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Blagojevich Faces 24 Counts of Racketeering, Bribery, Conspiracy to Commit Wire & Mail Fraud; Blagojevich Convicted on 1 Count
Aired August 17, 2010 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're all over these stories.
Rick, thanks very much.
Also happening now, the interrogation of a top 9/11 suspect captured on CIA tapes that had been stashed under a desk.
What could we learn about the government's case against Ramzi Binalshibh and about the Al Qaeda plot to slaughter Americans?
Also, it's being called a national crisis in education and for our economy, as well. Stand by for an alarming new report on why so many African-American boys failed to graduate from public high school.
And Democratic women have their claws out for the self-proclaimed mama grizzly of Republican politics. This hour, their defiant declaration that Sarah Palin doesn't speak for them.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
He's a mysterious figure locked in a cell at Guantanamo Bay, accused of being the go-between for Osama bin Laden and the 9/11 attackers. Now we're learning about a new window into Ramzi Binalshibh's CIA interrogation and the government's case against him.
Our Brian Todd is looking into this for us -- all right, Brian, tell us what we have learned?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, U.S. officials say Ramzi Binalshibh knew some crucial operational details of the 9/11 plot. Now there's new information on tapes of his interrogation and new questions about how these might help or hurt the government's case against him.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (voice-over): A knowledgeable U.S. source tells CNN the CIA found tapes of leading 9/11 suspect Ramzi Binalshibh being interrogated. Believe it or not, the tapes were found under a desk at the agency.
The source says the tapes don't show any so-called enhanced interrogation techniques like waterboarding. Those tapes were destroyed by the CIA. But these are believed to be the only tapes left showing what's known as a black site interrogation -- the questioning of a terrorism suspect at a secret prison overseas. Our source says these tapes were recorded in Morocco. They were likely made several years ago, after Binalshibh's capture in Pakistan in September 2002.
We spoke with Ramzi Binalshibh's attorney. He knew the CIA had found the tapes there three years ago, but didn't know they were of his client.
THOMAS DURKIN, RAMZI BIN AL-SHIBH'S ATTORNEY: I was rather dumb- founded to think that we had litigated as long as we had in Guantanamo without knowing that there were tapes of Mr. Binalshibh. When something like this occurs, you -- you begin to question the -- the transparency of the whole proceedings and what else is not being turned over, which is rather shocking when you consider that we're dealing with a capital prosecution in what is supposed to be an American criminal court.
TODD: Ramzi Binalshibh was, according to U.S. officials, a key operational commander in the 9/11 plot, after he was unable to join the hijackers himself. CNN terrorism analyst, Peter Berger, says it was Binalshibh who connected the hijackers with Osama bin Laden, telling lead hijacker Mohammed Atta what targets bin Laden wanted to hit then telling bin Laden that Atta had selected September 11th as the day of the attacks.
What might interrogators have been asking him on those days?
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: well, the interrogators would have known that he gave a pretty substantial interview to Al Jazeera about his role in 9/11. But they want to get all that information again. They want to get into it in more detail, the structure of Al Qaeda, any other future plots against the United States.
TODD: Binalshibh's lawyer won't comment on what effect these tapes will have on his case, which is now in limbo while the Obama administration decides where to try 9/11 suspects. But his client has been considered mentally unstable and he hinted the tapes could be of use at competency hearings.
The fact that there would be tapes at that early a date would certainly give a baseline as to what his mental competency was at that point in time compared to what it might be at the time of the hearing. And -- and that would be extremely relevant.
TODD: Contacted by CNN on the discovery of the tapes, a CIA spokesman issued us a statement saying, in part: "The agency's past detention program has been subject to multiple reviews by multiple government organizations under two administrations. Some of those examinations continue to this day, a year-and-a-half after the program itself went out of operation. The so-called black sites and enhanced interrogation methods, which were administered on the basis of guidance from the Justice Department are a thing of the past."
We have also contacted the Moroccan embassy regarding our reporting that these tapes were made a site in Morocco. We've not heard back yet -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And very quickly, Brian, correct me if I'm wrong, Ramzi Binalshibh, he's indicated he wants to plead guilty, is that right?
TODD: That's right. And his lawyer told us he has said, as a matter of public record, that he intends to plead guilty. But he says that an issue that has not yet been resolved because of questions about Binalshibh's mental competency. Those questions still haven't been answered at those hearings yet.
BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very much.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: All right, it's just coming in from Chicago. Just, the breaking news right now. We're told the juries has reached a decision. The verdict in the corruption trial of the former governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich and his brother, Robert Blagojevich. We are expecting to hear the fate of the ex-governor of Illinois when the verdict will be read in federal court. That will take time. We know that Blagojevich and his wife, family, lawyers, they're back in the court right now.
The jury of six men and six women have been deliberating for 14 days. They've finally come to a verdict -- we assume a verdict on 24 counts, but there could be a hung jury on some of those counts. We'll just have to wait and see. Blagojevich is facing, potentially, many years in prison.
The law -- the trial lasted seven weeks. There were 24 counts, as I said, against the former governor of Illinois, including racketeering, conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, as well as bribery. Of those 24 counts, the Justice Department has alleged that the former Illinois governor conspired to commit several what they call "pay to play schemes," including using his authority to fill Barack Obama's Senate seat once he was elected president of the United States. Blagojevich is accused of trying to auction it off to the highest bidder.
