Sign in to comment!

Menu
Home

Politics

Elections

Complaint Suggests Obama Might Have Caught Wind of Blagojevich Dealings

Obama on Blagojevich

Barack Obama insists that he and his staff were not involved in the alleged schemes Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich cooked up to sell off the president-elect's vacant Senate seat. 

But the timeline of activity outlined in the FBI's 76-page complaint against Blagojevich suggests Obama's team was aware that his home-state governor was playing political hardball in the weeks before his arrest.

That's because shortly after Blagojevich allegedly told his advisers, in an expletive-laced conference call, that he would not appoint Obama's pick to the Senate absent huge favors in return, Obama's apparent pick promptly dropped out of the running for the Senate and joined the new White House staff. 

"Reading between the lines ... clearly somebody from (Obama's) operation did have a conversation with Blagojevich," Democratic strategist Bob Beckel told FOX News. He added that Obama's representative evidently wasn't trying to cut a deal since Blagojevich indicated he was "getting nothing out of the Obama people." 

FOX News has confirmed that Valerie Jarrett, a senior Obama adviser, is the individual identified in the Blagojevich affidavit as Senate Candidate 1. 

The affidavit states that Senate Candidate 1 was likely to be supported by Obama for the seat, and that the Illinois governor was mulling a variety of ways to capitalize on such an appointment. Blagojevich allegedly wanted a corporate board appointment for his wife or millions in donations to a non-profit organization for his benefit, or even an appointment as secretary of health and human services, in exchange for appointing Senate Candidate 1. (Obama nominated former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle for the Cabinet post Blagojevich wanted on Thursday.)

But in the series of wiretapped conversations detailed in the complaint, Blagojevich and his advisers made clear that Obama was not willing to trade anything for the appointment of Senate Candidate 1. 

An apparently disappointed Blagojevich discussed the post on a two-hour conference call Nov. 10 with his wife, his general counsel, his chief of staff John Harris (who also was arrested), and "various Washington, D.C., advisers." 

"F--- him. For nothing? F--- him," Blagojevich said in response to advice that he wouldn't get anything out of Obama, according to the court document. Blagojevich said he would not pick Senate Candidate 1 without some kind of reward. 

The next day, the complaint shows Blagojevich spoke with Harris about the seat, and said of Obama, "they're not willing to give me anything except appreciation. F--- them." 

If Obama and his staff didn't know anything about these conversations, then Jarrett at least exercised good timing. 

By Nov. 12, news reports broke that Jarrett was no longer interested in the Senate seat. The affidavit shows Harris took this as a bluff. 

But two days later, reports broke that Jarrett would be named Obama's senior adviser and assistant for intergovernmental relations in the White House. By Saturday, it was official, and Jarrett was out of the running for Senate. 

It's unclear who, if anybody, could have notified Obama about Blagojevich's demands. The "various Washington, D.C., advisers" are not named. The affidavit also says Blagojevich met with a Service Employees International Union official, whom Blagojevich understood to be "an emissary" sent to discuss Senate Candidate 1. 

This individual also is not named. 

Obama, who is not accused of any wrongdoing, said at a press conference Thursday that not only has he never engaged the governor on the topic of his Senate seat, but "I am confident that no representative of mine would have any part in any deals related to this seat." 

He said he has asked his team to compile any information they might have about any contact with the Illinois governor's office regarding his Senate seat, so that he can share that information with the public. But he said he is "absolutely certain" his aides were not involved in any alleged dealmaking.

The affair, nevertheless, has caused headaches for the popular president-elect, who faces accusations from Republicans that he's not being completely honest about who knew what when. 

"There's still a lot of questions out there," said Michael Steele, former Maryland lieutenant governor who is running for the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee. "I think the president-elect did try his best to sort of isolate himself from this. Now the staff and the folks who are representing him, that's a different issue." 

RNC Chairman Mike Duncan released a written statement Thursday accusing Obama of providing "less than forthcoming answers to simple questions" about Blagojevich. 

"While it is encouraging that the President-elect has stated his office will disclose contacts with the scandal-ridden governor, it remains disappointing that his actions are in response to political pressure," he said. 

FOX News' Major Garrett contributed to this report.