Obama Report Raises Questions: How Many Calls Did Emanuel Make to Blagojevich?

December 29, 2008 - 7:31 PM
Attorney Greg Craig says Obama's soon-to-be chief-of-staff made "one or two" phone calls to the embattled Illinois governor -- raising the question: How many was it?

In this Dec. 22, 2003, photo Rep. Rahm Emanuel answers a question as Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich listens during a news conference in Chicago (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – Last week’s report from the Obama transition team raised more questions than it answered about President-elect Obama's staff’s contacts  with Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
 
The report, issued by Obama attorney Greg Craig, cleared all Obama personnel, including Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), Obama's soon-to-be chief of staff, of any wrongdoing. But Craig failed to ascertain how many phone calls Emanuel actually made to the embattled governor
 
In the report, Craig said Emanuel had made “one or two” calls to Blagojevich.
 
In a subsequent conference call with reporters, Bloomberg reporter Julianna Goldberg asked Craig, whom Obama has selected to be White House counsel -- “Is there a reason you can't be more specific whether it was more than one?”
 
Craig replied: “There is a reason, and that is that Rahm Emanuel says he had one or two, and he's not confident whether it was just one or whether there was another one as well,” Craig replied. “So we're accurately reflecting . . . the facts as Rahm knows them to be.“The significant thing is that if there were two, it doesn't make any difference to the result that I'm most interested in, as to whether or not there was anything inappropriate that was discussed, because Mr. Emanuel's very clear as to what the topics of the discussion were,” Craig added.

In his conference call, Craig described the process he asked Obama aides to go through to rectonstruct their contacts with Gov. Blagojevich and his staff. It included consulting with counsel and reviewing records.

“We asked each individual who we thought might have had some contact or some communication that would be meaningful to, in an orderly way, consult with counsel to advise and assist them in reconstructing any contacts or communications,” said Craig. “And that would include checking cell phone records or e-mails. And we inquired about that. And so it's my belief that we've got the information that is required to answer the president-elect's question. And I think this is the result of that inquiry.”

Former federal prosecutor Pat Trueman, however, said Craig’s staff investigation doesn’t really answer anything -- including whether Obama himself had talked with Blagojevich.  
 
The report has all the markings of a “cover yourself” investigation, he said.
 
“The internal report by the Obama staff is no more valuable from a prosecutor’s point of view than an internal report by the governor himself,” Trueman told CNSNews.com.
 
“You cannot rely on the statements because they are not sworn statements, they are not in a grand jury setting, where you would have sworn statements, and so they are not really very valuable.”
 
Trueman, a former Justice Department attorney whose criminal investigations have helped put major pornography kingpins behind bars, said the reporter’s question is key -- Was it one call or was it two?
 
“We heard early on from the Obama team that no one made any comments directly to the governor,” Trueman said, “Then we found out that Rahm Emanuel made one phone call – or was it two phone calls? – and that just proves the point that the internal report is not of value. You have to have the prosecutor interview the relevant members of the staff – and that may even mean the president-elect himself.”
 
Blagojevich was arrested Dec. 9 on federal corruption charges. The governor is accused of trying to sell President-elect Barack Obama's vacant U.S. Senate seat to the highest bidder, but he has denied any wrongdoing. Emanuel has admitted talking with the governor, but not in an attempt to secure -- or hand out -- quid pro quo favors for the president-elect.
 
Emanuel resigned his congressional seat on Monday, in advance of the Jan. 20 inauguration. A special election now must be scheduled to fill the seat, which formerly was held by Blagojevich.