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January 2009 Archives

Burris in "Senate school"

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WASHINGTON -- Thursday morning, Sen. Roland Burris was in "Senate school," learning, with other new senators huddled around the podium in the Senate chamber, how the floor works.

WASHINGTON--Senate Majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nv.) top senior advisor, Darrell Thompson will be serving as the temporary chief of staff to Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.)

Thompson knows the Land of Lincoln; in 2004, he was chief of staff for Barack Obama's U.S. Senate campaign. Thompson remains a Reid senior advisor.

"As the Leader of the U.S. Senate, I will do all that I can to support the
success of Senator Burris and that begins with detailing one of my most
respected senior staff members," Reid said in a statement. "Darrel's institutional knowledge combined with his strong relationship with Members and staffs in both the Senate and House, will undoubtedly serve Senator Burris well."

"We have spent the last two weeks evaluating chief of staff candidates and are
looking forward to having someone on our team with Darrel's Illinois experience
and knowledge and passion for helping solve the important issues facing our
state and nation," Burris said in a statement.

Daily Kos just conducted the first statewide poll of potential candidates in the 2010 Illinois Senate race. Dems Burris, Schakowsky, Giannoulias. Republicans Roskam, Kirk.

Click over to Kos to see the entire poll. Cross tabs included. The most information in one place on the state of the race. In this first poll, Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) does not seem to have been heavily punished for taking an appointment from former Gov. Blagojevich, removed from office on Thursday on public corruption and abuse of power charges.

I just chatted with Justin Herndon, one of the publicists who put together the media blitz for now former Gov. Blagojevich. The blitz did not prevent the Illinois State Senate from removing him from office on Thursday, but it did, Herndon told me, show his "personality" and people are interested in him.

While Blagojevich has nothing booked through the weekend, he may hit the shows again next week, Herndon said. Blagojevich still faces a federal criminal indictment on public corruption charges.

"There is a whole host of requests we have," Herndon said. He said it was more than news shows; the late night outlets are interested.

WASHINGTON--President Obama tapped Vice President Biden to lead a middle class working families task force. In announcing the drive, Obama and Biden welcomed organized labor back to White House, after unions spent eight years in exile during the Bush administration.

Biden went out of his way to promise transparency in his task force--taking a big swipe, it seemed at former Vice President Cheney who allowed no public input into the fairly secret energy task force he headed. Of course, bring up transparency and task forces also behooves me to bring up how former First Lady, now Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton caught enormous criticism because her health care task force was run out of the sunlight.

The Obama White House may make mistakes--how could it not--but it is not going to repeat mistakes of prior administrations.

Click below for White House fact sheet on task force.

New Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn ordered all state of Illinois website home pages stripped of most references to impeached former Gov. Rod Blagojevich by noon on Friday, according to a memo I obtained signed by a top Quinn staffer.

"Remove the name and likeness (i.e., images) of Rod Blagojevich from all home page headers and templates by noon tomorrow," said the memo sent to all state agency chiefs by
Sean Vinck, Legislative Counsel to Governor Pat Quinn.

Read them here

WASHINGTON--While much of the focus of Gov. Blagojevich's impeachment has focused on accusations he was trying to auction off President Obama's vacant Senate seat, there are many other elements to the Articles of Impeachment.

Blagojevich, in addressing the state Senate on Thursday chose to dwell on some of the weaker parts of the impeachment charges. He never addressed the significant abuse of power allegations, including trading contracts, legislation and appointments for campaign cash.

Two of weaker charges filed against Blagojevich stem from ill fated actions taken during his first term involving purchase of flu vaccines without proper approval, making the sale illegal and trying to import prescription drugs from Canada and other countries a few years ago without consent of the Food and Drug Administration.

Blagojevich correctly told the state Senate on Thursday that the mover behind the drug importation issue was then Rep. Rahm Emanuel, now President Obama's chief of staff. The FDA proved to be a toothless tiger in the drug importation movement and never seriously tried to either approve or block any importation plans put in place by a relatively small number of cities and states.

That's the context. Blagojevich said he the state senate fires him, than Emanuel should be tossed out too.

