Internal Investigation Says Obama Team ‘Behaved Appropriately’ in Blagojevich Contacts

December 24, 2008 - 1:57 PM
The man who will become White House counsel issues a report clearing his boss-to-be of any wrongdoing in the Blogojevich corruption case.

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich waves through car exhaust as he departs his home in Chicago, Thursday, Dec. 18, 2008. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

(CNSNews.com) – President-elect Barack Obama had no contact with Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich about his soon-to-be vacant Senate seat, according to an investigation conducted by Obama's incoming White House counsel, Greg Craig.

“Everybody behaved appropriately,” said Craig, who made public his report Tuesday, after conducting an internal inquiry into any contacts Obama or his transition team may have had with the Illinois governor, who is accused of official misconduct for trying to auction off the seat. 

Craig, who interviewed the Obama transition staff an
d Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), Obama’s chief-of-staff, reported to his boss:
 
“The accounts support your statement on Dec. 11, 2008 that you ‘have never spoken to the governor on this subject [or] about these issues,’ and that you ‘had no contact with the Governor’s office.’”
 
The report also said that no one on Obama's team discussed any deals or had any knowledge of deals. 

“The accounts contain no indication of inappropriate discussions with the Governor or anyone from his office about a ‘deal’ or a quid pro quo arrangement in which he would receive a personal benefit in return for any specific appointment to fill the vacancy,” Craig wrote.

The report did indicate that top Obama aide Valerie Jarrett had considered seeking the post, and that while Obama did not make any effort to promote her candidacy, Emanuel had recommended Jarrett for the Senate seat without Obama's knowledge. Jarrett, however, later accepted a job as a senior White House adviser.

Emanuel was the only Obama transition team member who discussed the Senate appointment with Blagojevich or his aides, but Craig said those conversations were “totally appropriate and acceptable.” 

Emanuel had “one or two telephone calls” with Blagojevich and four conversations with John Harris, the governor’s chief of staff, who, along with Blagojevich faces federal corruption charges. Craig told reporters Emanuel said he couldn't be sure it was only one call.

“Mr. Harris did not make any effort to extract a personal benefit for the Governor in any of these conversations,” the report said. “There was no discussion of a cabinet position, of 501c(4), of a private sector position or of any other personal benefit to the Governor in exchange for the Senate appointment.”
 
Obama did authorize Emanuel to pass on the names of four people he considered to be highly qualified to take over his seat: Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes, Illinois Veterans' Affairs Director Tammy Duckworth, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.), the report said.
 
Others Obama considered to be qualified candidates, including Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Chicago Urban League Director Cheryle Jackson, were offered later, the report said.
 
Neither Blagojevich nor his aides contacted the president-elect's staff, according to the report. One person, Obama’s friend Eric Whitaker, was approached by a Blagojevich top aide to learn “who, if anyone” had the authority to speak for the president-elect about the Senate appointment.
 
Obama reportedly told Whitaker that “no one was authorized to speak for him” and that he had “no interest in dictating the result of the selection process,” according to the report.
 
Obama, meanwhile, was interviewed by federal investigators in Chicago last week, accompanied by his attorney Robert Bauer, according to Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs.
 
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said he does not consider the president-elect to be a suspect in the case.