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Review shows no inappropriate contact (Obama)

Posted by on Dec. 15, 2008 at 5:43 PM
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CHICAGO – President-elect Barack Obama had no direct contact with Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich about the appointment of a Senate replacement and his aides had "no inappropriate discussions," a spokesman for the transition office said Monday in disclosing the results of an internal review.

The spokesman, Dan Pfeiffer, said the review itself would be kept confidential at least until the week of Dec. 22 at the request of federal prosecutors "in order not to impede their investigation of the governor."

Controversy has swirled around the president-elect and his incoming White House chief of staff, Rep. Rahm Emanuel, following Blagojevich's arrest last week on charges he schemed to trade Obama's Senate seat for personal gain.

As governor, Blagojevich has sole authority to appoint a replacement, although fellow Democrats have demanded he refrain from doing so and Illinois lawmakers may consider legislation stripping him of his power.

State lawmakers also took the first step toward possible impeachment during the day.

In the statement, Pfeiffer said incoming White House counsel Gregory Craig has kept federal prosecutors informed of the internal review "in order to ensure our full cooperation with the investigation" into allegations against the governor.

Yet the brief statement left several issues uncovered.

It did not say whether Emanuel was heard on a wiretap providing the governor's top aide with a list of names that the president-elect favored. Nor did it say who, if anyone, on Obama transition's team had made contact with the governor or his aides concerning a replacement for Obama or whether Craig interviewed people under oath, or to whom he talked.

Pfeiffer said the review "affirmed the public statements of the president-elect that he had no contact with the governor or his staff, and that the president-elect's staff was not involved in inappropriate discussions with the governor or his staff over the selection of his successor as U.S. Senator.

The U.S. attorney's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Pfeiffer issued the statement a few hours before a news conference where the president-elect was likely to be questioned about the scandal surrounding his home-state governor.

Obama was appearing before reporters to formally announce his environmental and natural resources team.

It was disclosed last week that he has selected Steven Chu for energy secretary, Lisa Jackson for Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Carol Browner as his energy and climate "czar," and Nancy Sutley to lead the White House Council on Environmental Quality. An announcement about Obama's interior secretary wasn't expected, but announcements about other top positions in Obama's administration could come later this week.

Earlier in the day, Obama met privately with his national security team, including Vice President-elect Joe Biden, incoming Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

The president-elect's transition office said the meeting was held to discuss opportunities and challenges around the globe and was designed to help the new administration hit the ground running as of Inauguration Day, Jan. 20.

Obama resigned his Senate seat last month to prepare. Blagojevich was arrested last week on charges he schemed to sell the seat in exchange for money or political favors for himself or his wife.

The president-elect quickly told reporters that he never personally spoke to Blagojevich about who would fill the seat. A top Obama aide who had said in November that Obama had spoken to the governor quickly issued a statement saying he had been mistaken.

Last Thursday, Obama, who has promised transparency, said he had ordered an internal review of whether his staff had any involvement in the scandal and promised to divulge within days any contacts his staff has had with Blagojevich's office.

"What I want to do is to gather all the facts about any staff contacts that may have taken place between the transition office and the governor's office," Obama said at the time. "And we'll have those in the next few days, and we'll present them. But what I'm absolutely certain about is that our office had no involvement in any dealmaking around my Senate seat. That I'm absolutely certain of."

But since then, Obama's staff has declined to respond to even basic questions, like how long the review would take, who was leading it and what issues were explored.

And, now the public will have to wait for details until next week, when few will be paying close attention because of Christmas and Obama's plans to celebrate in Hawaii — far away from Chicago, the focal point of the federal investigation.

Two people who have been briefed on the investigation had told The Associated Press that Emanuel is not a target of the probe. They spoke on a condition of anonymity because the criminal investigation is ongoing. One is a person close to Emanuel, who said he has been told by investigators that he's not a subject of their probe.

There are no suggestions that Obama or his aides were involved in the alleged sale of his seat. U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald has said prosecutors were making no allegations that Obama was aware of any scheming. And Blagojevich himself, in taped conversations cited by prosecutors, suggested Obama wouldn't be helpful to him and called him a vulgar term. Even if the governor was to appoint a candidate favored by the Obama team, Blagojevich said, "they're not willing to give me anything except appreciation."




Too many religions but only 1 god. I don't need another savior. Don't try to change my mind. You know I'm one of a kind. Ain't gonna change my bad behavior............

by on Dec. 15, 2008 at 5:43 PM
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