Referring to having Illinois bring in prescription drugs from other states, Blagojevich said, "And I loved the idea, and we did it. And then so did Wisconsin,
and so did Kansas, and so did Vermont. If you're impeaching me for
providing safe and affordable prescription drugs by going to Canada
and getting the same medicines made by the exact same companies, then
the governor of Wisconsin ought to be impeached, the governor of
Kansas ought to be impeached, the governor of Vermont ought to be

"And while we're at it, let's reach right into the United States
Senate and let's expel John McCain and Ted Kennedy because I worked
with them on this issue of the re-importation of prescription drugs.
And then let's not stop there. Let's demand that President Obama fire
Rahm Emanuel because Rahm Emanuel was the one who gave me this idea.
If you're going to throw me out of office for something like this,
then how can those guys stay in the offices that they have?

Blago & Beck: Part 1:

Blago & Beck Part 2:

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama debuts Thursday morning in her first official act when she speaks at a White House reception to mark the signing of the Lilly Ledbetter Bill.

Ledbetter's case became a national cause for pay equity and Ledbetter and the first lady stumped together during the campaign.

Obama has said she will have a focus on women's issues, among other topics. She starts today.

WASHINGTON--This is a region that has never learned how to handle snow and cold, though each winter routinely brings both.

President Obama on Wednesday, learning that an ice storm shut schools and offices, told the city to toughen up and adopt to Chicago standards.

"As my children pointed out, in Chicago, school is never cancelled. In fact, my seven-year-old pointed out that you'd go outside for recess in weather like this. You wouldn't even stay indoors. So it's -- I don't know. We're going to have to try to apply some flinty Chicago toughness to this town," Obama said.

Bad weather rarely closes anything in Chicago. The Obama daughters' school cancelled class, triggering Obama to stray from some planned remarks about the economy and telling Washington to learn to cope.

Here's the whole exchange:

"So, it's good to see you guys. Can I make a comment that is unrelated to the economy, very quickly? And it has to do with Washington. My children's school was cancelled today because of what?

..... Some -- some ice?

"... As my -- as my children pointed out, in Chicago, school is never cancelled. In fact, my seven-year-old pointed out that you'd go outside for recess in weather like this. You wouldn't even stay indoors. So it's -- I don't know. We're going to have to try to apply some flinty Chicago toughness to this town.

Obama was asked about Washingtonians being "weak."

I'm saying, when it comes to the weather, folks in Washington don't seem to be able to handle things."

Gov. Blagojevich was asked during his media blitz if he heard that there was a movie in the works about him. He said he had not heard. Asked who should play him, Blagojevich offered himself, noting that he will soon need a job.

Who should play Blagojevich?

Blagojevich on "FOX and Friends"

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WASHINGTON--Impeached Gov. Blagojevich, is on a national media blitz for a second day, casting himself as a character out of a Capra movie. He said on CBS' "Early Show" on Tuesday he wants all the federal wiretap tapes of his telephone calls released to show "the full story" and to rebut allegations that he tried to sell President Obama's vacant senate seat.

In an unusual move, the show gave him two segments in the opening hour.

"Unlike Richard Nixon, who was dealing with issues of tapes who did not want his tapes heard, I want mine heard. I want the full story to be told," Blagojevich said. Meanwhile, in Springfield, the state senate today will hold the second day of Blagojevich's impeachment trial, where he is not presenting a defense.

Blagojevich was asked if this marathon media tour--which started with local broadcast media in Chicago--was intended to influence a potential Chicago area juror who may one day sit on a panel in a Blagojevich federal criminal trial. The governor said that was a "cynical" interpretation.

President Obama travels meets with House and Senate GOP members on Tuesday.

8:30am pool call time
11:45am obama leaves white house for capitol (pool gathers at 11:25am)
noon: obama arrives capitol
12:15pm: obama meets with House Republican conference (closed press) 1:25pm: obama meets with Senate Republican conference (closed press)
2:30pm: obama leaves capitol
2:45pm: obama back at white house
3:45pm: Gibbs briefing

645 am - CBS' Evening News (taped before CBS' The Early Show)

700 am - CBS' The Early Show (Central Park studios)

810 am - Fox & Friends (FOX)

845 am - AP's TV studio (450 W. 33rd St.)

