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The [Friday] Papers

"Rod Blagojevich finally made good on a promise: He put President Barack Obama right in the middle of Blagojevich's own political corruption case," John Kass writes today.


But as you might guess, the defense strategy is a bit convoluted. Or at least it may not be what it seems.

As Kass writes, the point isn't to impugn the character of Obama but to impeach the expected testimony of Tony Rezko.

If the President of the United States testifies that Rezko is a dirty, low-down liar, the theory goes, then the veracity of any statements by Rezko implicating Blagojevich in wrongdoing is destroyed.

But that doesn't mean Blagojevich hasn't now put Obama into a trick bag, because he has.

"It is the charges swirling around the Senate pick that have led the defense team to attempt to draw Obama into the case," the Tribune reports. "In December 2008, shortly after Blagojevich's arrest but prior to the presidential inauguration, Obama said he had 'never spoken to the governor on this subject. I'm confident that no representatives of mine would have any part of any deals related to this seat.'

"But Blagojevich's defense team contends that Obama's public statements contradict those of other potential prosecution witnesses, including Valerie Jarrett, a White House official who briefly was considered the favored Senate replacement for her longtime friend Obama.

"The filing cites FBI interviews with labor officials, including one who said he spoke to Obama on the eve of his Nov. 4, 2008, election and said the soon-to-be-president believed that Jarrett 'would be a good senator for the people of Illinois.' The union official said he told Obama he would convey that message to Blagojevich."

Obama doesn't appear to have a legal problem, but he sure could have a political one. The chain of events outlined in the Blagojevich court filing - allegations by one side in the proceeding, to be sure, but also sourced to other witnesses - don't appear to align with the president's public statements or the White House's own internal investigation. See Obama's Senate Seat Saga.

"The filing alleges that the day after the election, a supporter of Obama suggested to Jarrett she reach out to then-Illinois first lady Patti Blagojevich about the Senate vacancy, according to an interview Jarrett had with the FBI shortly after the former governor's arrest," the Trib reports.

"The Obama supporter, who is not identified in the filing, allegedly mentioned 'fundraising' help for Blagojevich in exchange for naming Jarrett to the Senate vacancy during a phone call to Blagojevich's home that was secretly recorded by government agents the day before the election."

But as Kass writes:

"It's no secret that some in journalism get offended when anyone dares mention that the president was involved in Chicago politics."

Reporters covering Obama are kings of the caveats.

For example:

"Since Blagojevich's arrest in December 2008, Obama has insisted that he and top aides were never part of any deals for the Senate seat and were unaware that Blagojevich may have been scheming to use his appointment power to enrich himself," the Trib report says.

"There is nothing in the filing to indicate otherwise."


Isn't that what a big part of the filing is all about?

"But the cherry-picked nature of how the defense document was assembled and the suggestive nature of the allegations invited immediate claims from Obama critics that the filing raised doubts about the president's veracity," the Trib continues. In a straight news story.

Is the nature of the defense filing "cherry-picked"? As opposed to the prosecutors' filings? As opposed to, say, news reports?

And are these claims merely of a "suggestive nature . . . invit[ing] claims from Obama critics"?

Considering the source - Team Blago - these claims could be piffle. But they should raise doubts about the president's veracity from presidential foes and friends alike.

After all, it would hardly be the first time the president's veracity was, um, questioned - or provably impeached - and still defended by the home team. See The [Rezko] Papers.

Another example from the Trib:

"One week before Blagojevich's arrest, Obama and the Illinois governor attended a national meeting of governors in Philadelphia. The filing notes that the two spoke there and that two top aides to Blagojevich later discussed that conversation in a wiretapped phone call. But there's no indication in the filing that the Senate vacancy was discussed by Obama and Blagojevich when they met."

I'm not sure that's true.

From the filing:

"President-elect Obama also spoke to Governor Blagojevich on December 1, 2008 in Philadelphia. On Harris Cell Phone Call # 139, John Harris and Governor's legal counsel discuss a conversation Blagojevich had with President-elect Obama. The government claims a conspiracy existed from October 22, 2008 continuing through December 9, 2008. That conversation is relevant to the defense of the government's theory of an ongoing conspiracy. Only Rod Blagojevich and President Obama can testify to the contents of that conversation."

That seems like an "indication" to me that the defense is threatening to demand that Obama reveal what was discussed that day.

The Sun-Times didn't even bother to tease the story on its front page, much less give it front-page billing, in effect hiding its choice morsel:

"The filing alleges continued input by Obama's staff in the Senate seat choice, even after Jarrett dropped out of contention," the paper reports.

"It is the first indication that Obama personally called an official with SEIU, which had donated $1.8 million to Blagojevich.

"Two sources with knowledge of the investigation say Obama called Balanoff on Nov. 3, 2008, to give Balanoff the green light to continue talking to Blagojevich about Jarrett's possible appointment. The man who would be elected president the next day first left Balanoff, whose union also supported Obama, an innocuous message asking him to return the call.

"When Balanoff and Obama later spoke, Obama - in addition to discussing the election and campaigning - relayed to Balanoff that he would not publicly come out in favor of any one candidate for his replacement, sources said."

In fact, his public statements would contradict his private actions.

"However, after Blagojevich's arrest, Obama released a report detailing his and his staff's contacts with the former governor," the Sun-Times notes. "In it, the report stated: '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.'"


From the filing:

"President-elect Obama was also involved in other senate candidate choices. On December 8, 2008, John Harris' secretary's call log noted President's Chief of Staff called at 10:47 am and wrote 'needs to talk to you asap' (Harris 302, February 20, 2009). President's Chief of Staff told the FBI that he had a conversation discussing the Senate seat with Obama on December 7, 2008 in Obama's car. President's Chief of Staff told the FBI 'Obama expressed concern about Senate Candidate D being appointed as Senator [President's Chief of Staff] suggested they might need an expanded list to possibly include names of African Americans that came out of the business world. [President's Chief of Staff] thought he suggested Senate Candidate E who was the head of the Urban League and with President's Chief of Staff's suggestion.' (President's Chief of Staff, 302, 12-20-08)."

Come to think of it, maybe calling Obama to wreck the credibility of Rezko's testimony isn't such a good idea; Obama might not have much credibility left by the time this thing is over either.

Charles The Cat
And his strange journey.

Busta Rhymes
His original moniker, plus fun facts about A-ha, Pearl Jam, Neil Young, Stevie Wonder, rave and house. In Trivial Pursuit.

Body Bags and Baseball
In BookNotes.

Hawks Report
Win one, lose one.

Agony & Ivy
On The Profit Motive.


The Beachwood Tip LIne: Without caveats.


Posted on April 23, 2010

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PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Chicagoetry: I Am Iron Man.

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