He was arrested back in December 2008 and was preceded by Governor George Ryan, who is now also serving six years in prison -- served six years in prison for abuse of power. He's still serving, actually, right now.
Lisa Bloom is a legal analyst.
She's joining us on the phone.
The fact, Lisa, that it's taken 14 days for these men and women to reach a verdict, presumably on all 24 counts, does that bode well or maybe not so well for Blagojevich? LISA BLOOM, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, the conventional wisdom, Wolf, is that the longer the deliberation, the better for the defense. A quick verdict usually means guilty on at least a couple of the top -- top charges. It's surprising to me that the jury has been out this long. But this is a long, complicated case. This is a case that mostly rests on words of Blagojevich, including the words on the tapes.
But most of the scenes never came to fruition, Wolf. We don't have a tape of him getting money or getting and envelope full of cash. What we have are schemes and plans. And the jury could very well have determined that some of them were just talk and they didn't really rise to the level of a crime. I think that's what the jury had to grapple with.
BLITZER: That's why the second count involves conspiracy -- it's called conspiracy. They could, presumably, find him guilty on a conspiracy count, even though no money necessary -- was necessarily exchanged.
BLOOM: Absolutely. Absolutely. And prosecutors love conspiracy charges because all you have to have is a criminal agreement and one act in furtherance of the agreement. And everyone who is a part of the conspiracy is guilty. So those cases can be easier to prove for prosecutors than the crime. And it may seem strange to people that you can come back with a guilty on a conspiracy and not on the other counts, but that is very possible.
BLITZER: It's fascinating to me, he was all over the media in months leading up to the trial. He was on television all the time, "Celebrity Apprentice." He was -- was very, very visible. But when it came time for him to take the witness stand and testify, his lawyer -- his criminal defense attorney said don't do it. And he didn't do it. So he never took the stand.
Was that smart?
BLOOM: Well, that's right, Wolf. And, look, most criminal defense attorneys will tell their clients they don't want them to take the stand. His attorneys probably also told him they didn't want him going on "The View" and "Larry King" and all the other shows but he did that anyway. But it's a very different thing to sit down, even with a tough interviewer on television, versus being cross-examined by a skilled prosecutor like Patrick Fitzgerald in the courtroom. It's an entirely different thing.
So I think that was probably wise advice on the part of the criminal defense attorney. But we'll see when we get the verdict whether that was a good move or not.
My suspicion, Wolf, is that behind the scenes, Rod Blagojevich probably did want to testify and there were probably some heated words back and forth between him and his attorney. But ultimately, he followed his attorney's advice, as you said, and did not testify.
BLITZER: The fact that he didn't testify, that made it possible that some top White House officials wouldn't have to testify either, like the White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, originally from Chicago, or Valerie Jared, a senior adviser to the president from Chicago. They never had to make -- they never had to testify, because he never took the witness stand. The defense basically rested as soon as -- as soon as the prosecution made their case.
BLOOM: Well, that's right. And, you know, this is such a made for Hollywood kind of trial, Wolf, because not only Rahm Emanuel didn't have to testify, but his brother, Ari Emanuel, who is a top Hollywood agent, as you probably know, and some say is the model for Ari on this television show "Entourage," a very tough, high powered Hollywood agent, he didn't have to testify either. And he was alleged to have been part of it, not in the sense that he did any wrongdoing, but that Blagojevich wanted a deal with hymn and that deal never came to fruition.
So you're right, if Rod Blagojevich had testified, a whole host of other characters could have been called in. And they're probably very grateful that he didn't testify.
BLITZER: I'm sure they are.
Jeffrey Toobin, our senior legal analyst, is joining us on the phone, as well -- Jeff, I guess one of the most serious charges against the former governor was this notion that he was going to try to sell to the highest bidder Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat. That's a tough -- that's a tough charge to -- to -- to deliver on for the prosecution, even as skilled a U.S. attorney as Patrick Fitzgerald.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It's true. And -- and it's sort of symptomatic of what the -- the whole case was about, which was the accusation was that the gov -- Governor Blagojevich intended, wanted to sell the Senate seat, but he didn't do it. The case is full of plans, schemes that Blagojevich had, but that didn't come to fruition. And that may be one of the stumbling blocks for the jury, one reason why the jury is taking so long, that it's one thing to just talk about things, it's another thing to do them.
Now, it is illegal to plan to sell a Senate seat. But juries sometimes want to see a little more. They want to see an actual completed crime, even if the law books say an attempted crime is -- is -- is also illegal.
BLITZER: And getting back, Jeffrey, to this refusal on -- by his part, I guess on the advice of his criminal defense attorneys, not to take the witness stand, he had been very visible. He was speaking out to anyone who would listening -- was listening in the months leading up to the trial.
Was that designed to try to have an influence on the jury?
TOOBIN: Well, you know, that's always the toughest decision for a defense attorney, do you put your client on the stand?
The risk, of course, in a -- in a white collar case is that the jury will think, come on, this guy is the -- used to be the governor. Why isn't he explaining himself?
Why isn't he explaining what was going on?
Now, under the law, that shouldn't be the way the jury thinks. But the folk wisdom certainly is that in white collar cases, juries expect to hear from defendants.