1030 am - Fox Business Network (1211 Avenue of Americas)

1115 am - In Session/TruTV: Jami Floyd: Best Defense (600 3rd Avenue)

1230 pm - Glenn Beck (FOX)

130 pm - Campbell Brown (CNN Center)

200 pm - Rachel Maddow (30 Rockefeller Center)

230 pm - Greta Van Susteren (undisclosed location)

330 pm - DL Hughley (CNN Center)

11:39 eastern
Blagojevich segment is over.

Lynn Sweet's take:

Bravo Barbara Walters.

Walters understood the impeachment of Gov. Blagojevich is a serious matter and asked him substantive questions. And unlike other interviewers, she did not let the fact that Blagojevich is a major "get" as a guest impede her switching to her other role as a probing journalist. She did not let Blagojevich simply filibuster.

Perhaps in taking the booking, Blagojevich thought he was going to get a pass and portray himself as a sympathetic character. I don't think he accomplished all of that, though he got his messages out, that the Illinois state Senate trial won't let him call witnesses. But he looked uncomfortable.

Image wise, Behar asking him to do his Nixon impersonation saying "I am not a crook" just made Blagojevich look diminished and foolish and undignified. That may be the soundbite on Leno and Letterman tonight.

11:30 eastern
Goldberg, Shepherd, Behar giving Blagojevich much easier time.
Blagojevich arm on couch....
Ladies getting a little silly
Behar "He does a fabulous Nixon impression. Do it for us."
Blagojevich "Who said that."
Behar "Somebody told me. Come on...Do it...
Audience applause
Blagojevich "I'm not going to do that. But let me make this perfectly clear, let me make this perfectly clear, I didn't do anything wrong."

11:26 eastern
Blagojevich on the couch now with Whoopi Goldberg, Sherri Shepherd, Joy Behar...talking about his potty mouth.
Goldberg "This has turned into a media circus."

11:20 eastern
Blagojevich, saying he has no chance to confront witnesses at his impeachment trial--starting today in Springfield--adds "That's why I'm here in New York. Because this is much bigger than me or Illinois."
Walters "I gather that you coming on television is because you want the American people to somehow rise up and defend you."

11:18 eastern
Walters, still in charge. This is a hard news interview. Did Blagojevich expect his hard treatment:

Walters..."for your own dignity, wouldn't be better if you resigned?"

11:15 eastern
The very no nonsense hard questioning Walters ...Where's Patti?
re Patti who was supposed to be on especially since she was just fired from her job. Walters said she cancelled on the advice of her father Ald. Dick Mell who said Blagojevich just uses people.

11:13 eastern
Walters hammering Blagojevich.

11:09 eastern time
Walters starting. Are you really comparing yourself to Gandhi, King, Mandela.
Blagojevich does not look comfortable. Walters is going to put him through his paces.
This is the hard news Walters Blagojevich is facing. No fluff.
She asks about the wiretaps. Blago starts to filabuster
"Did you say those things?'
Blagojevich: "Under no circumstances did I try to sell a Senate seat.
"Did you say in context, out of context, did you say those things...Please answer...or why are you wasting time on these programs."

Barbara Walters is live remote from Los Angeles. There to get ready for her Oscar special.
Whoopi Goldberg "Rod Blagojevich is with us. We'll have lots of questions."
Elisabeth Hasselbeck will not be on the show; her grandmother passed away.

Morning all......
Lynn Sweet here...I'll be live blogging Rod and Patti Blagojevich live on "The View." It's starting now.

Winfrey responds to Blagojevich



Oprah Winfrey said she was surprised to learn Wednesday from her best friend Gayle King that Governor Blagojevich was considering her for Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat.

Blagojevich confirmed on Good Morning America that he was considering Winfrey. She said she was meditating when she got the news.

"If I had been watching from the treadmill I probably would have fallen off the treadmill," Winfrey told King on King' Sirius satellite radio program.

WASHINGTON -- While President Obama is packing his schedule, first lady Michelle Obama is not planning many public appearances until she is sure daughters Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, are settled in their new city, I'm told by the first lady's office.
In the meantime, the first lady is also crafting her longer-term portfolio and figuring out how to execute her goal of making the White House more accessible to the public.

In case you were wondering, the Obamas do not have a nanny, I'm told. The first grandmother, South Sider Marian Robinson, Michelle's mom, moved into the White House for now to help.

