Michael Scherer at Swampland at Time:
As expected, the trial of former Gov. Big Hair is proving a nuisance for the administration of Barack Obama, which has plenty of other things to worry about far more pressing than what political favors were and were not traded, discussed or rejected years ago in the shadowy underworld known as Chicago politics.
Issue #1 came to light on Monday, thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request by the Associated Press. As the AP writes:
President Barack Obama’s chief of staff, then a congressman in Illinois, apparently attempted to trade favors with embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich while he was in office, according to newly disclosed e-mails obtained by The Associated Press. Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, agreed to sign a letter to the Chicago Tribune supporting Blagojevich in the face of a scathing editorial by the newspaper that ridiculed the governor for self-promotion. Within hours, Emanuel’s own staff asked for a favor of its own: The release of a delayed $2 million grant to a school in his district. The 2006 discussion with Blagojevich’s top aide, Deputy Gov. Bradley Tusk, doesn’t appear to cross legal lines, and Emanuel couldn’t speed up the distribution of the funds.
That last sentence is no doubt a relief to Emanuel and the White House, if not entirely exculpatory in the court of public opinion. See here for a description of how this incident has already been raised in the ongoing trial.
Issue #2 In testimony today, the uncomfortable proximity of Obama and his staff to the criminal investigation was further laid bear, even though there is no evidence that Obama or Emanuel were willing to participate in the governor’s allegedly criminal designs. As has been previously reported, Blagojevich was angry at the Obama camp for not paying better tribute. But as this bit of tape makes clear, aides to the future president of the United States may have been passing information to the governor through another man who was, at the time, actively working with the Feds as part of the sting. All a wee bit uncomfortable.
Issue #3 Perhaps most disturbing for the White House is the fact that lawyers for Blagojevich seem determined to bring President Obama into the middle of the trial. At the start of the trial, the judge rejected a defense request to subpoena President Obama. But on Wednesday, the defense tried again, asking for copies of the notes taken by FBI investigators who interviewed President-elect Obama in December of 2008. At issue is whether or not the president-elect knew that Blagojevich was interested in a cabinet position in exchange for appointing Jarrett. (Obama’s own investigation of the matter stated that the president-elect did not know about the request. Jarrett, however, was told of Blagojevich’s interest in a cabinet position by a union leader, who had spoken with the Blogojevich camp.) According to a motion filed Wednesday, “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.” The judge has taken the request under advisement.
Carol Platt Liebau at Townhall
Scott Johnson at Powerline:
The portrait of Rod Blagojevich that comes through on the tapes introduced at trial against him is that of a man of many faces. One face that shines through the AP report on the tapes heard in court yesterday is that of a nut, but there are others.
Attention must be paid. President Obama is a subject and object of Blago’s dreams; Obama’s rise has a lot to do with the case against Blago. Obama is himself a product of the Chicago Way. The Chicago Tribune has set up a clearinghouse for its coverage of the trial here.
Jim Geraghty at NRO:
I realize Mark Kirk has suffered a great deal of self-inflicted damage in his bid for Senate in Illinois, but if you can’t beat a Democrat who called Rod Blagojevich’s chief of staff about that appointment to that Senate seat, you can’t beat anybody.
In the same call, Harris is overheard talking about getting a message from Illinois state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias.
“So Alexi called me. He wanted to have a discussion about the Senate seat,” John Harris is heard telling Blagojevich. “I imagine he’ll tell me . . . Barack wants Valerie.”
Blagojevich: “Listen to me, don’t see him today. Just . . . let’s run the clock now.”
Not the first time Team Blago’s claimed contact between them and Obama about the Senate seat. Remember in April when they tried to subpoena him? They alleged at the time that he told them, via a labor-crony intermediary, that he wanted Valerie Jarrett to get the seat; now they’re insisting that he also knew they wanted something in return. Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that they’re telling the truth. What law has he broken by keeping his mouth shut about their proposal? Could it be the federal “quid pro quo” statute that’s causing him so many headaches vis-a-vis Sestak? Nope: No one’s claiming that Obama actually offered Blago anything to name Jarrett, so there’s no quid pro quo.
What about the federal “misprision of felony” statute, which makes it a crime to fail to report a felony of which you have personal knowledge? Nope again: Apparently, it’s only illegal if you help “actively conceal” the crime. Simply knowing about it and keeping your mouth shut doesn’t cut the mustard.
But who cares? The point here isn’t to indict The One, merely to further the meme that the Most Transparent Administration Ever is sufficiently comfortable with backroom deals that they’re not only willing to bribe Joe Sestak, they’re actually willing to look the other way when America’s sleaziest governor tries to extort them in exchange for a Senate appointment. A few more weeks of Blago trial headlines in this vein will help. Subpoena Rahm!
Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit:
Barack Obama said he was “unaware” that Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was trying to profit from his ability to name a successor to Obama’s U.S. Senate seat back in December 2008.