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Obama & Blago -- It Begins

Inauguration Day is more than a month away and Obama can add the Blago scandal to all the other "distractions" he has to deal with.

Obama is surrounded by more scandals than Nixon, Clinton and a dozen other corrupt politicians  combined and he's not even in office yet, and these things aren't going to go way.

He will be so busy playing "cover-your-ass," he will be unable to govern.  His entire administration will be on damage control from day one, and eventually, this will all crumble around him.

Affirmative action is a wonderful thing.

There's Just Nothing There
The Chicago Sun-Times is reporting that Judge James Zagel denies a defense request to gain access to the FBI report summarizing then president-elect Obama's 2008 interview with federal investigators.

Defense lawyers argued in a filing last week that the government minimized Obama's knowledge of the then-Governor's attempts to horsetrade for the Senate seat appointment.  They said that testimony by government witness John Harris contradicted that portrayal by federal prosecutors.

Harris testified last week that Blagojevich believed Obama knew about Blagojevich's request for a presidential cabinet appointment in exchange for appointing Valerie Jarrett to the Senate seat.

Zagel said there was nothing relevant concerning Harris's testimony that would allow the defense access to Obama's interview.

"There's just nothing there," Zagel said.

In their filing last week, defense lawyers argued that it was the government's own witnesses and evidence who raised the issue of Obama's knowledge of the Senate seat dealings.

"Testimony elicited by the government from John Harris and wiretaps played in court raise the issue of President Obama's direct knowledge and communication with emissaries and others regarding the appointment to his senate seat," lawyers wrote in the filing.

I'll just have to add the Blagojevich Interview to "The List."
Did Obama Try to Cover Up His Blago Contacts?
Jennifer Rubin says that as the Obama team left for Christmas vacation in December 2008, they issued a report on its internal investigation (the administration has continued its habit of exonerating itself of scandals such as the Andrew Romanoff and Joe Sestak job offers) denying that Obama had any contact with Gov. Rod Blagojevich or his staff on the subject of his Senate replacement.  Greg Craigís memo stated:

The accounts support your statement on December 11, 2008 that you "have never spoken to the Governor on this subject [or] about these issues," and that you "had no contact with the Governorís office."  In addition, the accounts contain no indication of inappropriate discussions with the Governor or anyone from his office about a "deal" or a quid pro quo arrangement in which he would receive a personal benefit in return for any specific appointment to fill the vacancy.  Ö The President-Elect had no contact or communication with Governor Blagojevich or members of his staff about the Senate seat.  In various conversations with transition staff and others, the President-Elect expressed his preference that Valerie Jarrett work with him in the White House.  He also stated that he would neither stand in her way if she wanted to pursue the Senate seat nor actively seek to have her or any other particular candidate appointed to the vacancy.

Under oath, a union official at Blagoís trial has now testified that Obama made his preferences clear:

In testimony at Blagojevichís federal corruption trial, Tom Balanoff said Obama -- speaking a day before his Nov. 8, 2008 triumph in the presidential election -- said that [Valerie] Jarrett wanted the job and was qualified, although he wanted her to join him in the White House.  Balanoff, a close Obama ally and top official with the Service Employees International Union in Chicago, said Blagojevich countered by suggesting Obama appoint him Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Robert Gibbs brushed off inquiries on the testimony -- hasnít been keeping up with the trial, he says.  This is ludicrous.  Either the transition team and the president-elect werenít straight with the American public or Balanoff lied under oath.  And Obama is a potential witness, perhaps the only one who can help the jury decide which it is.  This is not a small matter.

Now was Greg Craig playing it cute when he said that the "President-elect had no contact or communication," because Obama wasnít president-elect when the call was made?  Well, no.  In his introductory paragraph, he says Obamaís statement that he "never" had contact with Blago was true.  Were they playing a Clinton-esque word game, given that Balanoff was an emissary but not on Blagoís staff?  Perhaps, but whatever Craig was trying to pull, Obama gave the country the distinct impression that he had no communications with the Blago camp on the Senate pick.

The Washington press corps rolled over when the incident first surfaced and showed zero interest in following up on the many questions the review left open.  The media can redeem themselves by refusing to allow Gibbs to get away with his usual dodge-the-tricky-questions game.  And Obama, when next he appears, should be queried on whether he really did talk to Blagoís union pal and whether he later tried to deceive the American people.

