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Obama memo about Obama staff contacts with Blagojevich


TO: The President-Elect

FROM: Greg Craig

DATE: December 23, 2008

SUBJECT: Transition Staff Contacts with the Governor's Office

At your direction, I arranged for transition staff to provide accounts of any contacts that you or
they may have had with Governor Blagojevich or his office in which the subject of your
successor came up.

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
Governor's 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

One member of the transition staff, Rahm Emanuel, did have contacts of the type covered by
your request. I discuss the nature of those contacts in the attached report. David Axelrod and
Valerie Jarrett, two other individuals on the transition staff, did not have any contacts with the
Governor or his office but are included in the report to address questions raised by the press.

These accounts were communicated to the Office of the United States Attorney in interviews that
were conducted last week. At the request of the Office, we delayed the release of this report
until such time as the interviews could be completed. The interviews took place over a period of
three days: Thursday, December 18, 2008 (the President-Elect); December 19, 2008 (Valerie
Jarrett); and December 20, 2008 (Rahm Emanuel).

One other individual, Dr. Eric Whitaker, a family friend, was approached and asked for
information by a member of the Governor's circle. I have included an account of this contact
even though Dr. Whitaker is not a member of the transition staff.

Report to the President-Elect

On December 11, 2008, the President-Elect asked the White House Counsel-designate to
determine whether there had been any staff contacts or communications - and the nature of any
such contacts of communications - between the transition and Governor Blagojevich and his
office relating to the selection of the President-Elect's successor in the United States Senate.
The results of that review are as follows:

The President-Elect

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.

After Ms. Jarrett decided on November 9, 2008 to withdraw her name from consideration as a
possible replacement for him in the Senate and to accept the White House job, the President-
Elect discussed other qualified candidates with David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel. Those
candidates included Representatives Jan Schakowsky and Jesse Jackson, Jr., Dan Hynes and
Tammy Duckworth. The President-Elect understood that Rahm Emanuel would relay these
names to the Governor's office as additions to the pool of qualified candidates who might
already be under consideration. Mr. Emanuel subsequently confirmed to the President that he
had in fact relayed these names. At no time in the discussion of the Senate seat or of possible
replacements did the President-Elect hear of a suggestion that the Governor expected a personal
benefit in return for making this appointment to the Senate.

Rahm Emanuel

Mr. Emanuel had one or two telephone calls with Governor Blagojevich. Those conversations
occurred between November 6 and November 8, 2008. Soon after he decided to accept the
President-Elect's offer to serve as Chief of Staff in the White House, Mr. Emanuel placed a call
to the Governor to give him a heads up that he was taking the Chief of Staff's position in the
White House, and to advise him that he would be resigning his seat in the House of
Representatives. They spoke about Mr. Emanuel's House seat, when he would be resigning and
potential candidates to replace him. He also had a brief discussion with the Governor about the
Senate seat and the merits of various people whom the Governor might consider. Mr. Emanuel
and the Governor did not discuss a cabinet position, 501c(4), a private sector position for the
Governor or any other personal benefit for the Governor.

In those early conversations with the Governor, Mr. Emanuel recommended Valarie Jarrett
because he knew she was interested in the seat. He did so before learning -- in further
conversations with the President-Elect -- that the President-Elect had ruled out communicating a
preference for any one candidate. As noted above, the President-Elect believed it appropriate to
provide the names of multiple candidates to be considered, along with others, who were qualified
to hold the seat and able to retain it in a future election. The following week, Mr. Emanuel
learned that the President-Elect and Ms. Jarrett with the President's strong encouragement had
decided that she would take a position in the White House.

Between the time that Mr. Emanuel decided to accept the position of Chief of Staff in the White
House and December 8, 2008, Mr. Emanuel had about four telephone conversations with John
Harris, Chief of Staff to the Governor, on the subject of the Senate seat. In these conversations,
Mr. Emanuel and Mr. Harris discussed the merits of potential candidates and the strategic benefit
that each candidate would bring to the Senate seat. After Ms. Jarrett removed herself from
consideration, Mr. Emanuel - with the authorization of the President-Elect - gave Mr. Harris the
names of four individuals whom the President-Elect considered to be highly qualified: Dan
Hynes, Tammy Duckworth, Congresswoman Schakowsky and Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr.
In later telephone conversations, Mr. Emanuel - also with the President-Elect's approval -
presented other names of qualified candidates to Mr. Harris including Attorney General Lisa
Madigan and Ms. Cheryle Jackson. Mr. Harris did not make any effort to extract a personal
benefit for the Governor in any of these conversations. There was no discussion of a cabinet
position, of 501c(4), of a private sector position or of any other personal benefit to the Governor
in exchange for the Senate appointment.

Although Mr. Emanuel recalls having conversations with the President-Elect, with David
Axelrod and with Valerie Jarrett about who might possibly succeed the President-Elect in the
Senate, there was no mention of efforts by the Governor or his staff to extract a personal benefit
in return for filling the Senate vacancy.

