The Magazine

The Blago File

Now the question is: When will the caged bird sing?

Oct 29, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 07 • By BARBARA F. HOLLINGSWORTH
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In a phone interview, Coen and Chase repeatedly declined to comment on the source of the leak, saying it was “the Tribune’s business.” Nor would they say how they had gotten access to “all tapes in which Rod himself was talking”—hundreds of hours from which they quoted extensively, even though the tapes had never been played in court or made part of the public record and were, in fact, under a court seal while they were writing this book.

They referred me to the protective order—entered into court records on April 19, 2009—that specifically forbade Blagojevich’s defense team from disseminating the transcripts of his recorded conversations, but leaving the government free to do so. “We don’t want to go down that road,” they said when I pointed out that they had to be aware of the rampant speculation that Chase’s late-night call to Blagojevich had, in effect, turned the Tribune from objective observer to actor in a melodrama of national interest, because it also involved high-level members of the fledgling administration, such as Rahm Emanuel and Valerie Jarrett.

Another glaring omission: Although Coen and Chase provide a lengthy account of how the Syrian-born developer Antoin “Tony” Rezko wormed his way into Blagojevich’s inner circle by raising campaign cash for him, they give short shrift to Rezko’s claim, revealed by prosecutors in a closed-door session with the judge overseeing Blagojevich’s trials, that he had also tried to influence Obama with illegal campaign contributions. Fitzgerald didn’t pursue it—and neither did Coen and Chase.

All of which leaves the reader still wondering why a U.S. attorney with a record of not tolerating leaks would be so sanguine about this one, even going so far as to thank the Tribune and then, presumably, grant it exclusive access to hundreds of hours of wiretap evidence. Was Blagojevich’s arrest—occurring, as it did, before any quid pro quo was finalized—a surgical strike intended to warn Jesse Jackson Jr. and, perhaps, Obama’s top aides that they, too, were under surveillance? Coen and Chase don’t even raise the possibility.

“The birds always sing after the storm,” Blagojevich declared while signing autographs during his second trial, after which he was sentenced to 14 years in prison. In mobbed-up Chicago, a singing bird is a synonym for snitch, and his message seems to be that the chess game is not over, and that the definitive account of Blago’s self-inflicted fall from grace has yet to be written.

Barbara F. Hollingsworth is local opinion editor of the Washington Examiner.