Listen to Chicago's FBI chief knock down a Wall Street Journal story on Blagojevich's arrest | Bleader

Listen to Chicago's FBI chief knock down a Wall Street Journal story on Blagojevich's arrest

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Here's an addendum to this week's Hot Type. My main item concludes with a discussion of a Wall Street Journal story Sunday by Cam Simpson, a former Tribune reporter. Simpson's thesis was that "Trib exclusive: Feds taped Blagojevich" on the paper's front page December 5 forced the hand of the U.S. attorney because it alerted the governor to the fact the feds were listening to him and closing in. "Had the plot unfolded," Simpson wrote, "[prosecutors] 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."

As I said at the end of the item, Robert Grant, head of the FBI's Chicago office, called WLS's Don Wade and Roma show Monday morning and challenged Simpson's story. That conversation has now been posted online by WLS. 

Blagojevich was arrested at his home the morning of December 9. Grant said the feds had decided to pick him up about a week earlier, and the Trib story, while "unfortunate," didn't affect the timing. Grant said the "driving factor" was that the feds were not in control of events "in which people might get irreparably harmed" -- either by being appointed to the Senate by Blagojevich or by being fired from the Tribune. (The complaint would accuse the governor of scheming both to sell the Senate seat and to deny the Tribune Company a $100 million tax break on the sale of Wrigley Field unless it fired Trib editorial writers Blagojevich regarded as his enemies.) Grant said the feds balanced those concerns against the need for evidence, and "we felt we had enough evidence to charge and win a conviction in court and there was no sense going further and allow people to be damaged."

Another factor, Grant said, is that the FBI didn't want to arrest Blagojevich on his birthday, December 10. They'd  taken "a lot of grief" a couple of years ago for arresting Nicholas Blase, the mayor of Niles, on his 78th birthday, "and we didn't want to develop a pattern where any politician under investigation would make sure they were out of town on their birthday."

Roma asked if by the time of his arrest Blagojevich knew he was being taped.

"I don't think he had a clue," Grant said.

In my second Hot Type item I quote some godawful language that a columnist used the other day to describe Patti Blagojevich. For some sappy reason I didn't name the culprit. Maybe I was being too nice; maybe I wanted readers to have fun googling. Anyway, the column actually showed up in the Wednesday Tribune. He's Jonah Goldberg.

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