Rahm Emanuel Discussed Obama Shortlist With Blagojevich Staff

The report does, however, suggest more interest and involvement on Obama's part in the filling of his Senate seat than the president-elect and his top aides had previously conceded.

And in the previously unknown discussion with a union official, the report states that Tom Balanoff, the head of the Illinois chapter of Service Employees International Union, called Jarrett three days after the election and "told her that the governor had raised with him the question of whether the governor might be considered as a possible candidate to head up the Department of Health and Human Services in the new administration."

At the time, Jarrett was widely mentioned as a possible Senate replacement for Obama. She would take herself out of the running for the seat Dec. 12 and was subsequently given a senior adviser role in the Obama White House.

The report continues: "Mr. Balanoff told Ms. Jarrett that he told the governor that it would never happen. Jarrett concurred. ... At no time did Balanoff say anything to her about offering Blagojevich a union position."

Also, in the days after the election, Deputy Gov. Louanner Peters contacted an Obama friend, Eric Whitaker, to find out who "had the authority to speak for the president-elect" on the subject of his replacement, Bauer's report stated.

Obama told Whitaker that "no one was authorized to speak for him on the matter," which Whitaker then relayed to Peters, the report said.

The report stated that Obama -- as he has previously said -- "had no contact or communication with Gov. Blagojevich or members of his staff about the Senate seat."

It allows that Obama did discuss Schakowsky, Jackson, Hynes and Duckworth in conversations with Emanuel and top political adviser David Axelrod -- with the understanding that Emanuel "would relay these names to the governor's office as additions to the pool of qualified candidates who might already be under consideration."

The report also finds that Jarrett, Axelrod and Whitaker did not discuss the Senate seat with the governor, Harris or other members of Blagojevich's team.

On the whole, the list of contacts and brief description of the conversations appears to support Obama's repeated contention that neither he nor any of his staff members had any "inappropriate discussions" with Blagojevich or his top aides.

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald has also made clear that despite mentions of at least one Obama adviser [Emanuel, presumably] in the criminal complaint he filed three weeks ago, his office is making "no allegations" about the president-elect or his team.

The report represents the most complete accounting to date of the Obama team's contacts with Blagojevich and his top aides.

But the report -- made public after more than a week of delays at the request of Fitzgerald's office -- does not fill in all the gaps in the public record. Obama's team did not have access to transcripts of wiretapped conversations between members of Blagojevich's team and other parties, leaving it to Obama's staff members' own recollections to describe the substance of their talks.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...