Obama, Emanual and Blagojevich. Does Indirect Contact Count?

12/15/2008 06:47:00 PM

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obama blagojevich I’ve tried to stay away from this topic basically because there isn’t any evidence that Obama was directly involved with Blago’s money making scheme and the simple fact that Blago isn’t the governor of my state. 

But since this scandal hit the wires, in usual Obama style, he and his camp had no comment on the topic, declining to respond to even basic questions, until today.  And even then, its just a statement, and not a Q&A session on the topic. 

In a press released by Obama team spokesman Dan Pfeiffer, Obama’s lawyer stated that after the review “shows he had no direct contact with Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich about the appointment of a Senate replacement, and transition aides did nothing inappropriate.”  Pfeiffer said the review “affirmed the public statements of the president-elect that he had no contact with the governor or his staff, and that the president-elect’s staff was not involved in inappropriate discussions with the governor or his staff over the selection of his successor as U.S. Senator.”

Obama himself stated when he disclosed the results of an investigation he ordered,“As I said in a press conference last week, I had no contact with the governor’s office and I had no contact with anybody in the governor’s office.  What I indicated last week was there was nothing that my office did that was in any way inappropriate or related tot he charges that have been brought.”  Obama stated that the results of the investigation by his incoming White House counsel, Gregory Craig, would be released “in due course.”

And of course, Obama has called for Blago to resign.  Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs told the AP that Obama believes Blago should resign as “under the current circumstances it is difficult for the governor to effectively do his job and serve the people of Illinois.”


In due course?  Why in due course?  Why not today?  If the investigation is complete, then there would be no reason why not to release the information.  Unless, Obama is doing the CYA “thang”. Obama has no idea what the FBI has on Blago, and if Obama released the results of the investigation now, and later it is found that he or anyone on his incoming team have had “inappropriate contact” regarding filling the U.S. Senate seat, then that would make Obama look like a liar.  And that isn’t what our “new hope” wants, now is it?  He’s just covering his backside, just incase.

What is interesting to note about this two-part statement is that it is in typical attorney fashion. The statement says that Obama had no “direct contact” with Blago, however it does not say that Obama had indirect contact, meaning, through others.  It does not state that Obama had no contact with Blago on other matters, and it does not state that Obama had indirect contact over Blago appointing someone to fill Obama’s seat.

The second part of the statement, “and transition aides did nothing inappropriate”,  does not mean that the transition aides didn’t have contact with Blago on the appointment of the Senate replacement.

The person Obama’s attorney is talking about is probably Rahm Emanuel.  Emanuel has sidestepped the questions about his relationship with Blago.  One source confirmed that communications between Emanuel and the Blago Administration were captured on court-approved wiretaps.

According to the Chicago Tribune, another source said that contact between the Obama camp and the governor’s administration regarding the Senate seat began the Saturday before the Nov. 4th election, when Emanuel made a call to the cell phone of Harris.  The conversation took place around the same time press reports surfaced about Emanuel being approached about taking the position of Chief of Staff in Obama’s administration if Obama should win.

Emanuel delivered a list of candidates who would be “acceptable” to Obama, the source said.  On the list were Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, Illinois Veterans Affairs director Tammy Duckworth, state Comptroller Dan Hynes and U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Chicago, the source said.

Sometime after the election, Emanuel called Harris back to add the name of Democratic Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan to the approved list, the source said.

Blagojevich and Harris, who resigned his state post Friday, are charged with plotting to sell the selection of Obama’s replacement in exchange for lucrative jobs or campaign cash for the governor.

According to the AP who talked to two people briefed on the investigation, Emanuel is not the target of the probe.  One is a person “close” to Emanuel, who said he has been told by investigators that he’s not a subject of their probe.

But Emanuel has been rather elusive when questioned about his relationship with Blago.  A few days ago Emanuel was uncharacteristically absent from an Obama news conference.  He was spotted two hours later in the lobby of Chicago’s City Hall to listen to his two children performing in a concert with their school.

A Sun-Times reporter pressed Emanuel to comment about whether he was the emissary named in the criminal complaint:

You’re wasting your time,” Emanuel said.  “I’m not going to say a word to you.  I’m going to do this with my children.  Don’t do that.  I’m a father.  I have two kids.  I’m not going to do it.”

Asked, “Can’t you do both?” Emanuel replied, “I’m not as capable as you.  I’m going to be a father.  I’m allowed to be a father,” and he pushed the reporter’s digital recorder away.

Now a man has a right to his privacy, to a point when you are part of this country’s government.  But when you are a part of this country’s government, and refuse to answer questions and avoid reporters on the topic, you paint yourself as a target for reporters to hound you.  And you Emanuel is right, he can’t do both, but yet he hasn’t resigned his congressional seat in Illinois, yet he now works full-time on Obama’s transition team. 

But the “official Obama statement” on the matter leaves several issues uncovered, again in typical Obama style.  It did not say whether Emanuel was heard on wiretap providing the governor’s top aid with a list of names that the president-elect favored.  Nor did it say who, if anyone, on the Obama transition team had made contact with the governor or his aides concerning a replacement for Obama or whether Craig interviewed people under oath, or to whom he talked.

Do I think Obama knew that Blago was auctioning off the Senate seat?  Yep.  Do I think he made suggestions indirectly via his team to Blago of who to fill the seat with?  Yep.  Do I think Obama gave Blago money to “influence” his choice?  Nope.  Why?  Because the seat is still empty.  And based upon a taped conversation cited by prosecutors, suggested Obama wouldn’t be helpful to him and called him a “vulgar term.”  Told by two other advisers Blago has to “suck it up” for two years, the FBI says it heard Blago complain “he ahs to give this motherf***er, his Senator.  F*** him.  For nothing?  F*** him!”  And even if the governor were to appoint a candidate favored by the Obama team, Blago said, “they’re not willing to give me anything except appreciation.”

Obama is doing a serious CYA “thang”.  In November on FOX News Chicago, David Axelrod stated, “I know he’s talked to the governor and there are a whole range of names of which have surfaced, and I think he has a fondness for a lot of them.”  Then after the Blago scandal hit the news, Axelrod retracted his statement.  “I was mistaken when I told an interviewer last month that the President-elect has spoken directly to Governor Blagojevich about the Senate vacancy.  They did not then or at any time discuss the subject.”  Again, this statement says that Obama did not directly speak to Blago, it does not say that Obama didn’t have indirect contact via his team with Blago.  Careful wording is something that Obama and his team are becoming notorious for.

And one final thought.  It was an internal investigation.  It was done by Obama’s own attorney, not an outside attorney.  I would be very curious as to see what an outside attorney would find on the matter, especially considering that The New York Times is reporting today that “Emanuel Had Contact With Governor’s Office on Senate Seat”.  And The Wall Street Journal is reporting today that “Emanuel, Blagojevich Aides Discussed Senate Seat.”

But all in all, wiretaps and all, time will tell if and how Obama and/or his teams are connected in any way to the Blago scandal.


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