Thomas R. Bennett, who has been following the retrial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich for the Nuclear Chicago blog, accuses U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald of “sandbagging” and “running egregious political interference to both benefit and protect Team Obama” for not calling fundraiser Antoin “Tony” Rezko to the stand as a government witness:
“Simply put – Antoin ‘Tony’ Rezko is the only witness that can bury Blagojevich and the Chicago Political Thuggery Machine. Why is Fitzgerald holding back Rezko? What has been promised or implied to Fitzgerald as a ‘reward’ for Fitzgerald’s blatant sandbagging efforts?”
Bennett launched this latest incendiary after federal marshals apparently detained him and escorted him out of Chicago’s federal court building after he wrote: “There is still a gigantic elephant in the room. Specifically, we still do not have an answer related to who leaked classified Department of Justice (DOJ) information regarding the confidential Blagojevich wiretaps?” He included a link to an earlier Beltway Confidential post asking the same question.
Bennett raises a good point about the convicted-but-still-not-sentenced Rezko, whose whereabouts after he was transferred from Chicago’s downtown Metropolitan Correctional Center last year remain murky.
In his retrial of the former Illinois governor for allegedly trying to sell President Obama’s old Senate seat and seeking campaign contributions in exchange for political favors , Fitzgerald inexplicably dropped all the charges against Blagojevich that involved Rezko. This despite the fact that federal prosecutors previously described Rezko as “"the man behind the curtain, pulling the strings" in the Blagojevich administration.
If Rezko was pulling Blago’s strings, why isn’t he testifying at his trial?
Bennett is not the only one in Chicago speculating that Fitzgerald is deliberately avoiding calling Rezko to the witness stand because he wants “to avoid presenting any evidence that links Obama to this corruption.”
However, Thursday’s testimony by Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. leaves him little choice.
In an attempt to distance himself from Blago’s alleged pay-to-play scheme involving Obama’s old Senate seat, Jackson said that the former governor refused to appoint Jackson’s wife, Sandi, as director of the Illinois State Lottery because Jackson did not give him a $25,000 campaign contribution.
Bennett points out that Jackson’s testimony inadvertently presents Fitzgerald with a golden opportunity to call the elusive Rezko to the stand as the government’s rebuttal witness and nail some big game to the wall:
“The US Attorney will now be within scope to cross-examine Blagojevich related to the following question: ‘Governor Blagojevich, did you deny Sandi Jackson a state appointment as State of Illinois Director position because Congressman Jackson refused to contribute $25,000 to your gubernatorial fund?’
When Blagojevich presumably denies Jackson’s extortion charge, Fitzgerald can seal his fate by calling Rezko to the stand as a rebuttal witness and asking him the same question. If Rezko says yes, Blago goes to jail. If Rezko agrees with the defense that the quid-pro-quo Jackson described never happened, the congressman will be caught perjuring himself to save his own skin.
If Rezko isn’t called to testify and Blago walks, Fitzgerald will have a lot of explaining to do.