Debating the impeachment rules

Impeached Gov. Blagojevich tells NBC's "Today Show" he expects to be removed from office. Blagojevich's impeachment trial starts Monday in Springfield. He is boycotting the proceedings, instead in New York right now sitting for a live interview with ABC's "Good Morning America." NBC taped the interview in Chicago earlier.

"I think the fix is in," Blagojevich said.

Added Blagojevich, "There is old gospel song, 'One Day at a Time Sweet Jesus. With something like this, you take one day at a time. And then you trust in the truth And then you trust in a fair system of justice. And I still believe in America. I still look at the U.S. Attorneys and the federal investigators and all of those who have been pursuing me for four years, I still see them as the good guys. But I see me as one of them. I see us on the same side."

NBC's Amy Robach said, "But they don't see you like that."

Blagojevich continued, "I keep hoping that maybe they will wake up and realize that this is just one big misunderstanding."

Impeached Gov. Blagojevich told ABC's "Good Morning America" that he mulled offering Barack Obama's Senate seat to Oprah Winfrey.

"That is true," Blagojevich said. "The idea came to be from a friend," he said. ....She probably wouldn't take it."

The Blagojevich Blitz list keeps growing....Impeached Gov. Blagojevich flies to New York Sunday afternoon for a heavy round of national shows where he takes his case that his impeachment trial-starting Monday--is a sham. Here's a sampling of Blagojevich's Monday interviews:

NBC's Today Show (taped in Chicago)
ABC's Good Morning America
ABC's The View
CNN's Larry King Live
FOX's On the On the Record with Greta Van Susteren; Fox and Friends.

Keep checking here for updates.

WASHINGTON--"Air Force One" is not the name of a specific plane; rather it is the air traffic signal for a plane with the president on board. When then President elect Obama took his first official flight--from Chicago to Andrews Air Force Base--he was on one of two jumbo jets recognized around the world as "Air Force One." When he met the pilot, Col. Scott Turner, he told him he look "right out of central Sam Shepard in "The Right Stuff." The National Geographic Channel on Sunday night at 7 p.m. Chicago time premieres "On Board Air Force One."

Impeached Gov. Blagojevich, on the first leg of his media blitz timed to the start of his impeachment trial, in an NBC interview broadcast on The Today Show Sunday compared himself to human rights heros Nelson Mandela, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi.

On the press offensive, Blagojevich has lined up national interviews--NBC, ABC, "The View" to run as his impeachment trail starts Monday before the Illinois state senate in Springfield.

Blagojevich, wearing a blue ivy league shirt, told NBC's Amy Robach that he has not prepared mentally for possibly going to prison. The impeachment was triggered by Blagojevich's Dec. 9 arrest on criminal charges, including trying to auction off President Obama's vacant senate seat.

As Dec. 9 unfolded, Blagojevich told NBC, "I thought about Mandela, Dr. King and Gandhi and tried to put some perspective to all this and that is what I am doing now."

Chicago Sun-Times Staff Reporters

Newly released subpoenas that Gov. Blagojevich fought to keep secret show federal prosecutors are looking at potential criminal wrongdoing that would go beyond charges he already faces -- involving everything from state road contracts awarded to campaign donors to his wife Patti's real estate dealings.

The subpoenas also seek information about any contacts the governor's administration had with two top advisers to President Obama, David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett.

"It's clearly beyond matters in the criminal complaint, which was sweeping in its own right," said Jay Stewart, executive director of the Better Government Association, whose legal fight forced Blagojevich to make the subpoenas public late Friday. "It demonstrates the feds have been looking for a long time. And, up to a relatively recent time, they've been gathering more information."

Responding to open-records requests, the governor's office released 44 subpoenas it had been swamped with since 2005. Two have been issued since Blagojevich's Dec. 9 arrest.

The most recent subpoenas went to the state Capital Development Board and the Illinois Department of Transportation on Dec. 11. They sought records on "bid proposals submitted by and/or awarded to" 22 contractors, including several who have contributed large sums to the governor's campaign fund.

Two other subpoenas to the governor's office came on Dec. 8, the day before the governor was arrested on corruption charges that accused him of, among other things, trying to sell an appointment to replace Obama in the U.S. Senate.