The unpleasant image of Chicago pols running their backroom deals before and after they arrived in the Oval Office is not one that Obama wants to take hold.  He is low on credibility these days, and refusing to put this matter to rest isnít going to improve things.  Itís time to come clean -- on this and the Sestak and Romanoff deals.
Obama Isn't There, But. . .
...his name comes up a lot at the Rod Blagojevich trial, according to Mark Guarino.

Obama may be elsewhere, dealing with issues like the BP oil spill and Americaís financial recovery, but his presence is still very much felt at the federal trial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

US District Judge James Zagel spared Obama from the trial in downtown Chicago, ruling out an early defense request that he testify.  But Obama is often the subject of daily testimony by Chicago political operators.

This week, jurors have been listening to testimony and taped conversations that prosecutors say show Mr. Blagojevich was trying to profit from his power to appoint a senator.  Obama vacated one of Illinoisís US Senate seats after he was elected president.

Blagojevichís defense says that Obama, through different emissaries, was a participant in the backdoor, and often crass, negotiations about giving the seat to Obama friend and current White House adviser Valerie Jarrett.

Chicago lawyer Andrew Stoltmann says that Obama, like many figures connected to the stateís political theater, is doing his best to distance himself from the trial because it "exposes the seedy underbelly of Illinois politics."

"I can guarantee you that Barack Obama doesnít want to be anywhere near that mix.  I donít think it helps him.  I think it makes Obama look like the old-style politician he doesnít want to be," Mr. Stoltmann says.

Continue reading here . . .
Blago Trial Could Singe White House
It's the trial the White House hopes you wonít watch.

The federal corruption saga of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has been rattling along during the sweltering Chicago summer, offering a daily dose of low-grade theatrics, low-impact bombshells and low-brow humor.

The top White House officials -- Barack Obama, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett -- haven't been too badly bruised so far, by Chicago standards at least, even as federal prosecutors air wiretaps of Blagojevich's ugliest private conversations about them.

But despite the trial's Jerry Springer start, the threat of political damage remains serious for all of them -- and another Democrat as well, Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.).  On Wednesday, prosecutors attached Jacksonís name to allegations of a $1 million pay-to-play scheme for Obama's Senate seat -- though Jackson has categorically denied any wrongdoing since Blagojevich's December 2008 arrest and he has not been accused of any illegal activity.

Obama -- who crusaded against government-by-crony -- was dragged into the proceedings last week when a top Chicago labor official testified that Obama tapped him to talk to Blagojevich about the Senate seat.

Continue reading here . . .
Feds Were Really After Obama
Warner Todd Huston says disgraced Democrat Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois is at it again.  In an interview with ABC News, Blago tried to, and clumsily at that, allude to the fact that federal prosecutors were pressuring him to out Obama as a part of the governorís Senate Seat for Payola scam.

Blago told ABC News, "when they had me in custody they were very clear about how they wanted me to cooperate and talk about people in higher places."  He went on to say that there arenít "a lot of positions higher than governor," naturally leading to the assumption that he meant Obama was under scrutiny. But when pressed if he meant Obama, Blago wouldnít go that far.

But this would be a new found reticence because back in 2009 Blago was more than happy to tell anyone that would listen that the Feds wanted him to rat on Obama.

On a video made at a book signing party at Columbia College, Blago was heard seen saying the following:

"Öpart of what they wanted was shit on Obama.  They lock you up.  They do this shock and awe bullshit.  They arrest everybody ok, and then they sit you down and say Ď'you are a nice guy.  We want to work with you.  What can you tell us about Obama.'"

Once again we see the mental gymnastics of the troubled Rod Blagojevich.  Clearly in his mind he is an innocent pawn in a conspiracy to topple Obama.  Iím sure he sees himself as the hero that saved Obamaís presidency.

Blagoís conviction on one count of lying to the feds was a close call.  Only two jurors refused to agree with the rest on one of the more damaging counts, that of racketeering -- and they even agreed that he was guilty on that charge until the last day of deliberations after which they abruptly changed their minds.

Blago will likely serve time on the one conviction but this isnít the end of the courtís efforts because judge Zagel has said he still plans to schedule a retrial on the other counts.

Maybe this interview is Blagoís thinly disguised warning to Obama that he could still spill the beans if Obama allows the Justice Department to retry him?  Is Blago trying to blackmail Obama here?

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