Valerie Jarrett

Ms. Jarrett had no contact or communication with Governor Blagojevich , with his Chief of
Staff, John Harris or with any other people from the Governor's office about a successor to
replace the President-Elect in the United States Senate or how the decision should be made. Nor
did she understand at any time prior to his arrest that the Governor was looking to receive some
form of payment or personal benefit for the appointment. Her only contact with the Governor
was at the Governor's Conference in Philadelphia on December 2, 2008, over three weeks after
she had decided not to pursue the Senate seat and had accepted the President-Elect's offer to
work in the White House. She had a brief conversation with him on that occasion. He wished
her well.

On November 7, 2008 -- at a time when she was still a potential candidate for the Senate seat --
Ms. Jarrett spoke with Mr. Tom Balanoff, the head of the Illinois chapter of the Service
Employees International Union (SEIU). Mr. Balanoff is not a member of the Governor's staff
and did not purport to speak for the Governor on that occasion. But because the subject of the
Governor's interest in a cabinet appointment came up in that conversation, I am including a
description of that meeting.

Mr. Balanoff told Ms. Jarrett that he had spoken to the Governor about the possibility of
selecting Valerie Jarrett to replace the President-Elect. He told her that Lisa Madigan's name
also came up.

Ms. Jarrett recalls that Mr. Balanoff also told her that the Governor had raised with him the
question of whether the Governor might be considered as a possible candidate to head up the
Department of Health and Human Services in the new administration. Mr. Balanoff told Ms.
Jarrett that he told the Governor that it would never happen. Jarrett concurred.

Mr. Balanoff did not suggest that the Governor, in talking about HHS, was linking a position for
himself in the Obama cabinet to the selection of the President-Elect's successor in the Senate,
and Ms. Jarrett did not understand the conversation to suggest that the Governor wanted the
cabinet seat as a quid pro quo for selecting any specific candidate to be the President-Elect's
replacement. At no time did Balanoff say anything to her about offering Blagojevich a union

David Axelrod

Mr. Axelrod had no conversations with anyone outside the President-Elect's immediate circle
about who should replace the President-Elect in the United States Senate. No one ever came to
Mr. Axelrod to propose a deal involving the selection of a replacement, and nothing came up in
any of his conversations with the President-Elect or the members of the President-Elect's
immediate circle that suggested that the Governor was seeking some kind of quid pro quo for the

Mr. Axelrod recalls that, after the election, the President-Elect discussed - with Mr. Axelrod and
Mr. Emanuel - a number of individuals who were highly qualified to take his place in the Senate.
Mr. Axelrod was under the impression that the President-Elect would convey this information to
the Governor or to someone from the Governor's office, which explains why Mr. Axelrod gave
an inaccurate answer on this subject to questions from the press. He later learned that it was Mr.
Emanuel who conveyed those names to the Governor's Chief of Staff, John Harris.

Dr. Eric Whitaker

Dr. Whitaker had no contacts or communications with either the Governor or his Chief of Staff,
John Harris. He did have contact and communication with one individual purporting to act on
behalf of the Governor.

In the period immediately following the election on November 4, 2008 - on either November 6,
7 or 8 - Deputy Governor Louanner Peters called him at his office and left a message. When he
returned the call, Ms. Peters asked who spoke for the President-Elect with respect to the Senate
appointment. She explained that the Governor's office had heard from others with
recommendations about the vacant seat. She stated that the Governor's office wanted to know
who, if anyone, had the authority to speak for the President-Elect. Dr. Whitaker said he would
find out.

The President-Elect told Dr. Whitaker that no one was authorized to speak for him on the matter.
The President-Elect said that he had no interest in dictating the result of the selection process,
and he would not do so, either directly or indirectly through staff or others. Dr. Whitaker relayed
that information to Deputy Governor Peters.

Dr. Whitaker had no other contacts with anyone from the Governor's office.



This is hardly a thorough, independent review of the controversy concerning any 'Pay for Play’ (Quid Pro Quo) dealings for the now vacant Illinois U.S Senate seat. This release, which appears to be no more than cobbled together emails, is not a transparent report or a full release of information regarding any knowledge and/or participation in the potential illegal dealings/discussions that may have occurred between Gov. Blagojevich and President-Elect Barack Obama himself, or any of the people working for him.

No one would serious believe any internal report released by the Bush administration on any ethical, potentially criminal matter. Therefore, we should demand that an outside review of this matter be conducted while we wait to see what U.S Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald reveals in his criminal indictment of Gov. Blagojevich.

Paul R.


Fitzpatrick is dishonest himself.
Why didn't he go after Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, George bush et. al after Scooter Libby went down?
And Paul R.---so WHAT if Obama or anyone linked to him did this?
What, we believe in Santa Claus?
How the dickens do we THINK all those billions get spent on winning elections?
Look at the greater crimes of the repugs!
We just had 2 elections stolen.
We just had an immoral war begun on how many fronts? Displaced how many? Orphaned and widowed how many? Killed how many? AND IT WAS ALL BASED ON LIES.
So, of course the Repugnican investigators go after Blago hoping it leads to the politics of Obama

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on December 23, 2008 3:31 PM.

Biden comments on Obama's Blagojevich report to be released at 3:30 Chicago time was the previous entry in this blog.

Obama's Greg Craig, Robert Gibbs briefing on Blagojevich internal report. Transcript is the next entry in this blog.

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