Those subpoenas asked for records relating to Patti Blagojevich; her business, River Realty; the governor's brother, Robert Blagojevich; the governor's campaign fund, and 30 other people and companies, including Axelrod and Jarrett. Jarrett was alluded to in the Dec. 9 criminal complaint against the governor as a potential Senate candidate Blagojevich was considering. Axelrod did not surface in the complaint. Neither is charged with any wrongdoing.

In an earlier wave of subpoenas, federal investigators in April 2007 asked the administration for: the schedules and calendars of the governor and first lady; records dating back to January 2003 relating to the use of state aircraft by the governor and his campaign fund, and all travel vouchers for the governor, his staff and his security detail.

The most intense round of grand jury subpoenas came during October 2005, when the governor's office was hit 17 times for hiring records. At that time, as Blagojevich was preparing to embark on his 2006 re-election campaign, the administration acknowledged receiving only four subpoenas.

Blagojevich's spokesman, Lucio Guerrero, said Blagojevich isn't surprised by the feds' continued interest. "The governor has said that anyone in public office should expect to be scrutinized, so it isn't unexpected," Guerrero said.

Oprah Winfrey's Friday show features an interview with Chicago Sun-Times page one designer James Smith, who talks about the iconic front pages he designed marking President Obama's election win, transition and inauguration.

WASHINGTON -- Newly appointed Sen. Roland Burris opened a campaign fund to raise money for a 2010 election bid as it looks like he may face a Democratic primary challenge: State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias is mulling a Senate run, and Rep. Jan Schakowsky isn't ruling it out.

Trust me on this -- Giannoulias, who the ability to self-finance a campaign, is looking very closely at challenging Burris. Schakowsky is also considering her first statewide run. An issue for Burris -- in office for a week -- would be to explain to Illinois voters in the February 2010 Democratic Illinois primary why he took an appointment from the tainted Gov. Blagojevich.

Meanwhile, Senate Democratic leaders handed Burris committee assignments that will give him credentials in areas where he is short on experience -- in national security and military affairs. Burris was named to the Armed Services, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and Veterans Affairs committees. This was done looking toward 2010, when Burris would have to run to keep the seat given to him by Blagojevich.

Even though Burris was seated after a fight -- Senate Democratic leaders at first resisted an appointee of Blagojevich, who is facing an impeachment trial starting Monday -- those leaders have a vested interest in making sure Burris is strong enough to keep the seat in Democratic hands if he survives a 2010 primary.

WASHINGTON--Newly appointed Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) is getting assignments from the Democratic leaders that will give him credentials in areas where he is short on experience-- in national security and military affairs. This was done looking towards 2010, when Burris would have to run to keep the seat. Though Burris was seated after a fight--Senate Democratic leaders at first resisted an appointee of the tainted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich--those leaders have a vested interest in making sure Burris is strong enough to keep the seat in Democratic hands. Burris was named to the Armed Services, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and Veterans Affairs committees.

from the White House Press Office

President Barack Obama will attend a briefing with his key economic advisors tomorrow morning. Following the briefing he will hold a meeting with his senior staff. Both meetings are closed to the press.

The President will hold a meeting with retired Military officers to discuss proposed executive orders on detention and interrogation policy. There will be a pooled spray at the end of the meeting.

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will be hosted by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the State Department tomorrow afternoon. National Security Advisor James Jones and Deputy National Security Advisor Tom Donilon will also attend the meeting which will focus on the Administration's pledge to enhance diplomatic efforts to advance America's interests. It is closed to the press.

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will address State Department employees tomorrow afternoon. The remarks will be pooled.

9:40AM-9:55AM President Obama Meets with Economic Advisors

10:00AM-10:15AM President Obama Meets with Senior Staff

10:30AM-11:35AM President Obama Meets with retired Military officers

1:50PM-2:30PM President Obama, Vice President Biden Meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, National Security Advisor James Jones and Deputy National Security Advisor Tom Donilon
Secretary's Dining Room, State Department

2:40PM-3:00PM President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Address State Department Employees


The Evanston based The Strategy Group--consultants on the Obama presidential campaign--named Douglas Herman as partner and added three senior vice presidents:
Sheila Nix in the Chicago office; Michael Berman in Philadelphia office, and Morton Brilliant in the Washington DC office.

for more, click below

WASHINGTON--Not on any schedule, the Obamas hosted an exclusive late night gathering at the White House after coming home from dancing at ten balls, I'm told.

