Obama Reporting This Week on His Staff’s Contacts With Blagojevich
Obama will release his report by Tuesday explaining his staff's discussions with Blagojevich and the governor's aides about appointing Obama's Senate successor, according to a Democratic official who requested anonymity because the report is not yet public.
Incoming White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel contacted Blagojevich's office about the appointment, according to a source close to the governor who requested anonymity because the person is not authorized to speak on the matter. Blagojevich believed Emanuel was advocating Obama friend Valerie Jarrett for the Senate seat so he would not have to compete with her for Obama's attention in the White House, the source said.
It was not known whether Emanuel, a Chicago-area congressman, spoke to Blagojevich, his chief of staff, or both, or why the governor believed Emanuel was pushing Jarrett for the job, the source said.
It's also not known if any of those discussions are included in tapes investigators began making of Blagojevich's conversations in October. A federal complaint charging the governor with seeking cash and favors for Obama's vacant Senate seat doesn't cite conversations with Emanuel or others on the transition staff.
An official familiar with Obama's internal review said the president-elect's team wrote their report without having access to transcripts of the FBI's taped conversations. The source spoke on condition of anonymity because this person was not authorized to discuss the review publicly.
Since Blagojevich's arrest on Dec. 9, Obama has made few public remarks about the federal claims that the governor wanted something in return to fill the Senate seat.
Aides say Obama, who is vacationing in Hawaii with his family, has no plans to make a public statement on his internal report. The president-elect up to now has been withholding the report in deference to prosecutors who are interviewing witnesses in the Illinois public corruption case.
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald in Chicago said when announcing the charges that Obama was not implicated in the case, and sources have said Emanuel is not a target of prosecutors.
Emanuel has refused to comment on his recent interaction with Blagojevich and his staff. Emanuel succeeded Blagojevich in his House seat in 2002, when Blagojevich became governor. Emanuel also served as an informal campaign adviser to the governor and shares a mutual friend with Blagojevich who has become a key player in the criminal investigation.
In addition to the charges related to shopping Obama's Senate seat, Blagojevich also is accused of exchanging campaign contributions for state contracts and appointments, and bullying Chicago Tribune owners to fire editorial writers before he would commit state help in selling Wrigley Field, owned by the Tribune's parent company. John Harris, who also is charged in the case, has resigned as Blagojevich's chief of staff.
An FBI affidavit included in the federal complaint characterizes and quotes conversations between Blagojevich and others about selecting a successor to Obama's Senate seat. But only a few minutes of the many hours of taped conversations are referenced in the court filing.
The governor at times considered exchanging Obama's Senate seat for a presidential appointment, a job for his wife, campaign contributions and donations to a nonprofit he hoped to create, according to the complaint.
Blagojevich expressed frustration in one conversation taped by the FBI that Obama and his advisers weren't "willing to give me anything except appreciation. (Expletive) them," the affidavit states.
Associated Press writers Philip Elliott in Honolulu and Nedra Pickler contributed to this report.