The Blog

The Tale of Blagojevich, and What (If Anything) the Transition Knew (Update: RNC Chair Candidate Demands Records)

1:30 PM, Dec 9, 2008 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
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The complaint on Blagojevich involves but does not implicate members of the Obama transition, most notably Valerie Jarrett, a high-level Obama adviser to whom Blagojevich was interested in selling the Senate seat.

Blagojevich was convinced that President-elect Barack Obama wanted senior adviser Valerie Jarrett appointed to the Senate seat and, time and again in the indictment, is quoted laying out a variety of scenarios by which he could benefit from such a move. The two most mentioned: 1) Trade a Jarrett appointment for a spot as the head of the Department of Health and Human Services in an Obama Cabinet 2) Name Jarrett to the Senate in exchange for Obama helping him to get a job as the head of Change to Win, a labor coalition.

Patrick Fitzgerald was careful to note that the complaint contained no allegations about the president-elect, himself. Obama's team is expected to have a statement, but has not released on yet:

"I should make clear the complaint makes no allegations about the president-elect whatsoever," said U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.

Ben Smith notes the part of the 76-page document that suggests Obama's team didn't want to play ball on the Jarrett appointment.

"ROD BLAGOJEVICH said he knows that the President-elect wants Senate Candidate 1 for the Senate seat but 'they're not willing to give me anything except appreciation. F*** them,'" says the complaint.

This despite Blagojevich's repeated attempts to do a deal, using an SEIU official as the go-between, who Blago understood to be an "emissary to discuss Senate Candidate 1's (Jarrett's) interest in the Senate seat.":

During the conversation with SEIU Official on November 12, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH informed SEIU Official that he had heard the President-elect wanted persons other than Senate Candidate 1 to be considered for the Senate seat. SEIU Official stated that he would find out if Senate Candidate 1 wanted
SEIU Official to keep pushing her for Senator with ROD BLAGOJEVICH. ROD BLAGOJEVICH said that "one thing I'd be interested in" is a 501(c)(4) organization. ROD BLAGOJEVICH explained the 501(c)(4) idea to SEIU Official and said that the 501(c)(4) could help "our new Senator [Senate Candidate 1]." SEIU Official agreed to "put that flag up and see where it goes."

On November 12, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH talked with Advisor B. ROD BLAGOJEVICH told Advisor B that he told SEIU Official, "I said go back to [Senate Candidate 1], and, and say hey, look, if you still want to be a Senator don't rule this out and then broach the idea of this 501(c)(4) with her."

So, what did the transition team know about SEIU's machinations on Jarrett's behalf, and why did Blagojevich understand the official to be working as an "emissary?" Jarrett removed her name from consideration for the Senate seat. Perhaps the Obama team knew about the investigation, and Jarrett exited to avoid the taint of Blagojevich's moves on her behalf? If the SEIU was freelancing with Blagojevich, Obama's inclination to extend himself for Big Labor by pushing Congress on card check should shrink considerably.

The Smoking Gun has some of the more colorful Blagojevich quotes, illustrating the blatant nature of the corruption in question.

Blagojevich was caught on wiretaps noting that the Senate seat "is a [expletive] valuable thing, you just don't give it away for nothing." He was also recorded saying that unless "I get something real good," he would appoint himself to the vacancy. "I'm going to keep this Senate option for me a real possibility, you know, and therefore I can drive a hard bargain. You hear what I'm saying. And if I don't get what I want and I'm not satisfied with it, then I'll just take the Senate seat myself."

There's more than that, specifically some Jesse-Jacksonian words about Obama, but none of it will make sense without the curse words, so click over if you want to read it (content warning).