It is often the case, though, that defense attorneys are able to put in their defense through cross-examination of witnesses. Defense cases are usually very, very short. It's not common to hear the defense call a long line of witnesses, though they often say they will. This is somewhat unusual in that they called no witnesses at all. But short defense cases are the rule more than the exception.
BLITZER: You know, the fact that he and his family, the lawyers, Jeffrey, they're now back in court, usually that means that the jurors will come out, the judge will -- will read the verdict if -- the verdict on all 24 counts.
But that could take a while, right?
TOOBIN: Yes. It certainly could take a while, although you usually get a pretty good gist of what the verdict is pretty quickly. It's...
BLITZER: No. I'm talking about between the time that we -- we know that they've reached a decision and the time they actually start announcing what those decisions are.
TOOBIN: You know what, it -- it really varies by court. I wouldn't want to -- want to guess how this judge handles it. This is the sort of thing that most judges -- that judges handle in -- in different ways. But it shouldn't be long.
BLITZER: It shouldn't be long, especially if -- if the criminal -- if the defense attorneys are there, if the prosecution is there, obviously, Blagojevich and his brother are there, their families are there, it probably won't be very long.
I want everyone to stand by. We're awaiting the announcement in this courtroom in Chicago, a federal court. A decision has been reached. The verdicts have been reached on 24 counts against the former Illinois governor, recently -- within the last few moments. You see him and his wife and lawyers. They're walking back into the courtroom. We're about to get that announcement -- that verdict.
Our continuing coverage will resume on that.
Also, we're following other news, including a very dangerous discovery in the Gulf of Mexico. Scientists saying they're finding toxic oil on the sea floor and marine life infected for the first time. Stand by for a CNN exclusive.
Also, we have some new evidence that Democratic women are running scared of Sarah Palin and her influence in this midterm election year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Simple ideas like in Alaska, we eat, therefore we...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: A verdict has been reached in the federal corruption trial against Rod Blagojevich, the -- the former governor of Illinois. The clerk made the announcement just a little while ago. We're waiting for the judge to get all of the parties assembled in the courtroom. We'll hear that verdict.
As soon as we know what's going on, we'll go to Chicago.
We're going to have much more analysis on this, but I want to check in with Jack Cafferty first for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Voters are fed up with our lawmakers' inability to take action when it comes to reducing this country's $1.5 trillion federal deficit.
As "The Wall Street Journal" reports, it's the voters who appear to be more willing to take drastic steps to do something about the nation's mounting red ink. The newspaper talked to voters in Virginia, a swing state, who say they're willing to make the tough cuts, from a national sales tax to budget cuts to higher Medicare co- pays and deductibles. The voters get it, even if the federal government doesn't. And Washington really doesn't get it.
Our leaders worry about being attacked in an election year if they even suggest spending cuts or tax increases. The American people just want their leaders to lead on this issue.
Too much to ask?
That's why they were elected, remember?
One Independent voter in Richmond, Virginia told "The Journal" -- quote here -- "I wish the politicians would be hard asses and be like, you know what, it's going to be horrible for the next few years, but you've got to shut up," unquote.
Wouldn't that be refreshing?
Meanwhile, we await the results of President Obama's bipartisan deficit reduction commission, which are conveniently scheduled for release after the November election. And when recommendations finally do come, most, if not all of them, will have to be approved by Congress, which will likely render the entire exercise meaningless.
Some are suggesting a popular uprising is perhaps the only way to get this country back on track. There's a piece on Infowars.com suggesting, "without a revolution, Americans are history."
Here's the question then: If voters want the deficits addressed, why does Washington continue to ignore them?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty, thanks very much.
Let's get back to the breaking news we're following right now. A verdict has been reached in the Rod Blagojevich trial in Chicago. The former governor of Illinois facing 24 counts in a federal corruption trial against him.
Jeff Toobin is with us, our legal analyst; Lisa Bloom, the criminal defense attorney; David Gergen, our senior political analyst, is with us, as well -- I guess, David, the most damning statement that he was heard making on this audiotape that federal prosecutors had was when he was thinking about who would succeed Barack Obama as the Illinois senator. At one point, he's recorded by federal agents as young, quote: "I've got this thing and it's (EXPLETIVE LANGUAGE) golden. I'm just not giving it up for (EXPLETIVE LANGUAGE) nothing."
And so the argument is, is that just boasting that he, as governor of Illinois, could name the successor to Barack Obama or was he holding it out for some sort of financial reward, who would get that seat?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: That's a very good question, Wolf. And I don't think we'll know the answer until they come out with this verdict. But, clearly, for much of the public, at the heart of this case is a question of whether he was trying to sell that seat and make money out of it. We know he didn't get the money, apparently. But -- but he -- you know, there is certainly a heavy suggestion here he was trying to sell it. Whether they find that convincing or not, we don't know.
But, you know, Wolf, the fact that they had 24 counts and they came back two days ago and said we could only reach agreement on two counts in 12 days of -- of deliberation -- they said 11 counts we can't agree on at all and we've got 11 counts we haven't considered on -- on wire fraud. That suggests this may be a complex verdict. And we might not be at the end. Jeffrey could tell us. But I -- I -- there is a possibility that we could have a retrial on some of these counts before it's over. God forbid, but we might.
