Obama Lawyer Clears Obama Staff of Wrongdoing in Blago Report
5:00 PM, Dec 23, 2008 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
As expected, the Obama Team's internal investigation of the transition team's contacts with indicted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich showed that there was no "inappropriate" contact. Obama, on vacation in Hawaii, did not make a statement about the findings, but his incoming White House press secretary Robert Gibbs and White House Counsel Greg Craig held a delayed press conference on the report at about 4:45 p.m. Rahm Emanuel, on vacation in Africa, also was not available for comment.
Reporters and politicos salivating over the possibility of transcripts or tapes from conversations between incoming Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Blagojevich will have to wait until Patrick Fitzgerald feels like releasing them.
"We do not have the tape recordings in our possession. Do not have transcripts, have never had transcripts. So they're not going to be made available by us," investigator Greg Craig said, adding that the transition team is making a point of not interfering with Fitzgerald or dictating the information he should release.
Craig conducted interviews with his subjects about their recollections, but did not seek transcripts or recordings.
The conference call focused on three contacts made between transition members and Blagojevich team members.
Rahm and Blago Team:
Rahm Emanuel had "one or two" conversations with Blagojevich himself, contradicting earlier leaks that they had only spoken once. When asked on the conference call about the uncertainty of the figure, Craig said Emanuel was unable to recall the exact number of conversations. Emanuel also spoke to Blago's Chief of Staff John Harris, who resigned in the wake of his boss' arrest, "about four" times. He once recommended Valerie Jarrett for the Senate seat to Blago and later recommended a list of Obama-approved qualified candidates to Harris:
Harris made no attempt to extract favors from the Obama Team, the report says.
Craig splashed cold water on a hot rumor of the Blagojevich scandal, saying that he was unaware of any conversations Emanuel had with the Attorney General's office before Blagojevich was arrested. Several outlets had reported suggestions made by a local Chicago journalist who said Emanuel may have tipped off the feds to Blago's bad behavior.
Valerie Jarrett and an SEIU Representative:
On Nov. 8, 2008, Jarrett had a conversation with Tom Balanoff, the head of the Illinois SEIU, who said he had talked to the governor about the possibility of naming her as Obama's replacement. In the same conversation, he said the governor had been pondering the possibility of being named head of Health and Human Services:
Craig characterized Jarrett's reaction to Blagojevich's desire for a Cabinet position by saying she thought it was "ridiculous" given the public knowledge that Blago had been under investigation for two years at that point.
Dr. Eric Whitaker and Blago Deputy: