we've already won the first round. we're going to win this one. i will appeal that false statement from five years ago that they trumped up.

    >> even though you do not have a job you did a really good job in " celebrity apprentice ." will we see you in another show? will you be with snooki?

    >> that verdict doesn't trump made in the board room firing me was the right one. this one where the government failed to prove a case was --

    >> i tease you. could i see you doing something like that again? is that in the cards.

    >> >> which one?

    >> doing reality television again.

    >> here's what the government does when they want to get you. they squeeze you financially so they force you to be in a position --

    >> are you going to do another reality show ?

    >> if the opportunities are there i will certainly take a look at it of course.

    >> thank you. anything you want to say? to that lone juror quickly?

    >> i would always say i have always had a deep abiding faith in god and it confirms praise god. thank her for her and her good judgment. the reality is if we had put a defense on i would have probably been acquitted.

    >> you think you should have been on the stand ?

    >> it's easy to second guess.

    >> are you going to dump these lawyers that called you a dim bulb?

    >> my lawyers are great and they did something no one does. they slandered me across the world when they said i was selling a senate seat for money, the world. political judgments in my world are still legal and horse trading and discussing those things are still legal and has even today when the congress votes.

    >> thank you very much. really appreciate it. rod blagojevich .

By
TODAY contributor
updated 8/20/2010 8:48:58 AM ET 2010-08-20T12:48:58

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich said Friday that he has no intention of accepting a plea deal to avoid a retrial on political corruption charges and harshly criticized the federal prosecutors who failed to win convictions on 23 of the 24 charges against him.

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“I’m absolutely very determined to seek vindication,” Blagojevich told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira on Friday during his first live television interview since a Chicago jury convicted him of lying to the FBI. “I have done absolutely nothing wrong. This is a persecution by a prosecutor who for six years tried to persecute me.”

Pressed by Vieira about whether he accepted any responsibility for recorded phone conversations that prosecutors took to mean he was trying to sell an appointment to Barack Obama’s former Senate seat, Blagojevich said he would be more careful about whom he trusted when engaging in “political horse-trading.”

“So you take no responsibility then, governor, for anything that’s happened to you?” Vieira asked.

“I would say that looking back, if I could change some things ... Certain people that I put faith in and trusted, advisers and different people.”

Blagojevich insisted again that he was merely acting like a politician and never intended to gain financially from his powerful position.

He challenged prosecutors to release all of the evidence they had gathered against him, including tapes from the days leading up to his December 2008 arrest. He says those tapes would reveal the hard work he says he was doing to try to create jobs and generate revenue for the people of his state.

After 14 days of deliberation, jurors found Blagojevich guilty on Tuesday of lying to federal agents, but were deadlocked on all 23 of the other, more serious, charges brought against the former Illinois governor.

Eleven of the 12 jurors reportedly voted to convict Blagojevich of trying to sell the seat, with one woman holding out because she believed he was only talking politics.

“For a lot of us, the Senate seat was the most obvious,” juror Erik Sarnello told the Associated Press, adding that the lone juror “just didn’t see what we all saw.”

Blagojevich: Lone juror was right
On Friday, Blagojevich praised the lone holdout for her “good judgment.”

“I’ve always had a deep, abiding faith in God,” Blagojevich said. “And when I look at that, it just confirms again, praise God.”

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said Wednesday that federal prosecutors intend to retry the case in order to pursue the 23 remaining charges, which include bribery, racketeering and wiretapping.

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      The jury was 11-1 in favor of convicting the former Illinois governor of a more serious count, a juror says.

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Jury foreman James Matsumoto, who voted to find Blagojevich guilty on all counts, told TODAY on Wednesday that he supports a retrial but believes the prosecution needs to streamline its case and rely less on witness testimony, which, according to Matsumoto, was sometimes very weak.

Blagojevich said on Friday he will appeal the single conviction, which carries a penalty of up to five years in jail and a $250,000 fine. Noting that his lawyers did not present a defense, Blagojevich said he would not second-guess the decisions of lawyers who delivered what he called a defeat for the government.

“My lawyers are fantastic and they’re great and they did something nobody ever does,” Blagojevich said.

As for another romp through the world of reality television? Blagojevich, who was fired on TV by Donald Trump on “Celebrity Apprentice” after Illinois legislators fired him, didn’t rule it out.

“If the opportunities were there, I would certainly take a look at it, of course,” Blagojevich said, adding that in cases like the current one, the government tries to squeeze money out of defendants like him.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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