BLITZER: We certainly could.
Jeffrey Toobin is still here, too. And Lisa Bloom is, as well.
The quote from the judge, Jeffrey, and interpret this. Explain what this might mean, because it's a little cryptic. The judge saying: "We have reached a verdict and I am assuming it's a partial verdict." -- all right, Jeff, you know this kind of stuff.
When the judge says that, what does he mean? TOOBIN: It means that the jury has been able to reach a verdict on some of the 24 counts, but not the others. Presumably, that will mean if the judge decides to accept the verdict, a partial verdict -- sometimes judges just say, look, I'm not accepting a partial verdict, go back to work, try to reach a complete verdict.
But if he accepts a partial verdict, we'll see whether he's convicted or acquitted on those counts.
But on the remaining counts, the judge will presumably declare a mistrial, which means the government will then have to make the decision, do we retry him?
Do we think these -- this case is strong enough with just these remaining counts to -- to go forward again?
That's always a tough call for the government. A lot of it depends on what the verdict was on the counts where there was a verdict. But as David said, a -- a mistrial means no -- no verdict.
BLITZER: Lisa Bloom, do you ex -- do you suspect Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney in Chicago, would go through this once again if there's no verdict on most of these counts, he would have another trial?
BLOOM: I -- I do, because I think he is devoted to this case and believes in this case. And he has from the very beginning. But as Jeffrey says, it's going to depend on what the outcome is. If, for example, he gets acquitted on a couple of charges and then it's a mistrial as to the rest, that is, the jury couldn't reach an agreement as to the rest, then he's going to have some evaluating to do. If he can find out what the juror split was on the counts that there may be a mistrial on, that will also be instructed. If it's 11-1 for acquittal, then he may make a decision to not go forward.
But in general, I do think that Patrick Fitzgerald is committed to this case, that he believes in this case and that he will retry if there are mistrials on any of the counts.
BLITZER: We're going to ask Lisa Bloom, Jeff Toobin and David Gergen stand by. We're awaiting the announcement -- the verdict in the Rod Blagojevich trial in Chicago. They reached a verdict -- at least a partial verdict on some of these 24 counts.
Our special coverage of the breaking news right here in THE SITUATION ROOM will continue after this.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: A verdict has been reached in the Rod Blagojevich trial in Chicago. He's facing 24 counts -- a federal corruption trial, among other things, accused of wanting to sell the U.S. Senate seat of Barack Obama once he was elected president of the United States. We assume that there's been a verdict on some of the charges, not necessarily all of them. That's the indication we're getting from the judge.
Our producer in Chicago has been listening in, seeing what's going on. They should be assembling in the courtroom fairly soon and we will hear from the jury. And we'll hear from the judge exactly what is going on.
Stand by. Much more on this coming up.
Jeffrey Toobin, our senior legal analyst, is with us, as well -- Jeffrey, for viewers just tuning in right now, set the stage for us on what is going on, because it's been 14 days that this jury has been deliberating.
TOOBIN: Well, the heart of this case is that the government, the federal government, the U.S. attorney, Patrick Fitzgerald, has charged former Governor Rod Blagojevich with attempting to sell his office for various -- various things he had to sell. He was trying to sell Barack Obama's Senate seat. He was trying to sell approval for a hospital. He was trying to sell government contracts for highway concessions.
The idea was, is that he was simply taking campaign contributions or money directly or planning to do so in return for these things he controlled as governor.
Now, part of the problem of the case, from the government's perspective is, though he talked a great deal about selling these things, selling Obama's Senate seat, he didn't actually follow through. They brought the case down. They arrested him before these plans could come to fruition.
One of the theories of why the jury has been out so long is that the jury is having a hard time with the case that involves talk about selling his office, but no completed acts of sale, as it were.
BLITZER: And so that then might not necessarily be enough to convict.
We're told that the judge has started reading some of these verdicts in this federal courtroom. No cameras are allowed inside. So we should be getting word fairly soon on at least some of the initial decisions on these 24 counts. It will take a while for them to go through all 24.
David Gergen is with us.
Lisa Bloom is with us, as well.
We're awaiting the word. We should get it very soon -- David Gergen, as we await the initial verdict on some of these counts, this case has taken on an enormous political significance because the president of the United States, at least indirectly, was involved. His Senate seat was up for grabs and he's from Chicago, raising all sorts of questions about allegations of -- of political corruption in Chicago.
GERGEN: Well, it -- it certainly has deepened the sense that there's way -- much more corruption in Illinois than there should be. I think the president was spared because he and his -- and his men and women in the White House were not called to have to testify. That would have been, as you can imagine, would have amplified that sense a lot.
But if he's found guilty today, there's going to be, I think, a widespread feeling in the public that there really is something terribly wrong that's been going on in that state. And I don't think it helps President Obama.
It also has really soured, of course, Illinois voters on Democrats, so that it's given the Republicans a fighting chance to take back Illinois.
BLITZER: Lisa Bloom, as we await the -- the word, you're convinced no matter what happens on these charges, if they haven't reached a verdict on some of the charges, a hung jury, that the -- the U.S. attorney, Patrick Fitzgerald, will go forward and seek a new trial?
