Obama's Top Aide Spoke to Blagojevich, Internal Review Shows

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An internal review from Barack Obama's transition team released Tuesday shows that the president-elect's chief of staff had a number of conversations with Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his top aide, but that there was "no indication of inappropriate discussions" regarding the governor's alleged attempts to sell Obama's U.S. Senate seat.

The report also revealed that Obama, chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and aide Valerie Jarrett were interviewed over a period of three days last week by federal investigators building a corruption case against Blagojevich. Prosecutors have said Obama is not implicated in the case.

The much-anticipated internal report, prepared by incoming White House attorney Greg Craig at Obama's request, said that Emanuel had one or two discussions over the phone with Blagojevich, as well as about four with the governor's chief of staff John Harris.

Harris was also arrested on corruption charges and has since resigned his post.

But Craig stressed that nobody on Obama's staff suspected that the governor might be trying to trade favors over Obama's Senate seat as prosecutors allege.

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He said all contact between Obama's staff and the office of Blagojevich was strictly on the level.

"Only one member of the transition staff had any such contact," Craig told reporters on a conference call. "My inquiry determined that there was nothing at all inappropriate about those conversations."

Craig found that the president-elect had no contact with Blagojevich or any of his staff about the Senate seat he vacated to take over the presidency.

The report said Emanuel recommended Jarrett for the Senate seat in an early discussion with Blagojevich before he learned that Obama did not want to communicate any preference. Afterward, Emanuel gave Harris a list of other candidates whom Obama felt were qualified. But at no time was any quid pro quo discussed, according to the report.

The candidates initially floated by Emanuel were: Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.; Rep. Jan Schakowsky; state comptroller Dan Hynes; and Illinois veterans affairs director Tammy Duckworth.

Jarrett was later named as a White House adviser to Obama.

Craig revealed his findings in a memo to Obama dated Tuesday, but a transition official said an initial copy was given to Obama on Dec. 15. On that day, Obama announced that the report was ready but that he was withholding it from public release for a week at the request of the U.S. attorneys still conducting their investigation.

The internal review also found that Jarrett had a discussion in early November with Tom Balanoff, head of the Illinois chapter of the Service Employees International Union, about a conversation Balanoff had with the governor.

Balanoff told Jarrett that Blagojevich had raised the possibility of whether he might be considered by Obama as a candidate for secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. (Former Sen. Tom Daschle was later nominated for that post.)

Craig said Jarrett saw this as such a "ridiculous proposition" that she did not view it as a quid pro quo. He said Jarrett dismissed the comment outright.

Craig's report also identified close Obama friend Eric Whitaker as someone approached by one of Blagojevich's top aides to learn "who, if anyone, had the authority to speak for the president-elect" about the Senate appointment.

The report states that Obama told Whitaker that "no one was authorized to speak for him" and that "he had no interest in dictating the result of the selection process."

Emanuel left for a long-planned family vacation in Africa on Tuesday and was not available for comment.

The report was released in Washington while Obama was vacationing in Hawaii. The president-elect did not make himself available for questions.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.