Wall Street Journal
December 24, 2008
Federal prosecutors investigating alleged corruption by Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich interviewed President-elect Barack Obama and two of his top advisers last week in connection with the case, according to a memo released Tuesday by the Obama transition team.
The five-page memo denies any wrongdoing or improper communication between the transition team and Mr. Blagojevich, who prosecutors allege sought to fill Mr. Obama’s vacant Senate seat in exchange for money or a better job. Prosecutors have said no one on the Obama transition team is a suspect.
Mr. Obama had promised shortly after Mr. Blagojevich’s Dec. 9 arrest to release an accounting of contacts between his staff and the governor’s office. Federal agents had been wiretapping conversations by Mr. Blagojevich in October and November as part of their criminal investigation.
The memo released Tuesday said Mr. Obama’s incoming White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, contacted Mr. Blagojevich and his staff at least five times after Election Day, and produced a slate of suggested replacements for Mr. Obama’s vacated Senate seat. Mr. Emanuel spoke about four times to Blagojevich chief of staff John Harris to discuss the Senate seat.
Neither Mr. Emanuel nor other Obama aides and confidants heard of Mr. Blagojevich’s alleged efforts to auction the Senate appointment to the highest bidder, the report said.
Mr. Blagojevich was arrested on suspicion of using his authority as governor to wrest campaign donations and other favors in exchange for signing legislation into law. He has denied any wrongdoing.
Messrs. Obama and Emanuel, as well as top Obama aide Valerie Jarrett, were interviewed by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald on Dec. 18, 19 and 20 — an extraordinary outreach from law enforcement during a presidential transition. The interviews lasted two hours, and their lawyers were present.
The Obama audit of contacts between aides and Mr. Blagojevich’s staff revealed considerably more discussions between the two camps than previously divulged, and it described an apparently concerted effort by the governor to crack the Obama circle.