BLOOM: Well, I think he will, again, depending on the outcome. If Blagojevich is acquitted on a lot of the top charges and there's a hung jury on the others and the hung jury ends up being split more in Blagojevich's favor than the government's favor, then Patrick Fitzgerald will have a tough decision to make. I also want to point out and to underscore what Jeffrey Toobin has been saying. This case is primarily about words and absolutely words can be illegal if he was plotting to sell the Senate seat and plotting other acts of alleged graft. On the other hand none of it seems to be brought to fruition. There was no money changed hands. One might wonder why the U.S. attorney who was tape recording most of the conversation that Blagojevich was having at the end didn't wait for example for the Senate seat to be sold. At that point he would have two wrongdoers. He would have the buyer and the seller and he would have money changing hands which certainly enhanced the case and made it a much stronger case. The argument on either side of that is we don't want a Senate seat to be told. That's a wrong and harm to our political process that we have to stop it before it happens but nevertheless, if it had happened it would have been a stronger case. Blagojevich's defense is simply yes I was engaging in political horse trading which is perfectly legal although ...
BLITZER: Lisa, I'm going interrupt for a second because we're just getting word from our producer on the scene he has been found guilty on one of these 24 counts, count 24 which is false statements. Jeffrey Toobin, I know you are there as well. The charge, count 24, which he's been convicted on is that Rod Blagojevich allegedly lied to the FBI during a March 16th, 2005 meeting willfully and knowingly making false statements that he tried to maintain a firewall between politics and government. That he does not track or want to know who contributes to him or how much they are contributing to him. All right. So we've just received word that he's convicted, a guilty verdict on count 24, false statements. Jeffrey Toobin? TOOBIN: That's a felony. It's a very well known much prosecuted crime called Section 1001. It is what Martha Stewart was convicted of. It's a five-year maximum prison sentence. Most people tend not to get nearly that much for it. The real big risk to Blagojevich here is the racketeering counts.
BLITZER: Let me interrupt you on that point. Because we are now told that the jury has been able to reach a verdict on that count, count 24. That's the only count they have been able to reach a verdict on. The 23 other counts they have not been able to reach a verdict on, Jeffrey, including racketeering, wire fraud, attempted extortion, bribery, conspiracy, extortion conspiracy, attempted extortion, all of these other 23 counts we are now told no verdict. The jury has been deadlocked on those 23 counts. They reached a verdict on one count making false statements to federal authorities. Jeffrey, what do you make of that?
TOOBIN: Well I guess the first question I have is has the judge dismissed the jury? Or has he sent them back to deliberate more on those other counts?
BLITZER: We don't know the answer to that yet. We'll know that fairly soon.
TOOBIN: OK. Because that makes a big difference. If this is it, this is a pretty big victory for Rod Blagojevich I would say. He was not convicted on 23 of the 24 counts. Now, the government may retry him. It is true that the government can claim that Blagojevich is now a convicted felon because if you're guilty of making a false statement to an FBI agent, that makes you a convicted felon. Given the magnitude of these crimes and claims of racketeering, extortion and crimes that get people 10 to 20 years in prison a single count of making a false statement to an FBI agent is no great victory for the government.
BLITZER: It would be an embarrassment for Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney, given the hype that's gone into this trial, Jeffrey.
TOOBIN: I think you would have to say that. It may be they will retry him and have a chance to convict him of the more serious crimes but if this case ends with a mistrial on 23 counts and a conviction on one false statement count even though Rod Blagojevich is now a convicted felon, he'll look to this and portray it as a victory.
BLITZER: Let me get Lisa Bloom. You're a good criminal defense attorney. What do you make if there's a mistrial on 23 counts of most of the serious counts? There's a conviction on count 24 making a false statement to an FBI agent. This would be seen, I assume you agree with Jeffrey, as a big victory for Rod Blagojevich.
BLOOM: If I am Rod Blagojevich's criminal defense attorney, we're popping champagne bottles tonight. If there's a mistrial on 23 counts and a guilty as to only one count, that is a huge victory for the defense. For the defense generally anything short of a conviction is a victory. Yes, you want an acquittal. Acquittals are hard to get. Hung jury is the next best thing because he retains his freedom subject to his sentencing on the 24th count which I suspect will be relatively small. Martha Stewart, as Jeffrey points out, was convicted of that. She got five months in prison. Five months home confinement. That's a relatively short sentence. This is an enormous win for Blagojevich make no mistake about that.
BLITZER: A hung jury apparently on 23 counts, conviction on count 24 making a false statement to the FBI back on March 16th, 2005 willfully and knowingly making false statements that he tried to maintain a firewall between politics and government. He does not track or want to know who contributes to him or how much they are contributing to him. What's your reaction to this, David Gergen?
GERGEN: Different from my colleagues on this. We have to wait and see as Jeffrey said whether the judge orders them back into deliberations. Just a couple days ago they said they reached agreement on two counts. I don't understand what happened to the second one. I want to make a distinction that it's a legal victory for Rod Blagojevich but in the court of public opinion, he's a loser in this case. No way he comes out of this with the public thinking he's anything other than a sleazebag that he wanted to sell it. He's a big talker, blow hard and all the rest but this is not one in which he'll come out smelling like a rose at all with public opinion.
