Blago: Axelrod asked him to mull pres. run

April 20, 2011 at 1:18 PM
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CHICAGO, April 20 (UPI) -- Barack Obama's political aide once asked Rod Blagojevich to consider a presidential run, the ex-Illinois governor claimed as jury selection began Wednesday.

"David Axelrod, who works for Obama and very correctly picked the right horse, after the 2004 presidential election, he called me on a Wednesday, the day after, and talked to me about considering running for president in 2008," Blagojevich told WGN-TV, Chicago, after being asked if he ever saw himself "someday in the White House."

"At that time it didn't feel right to me," Blagojevich, 54, said, though he added he "thought about it."

Jury selection in Blagojevich's retrial got under way Wednesday with 150 potential jurors summoned to the federal courthouse, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

The ex-governor was not expected to appear. No hearing is scheduled as the jury pool answers questionnaires. Seating of jurors could start Thursday.

Blagojevich, a Democrat, was impeached and removed from office in January 2009. He was convicted last Aug. 17 of lying to the FBI -- a conviction he plans to appeal -- and faces a retrial on 20 counts, including bribery and fraud, on which the first jury could not decide.

U.S. Attorney General Patrick Fitzgerald once called Blagojevich so corrupt he "would make Lincoln roll over in his grave."

Blagojevich's alleged offenses include trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Obama.

Blagojevich told WGN Axelrod, currently preparing Obama's 2012 re-election campaign, "wasn't sure Obama was the right horse" so he "was sort of rounding up potential candidates" when he allegedly called him.

"He surely got the right one -- and didn't get this one," Blagojevich said.

Axelrod's office had no comment.

Axelrod said at an April 7 City Club of Chicago luncheon he helped Blagojevich run for Congress in 1996 before getting involved with Obama, but was "surprised" when Blagojevich wanted to run for governor and rejected offers to work for him on that because he did not see in Blagojevich "the qualities for executive leadership."

"He couldn't really articulate for me why [he wanted to run]," Axelrod said. "And it goes back to this question of folks who want to do something and folks who want to be something. Particularly when you're running for an office like that, you ought to know what you want to do. You ought to know why you're doing it, and it can't just be that it's cool to be governor," a transcript of Axelrod's remarks indicated.

Axelrod said he also had a strong sense back then that Blagojevich's political career "wasn't going to be a good story -- and sadly that turned out to be the case."

Blagojevich says he was railroaded and that if the court allows the playing of all 500 hours of phone conversations surreptitiously recorded by the FBI, he will be vindicated.

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