BLITZER: Even though, David, he was not convicted of racketeering, wire fraud, attempted extortion, bribery, conspiracy, those are much more serious charges than making a false statement to an FBI agent.
GERGEN: Well, so far as we know he's not been acquitted on those counts. The jury is hung up on those counts. I think the totality of what the public has heard, comments, tapes, everything else, I think has really put a blotch over his reputation that is not going to be easily removed. He goes down on one count. I can understand popping champagne corks in terms of him not going to jail very long but in terms of his public reputation, that I think has been hugely damaged.
BLITZER: Just want to be precise. The jury has been able to reach a verdict on one count. Count number 24 making false statements to the FBI. They have not been able to reach verdicts on 23 other counts. That doesn't necessarily mean acquitted. It doesn't mean anything other than they haven't reached a verdict and we're waiting to see if the judge will send them back to continue deliberations or dismiss this jury and it will be up to the U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald to decide on whether to retry Rod Blagojevich on all or some of these other counts. Roland Martin, our CNN analyst, is also watching and listening to what's going on. You live in Chicago. You have been following this case. If in fact they can only convict him on one count, couldn't convict him on the other 23, what do you think?
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN ANALYST: Former Governor Rod Blagojevich will basically treat this as if it's a huge victory. He'll probably do a John Gotti like dance around Chicago. I understand the point that David is making but this is a guy that hasn't cared about his reputation. Remember, he was thrown out of office by the legislature, the general assembly in Illinois. He's gone on a reality show. He's hosted a radio show on a station there in Chicago. He tried to be on a second reality show. He doesn't care. He will treat this like a victory. I'm sure his attorneys will. They might say, Rod, tamper down a bit because they might try you again.
BLITZER: On that point -- hold on a second. We're now getting word from our producer on the scene in the courtroom in Chicago. The government has just announced they will retry Rod Blagojevich on at least some if not all of these other counts, the counts where the jury could not reach a decision so Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney in Chicago, is going forward making it clear he wants another trial.
MARTIN: Think about it. From Sam Adam Jr., one of his attorneys, look, the government came at these guys with audiotapes. They have testimony of former aides. They had all kinds of stuff in there. His brother was on trial. They talked about possibly putting Blagojevich himself, former governor, on the stand. They only were able to convict him on one of these counts giving a false statement to a federal official? Trust me. The defense will likely treat this as saying I told you. They don't have enough. They didn't have enough. This guy simply talked a bunch of smack. They've said it all along. They probably will do some kind of happy dance saying you didn't get us.
BLITZER: Jeffrey Toobin, our senior legal analyst, is watching as well and trying to appreciate what's going on like all of us. They just announced they'll retry Rod Blagojevich on at least some if not all of these other 23 counts. The jury hung, hung on those 23 counts convicting him on one count making false statements to the FBI. Are you surprised?
TOOBIN: Not really given the investment in time, money, reputation, in this case, the government couldn't very well walk away from it when it had the chance. When it now still has the chance of getting a conviction. But I have to say, I agree with Roland that the Blagojevich team is going to do a happy dance about this. Now, I think David is also right that Blagojevich's public career is over. He's not a -- he's not looking to be running for office against. He's a fringe figure. The only issue is Blagojevich's life right now is whether he goes to prison or whether he doesn't. He's a lot farther from prison this afternoon than he was this morning.
BLITZER: Well, I think that as far as his political career is concerned, he was impeached by the Illinois legislature and made it clear he wouldn't be serving in Illinois. As far as other careers including reality TV or whatever, I suspect he has a huge future ahead of him. That's just my suspicion. Let me ask Lisa Bloom what she suspects happens next now that the government is making it clear as you predicted it would that it will retry him on at least some if not all of these other counts.
BLOOM: Well, we know that a retrial tends to favor the prosecution, Wolf. That's because the prosecution now has all of the information that they obtained in the first trial. They got all of the information about how the defense is going to proceed and what their theories will be. They heard the defense closing argument. They saw the defense cross examination of their witnesses so they have a wealth of information now going into the second trial that they didn't have in the first trial. So I would imagine in the weeks and months that precede the retrial, they'll be pouring over all of that streamlining their case and try to give the next jury the benefit of all of that knowledge and present a much stronger case. That would be the prosecution's goal.
BLITZER: I assume in the meantime he'll be out of jail. He's not going to jail even though he was convicted on one count of making false statements to the FBI. They won't throw him in jail on that one count while awaiting a new trial. Is that right?
BLOOM: That's up to the judge. The judge could go ahead and sentence him on the one count he's been convicted of and he could go to prison pending the outcome of -- the pending the second trial coming around. That's up to the judge. His defense attorneys will argue he shouldn't be that he should be out on bail and he is not a flight risk and he's not going to leave. He's present during the trial. He's highly recognizable. He's shown no sign he would be a flight risk. That will be up to the judge to decide.
BLITZER: David Gergen, is there an issue as far as the U.S. government, the federal government is concerned, when they go forward with another trial right now that this is going cost the U.S. taxpayers a lot of money and another trial against Blagojevich and they had a chance and didn't succeed on 23 of the 24 counts, is that at all a political factor in a U.S. attorney's decision making process?
GERGEN: It is a factor but it's a modest one. I would think far more and others can speak to this would be what the outcome was with the jury. You know, if the jury were heavily on Blagojevich's side on each one of these other counts and the prosecutor goes ahead and puts him through another grilling, there may be a bullying issue for the government. It has to be very careful about and it has to make sure that it's not seen as sort of being heavy handed. I think I continue to believe for a lot of the public the unhappiness out of this is we can't get this fellow off the stage. We're going to have to live with him apparently on our television sets for a long time to come.
BLITZER: All right. I want everyone to stand by. The breaking news this hour, a verdict was reached on one count making a false statement to the FBI, a guilty verdict for the former governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich. On the 23 other counts, very significant charges of racketeering, wire fraud, extortion, bribery, attempted bribery, no verdict. No decision. Hung jury. But the government, the U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald making it clear he wants to go ahead and have another trial. Conviction on one. It's a felony charge, making a false statement to the FBI. No verdict on 23 other counts. Our coverage will continue right after this.
BLITZER: Robert Blagojevich, the brother of former Governor Rod Blagojevich, is now speaking outside of the courtroom.
ROBERT BLAGOJEVICH, ROD BLAGOJEVICH'S BROTHER: You guys tell me. I've never been through this before. I have no idea what I attribute it to. You know, I wish I was smart enough to answer that question. I would say it would be maybe a little bit more difficult than we did the first time around.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Robert, you maintained all along that you deserved this separate trial in this proceeding. Do you believe now looking back at this, were you treated fairly or were you involved in an unfair proceeding?
BLAGOJEVICH: Let me leave that to my attorney to answer that question.
BLAGOJEVICH: Right now I plan to, yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you afford another trial?
BLAGOJEVICH: That's a great question. I have to go back and evaluate that. I have lived through the most surreal experience anyone could live through. I have felt like this has been a slow bleed from the beginning both financially, emotionally, and otherwise. But I can tell you I feel strong. I feel confident and I don't feel in any way deterred in my ability to articulate my innocence.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's your reaction to one guilty verdict for your brother?
BLAGOJEVICH: I feel bad for my brother. I feel bad for him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) Three veterans on that jury. Do you believe for lack of a better word were in your corner in the jury room?
BLAGOJEVICH: I have no way of knowing nor does anyone know what anyone thought up there. For the last three weeks, we've had every possible scenario run past me that, you know, I'm not smart enough to judge what anyone else thought about my testimony or the trial or anything related to their ultimate outcome.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you resent your brother in any way?
BLAGOJEVICH: I would say the criminal justice system has flaws although, you know, I would like to speak out on those but I don't think this is the proper time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't you resent your brother for dragging you into all this?
BLAGOJEVICH: I don't comment on my relationship with my brother.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you look forward to another trial?
BLAGOJEVICH: I'm sorry? I've done nothing wrong, why would I plead? No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you looking forward to another trial?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why not?
BLAGOJEVICH: Why would I?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You say you're not guilty.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What was the greatest strain?
BLAGOJEVICH: It's dealing with the unknown. Dealing with the unknown. My life has been on hold for over a year and a half for a guy who has had plan for every facet of his life who now is once again suspended is very frustrating. That's kind of my state of mind. I'm frustrated but I feel strong in what I got to do. I won't in any way turn away from what I have to face.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What will do you tonight?
BLAGOJEVICH: Spend time with my wife and my son and talk about this. Yes?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what about Rod Blagojevich and you knew that your brother was under investigation and why did you do this?
BLAGOJEVICH: He asked me to help him and he trusted me to do the right thing and when he asked me to help him, I said yes. Just like I told you a year and a half ago.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any regrets?
BLAGOJEVICH: Any regrets? I don't look back. I just look forward.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Robert, when you agreed to come in to help him, you had -- the investigation was a problem. Did you at all feel mislead?
BLAGOJEVICH: Well, I don't think that they intentionally mislead me. I think that is what they honestly believed naively so.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think about the decision to testify is the right decision?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why is that?
BLAGOJEVICH: Because I hoped honestly and truthfully answered the questions forthrightly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is your intention to be retried once again to take the stand?
BLAGOJEVICH: I have to discuss that with my attorney, but I see no reason why I wouldn't. I have a little practice under my belt now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you tell us what you saw in this jury, that you felt good about?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mike, can you step up to the mike?
BLAGOJEVICH: This is Mike Ettinger.
MICHAEL ETTINGER, ROBERT BLAGOJEVICH'S DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Your question?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mike, what was it that you saw in the jury that you felt good about?
ETTINGER: How they paid attention. I think that we picked, we spent a lot of time deciding on who we wanted on the jury and now we have to re-evaluate and wait until you guys interview them and get some information there and proceed. We will, let's go, we are ready for the next one.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what about the loss?
ETTINGER: Well, so it is not a loss. I expect the next time to be a victory.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But, Michael, at the same time now that you have teen the government's hand and you know that they can possibly change some things up in the next trial, does this change your strategy at all for approaching the next time around?
ETTINGER: Well, yes. We could change some things, too.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like what?
ETTINGER: With certain witnesses we might put on that we didn't this time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you indicated that you were surprised before that you didn't hear from example Jesse Jackson, Jr., and you said had he been put on, there were people that you would have put on in response.
ETTINGER: Correct, correct.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you hold Congressman Jackson --
ETTINGER: Well, I have to discuss that with the governor's team. And I don't want to make any decisions today. We have to discuss it, around certainly an option.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But - (INAUDIBLE).
ETTINGER: You know what, that is not my place to comment on it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michael, legally, to what extent are Rob Blagojevich, his interests, and Robert Blagojevich's interests legally? Do you know understand what I mean?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In other words, we are waiting to hear what they are going to do before you call a witness that might be beneficial to your client?
ETTINGER: And that doesn't mean that we will rely on them, and we will make our own decision, and if we think it is best for us to call those witnesses, we will.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, there a possibility with all of the trials that - (INAUDIBLE).
ETTINGER: Yes, I have had retrials before and you always change. Nice try.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you say round two --
ETTINGER: Well, we are going to wait for you, the news media, to interview the jurors, and see what they considered important, and what they like, what they didn't like about our case, and see what kind --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why don't you ask the jurors?
ETTINGER: Because we have to ask the judge for permission to interview them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, what did you make of the - (INAUDIBLE).
ETTINGER: You know what, Paul, no, because they were poker faced basically the whole trial and no different when they came in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what would you like to ask him when you get access to him?
ETTINGER: Oh, a whole lot of questions, but I don't think that I should disclose that. The government might be listening.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what were your emotions when the verdict was given?
ETTINGER: I expected this. I was hoping for a not guilty. I didn't think that at any time that they would find Robert guilty. I was concerned of, about making sure that he was separate from his brother, and got separate consideration, and I don't know if that happened.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think he had a raw deal from the start, because he was tried with Rod Blagojevich, and instead of separately?
ETTINGER: We will certainly explore that and find out, and I think that the -- we will get a lot of input from the jury at some point.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you think the odds are about separating them as two defendants?
ETTINGER: Well, the judge has denied it once.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)
ETTINGER: I will talk to my partners and my client and make a decision. It is top priority to determine that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Michael, how hard is a retrial? Because, studies show that, you know a retrial comes up with a guilty verdict more times than not.
ETTINGER: Well, I don't agree with that, but I have three retrials where they are hung again, and once again, our best input is from the jury.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have any comment on the finding putting the governor on the --
ETTINGER: No. No. I will say this, as you know, we were told that there was a verdict on two counts. And then they only found one count. So, I don't know what happened in two days or three days. I'm surprised by that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think that count 14 --
BLITZER: This is Michael Ettinger the criminal defense attorney for Robert Blagojevich, the brother of Rod Blagojevich, the former Illinois governor who was convicted on one count, and making false statements to the FBI, and there was a deadlock, a hung jury on 23 other counts, including some very serious charges, including conspiracy and bribery and wire fraud and all of the others that the government immediately saying they will retry Rod Blagojevich. That process will begin in the coming weeks, and months.
Andy Shaw is joining us. He was inside the courtroom when the decisions were announced. He is the executive director of the Better Government Association in Chicago. Andy, tell us what it was like inside when we got word, guilty on one count, a hung jury on 23 other counts.
ANDY SHAW, BETTER GOVERNMENT ASSOCIATION: Well, I think that there was a sense of shock, Wolf, because we thought that they had made some decision on at least two of the counts, and they were going back to the drawing board, the jury that is, over the past few days to revisit all of the counts. So I think there was a sense that by the time they reached the verdict they would have had closure on many more counts than one. This is in effect a half-time victory for the Blagojevich brothers, but look, they have to go through this again, and the prosecution has all of the money and the manpower and resources in the world, and they will re-double the efforts and rethink the strategy, and they will take it to the Blagojevich's one more time, and Robert Blagojevich has already spent a lot of his own money in the first trial and he has to go through this again. And Rod Blagojevich used his campaign war chest to pay his lawyers and now the taxpayers will end up paying to defend him in the second trial. I think it is obviously, a victory for them on the first day, but Rod Blagojevich, the former governor is in fact a convicted felon. Both he and his wife looked very stern and very grave in the courtroom, and there was no sense of joy or ebullition when that verdict came down, because even though he was only found guilty on one count, it is in fact, a felony that can carry with it, jail time, and he has to face those other 23 counts another time, meaning months more of disruption and cost and the possibility of many more guilty counts and a lot more jail time. So hardly a happy day for them.
BLITZER: Were you surprised though that Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney and his team could not get the jury on their side on these 23 other counts or at least some of them?
SHAW: Wolf, I think that there was a real disconnect between those of us who paid close attention to this. I was a political reporter in this city for 25 years and covered a dozen trials and now I run a good government group, and we know how these cases go, and it felt like the prosecution had met the burden on a lot of the counts, but the average voter, the average juror probably doesn't pay close attention to this and it was a very narrow case for them. Rod Blagojevich never made any of these actual phone calls, the alleged shakedowns and he never got any money in all of this and in fact, all of the schemes failed. Nothing he tried the do actually came out the way he wanted. So at the end of the day, the jury probably looked and said he was a bumbling and stumbling conniver and absolutely a bad governor who subverted and perverted the system, but maybe that is not a matter of guilt in their mines, but we don't know what those jury counts were, 11-1 in conviction or 11-1 acquittal and that will have a bearing of thou second trial comes down.
BLITZER: Andy Shaw with the Better Government Association in Chicago. Andy, thanks very much.