The fete was intended for very close Obama friends and family. The event was scheduled between midnight and 2:30 a.m. and invitees were told the Obamas' may not show. But they did. Michelle, cut out early; Obama stayed. There was a champagne toast.

Among those present:

Oprah Winfrey
Valerie Jarrett
David Axelrod
Mayor Daley
Craig Robinson
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)
Rep. Melissa Bean (D-Ill.)
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.)
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.)
Rep. Jerry Costello (D-Ill.)
Rep. Artur Davis (D-Alabama)


Obama speech sober by design


WASHINGTON -- President Obama made a clean break from the Bush years of "false choices" in his inaugural address on Tuesday, deliberately sober as he called for a "new era of responsibility."

Obama is taking office as the nation is at war and the economy is in a nosedive. Completing the transition from campaigning to the awesome task ahead of governing, he tamped down his soaring rhetoric to let the nation know there are tough times ahead.

get-attachment-5.aspx.jpeg(Photo by Jon Sall)
White House chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel gesturing; lower right, David Axelrod, White House senior advisor.

IMG_9637.JPG(photo by Lynn Sweet)
Cass Sunstein, Samantha Power
Sunstein is the incoming Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs of the Office of Management and Budget.
Power is a foreign policy advisor

(Photo by Lynn Sweet)
Robert Bauer, Anita Dunn
Bauer, an attorney was the lawyer for the Obama presidential campaign.
Dunn, who runs a Democratic consulting firm, was one of Obama's top presidential campaign advisors.

WASHINGTON--President Obama just spoke and danced with First Lady Michelle at the Illinois-Hawaii "home states" ball.

Said Obama, "This is a special ball because it represents our roots, Hawaii, Illinois, together you've given us so much. So many of you got involved not just in my campaign, but got involved in our lives, many, many years ago...."

(photo by David McKinney)

WASHINGTON--Worried that the crowds at the subway station--and blocked roads and bridges would mean delay in getting to the Capitol early Tuesday for the inauguration of Barack Obama, some of us--and I am one--decided to sleep in our well located Sun-Times bureau instead.

With the city in lockdown, we hiked the mile plus to the Capitol early Tuesday. Dressed for the cold. I'm in layers and shivering; Michelle Obama is walking down Pennsylvania Avenue right now in the inaugural parade without an overcoat, though it looks like she has a matching mustard colored sweater under her frock.

For me, it is:
*2 pairs of socks
*wool slacks
*high next zipper sweatshirt
*down vest
*North Face heavy down jacket, hood.
*air activated warmers in gloves, shoes.

WASHINGTON--A serious looking President Obama just commented on Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), stricked during Obama's inaugural lunch in the Capitol.

"First of all, I know that while I was out of the room, concern was expressed about Teddy. He was there when the Voting Rights Act passed, along with John Lewis was a warrior for justice. And so I would be lying to you if I -- if I did not say that right now, a part of me is with him, and I think that's true for all of us. This is a joyous time, but it's also a sobering time. And my prayers are with him and his family and Vicky," Obama said.

Click below for his full comments at the lunch.

(photo by Lynn Sweet)

WASHINGTON--"It means everything." That's what Oprah Winfrey--sitting down the row from Caroline Kennedy-- told me when we chatted about attending the inauguration of President Obama just before the ceremony.

One of the hottest VIP sections at the presidential inauguration was just below the West Capitol steps, with Winfrey, Caroline Kennedy, Denzel Washington, Jennifer Lewis and the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, among others.

I asked Winfrey what it meant for her to be at the inauguration. During the Democrat primary last year Winfrey jumped into partisan politics by fund-raising for and stumping with Obama and wife Michelle.

WASHINGTON--Hours before being sworn in as president Tuesday, Barack Obama and his family, close friends and associates were at a prayer service at St. John's, across from the White House.

Among those from Chicago present, according to a source in the service:

Oprah Winfrey, in the back;
Rahm. Emanuel;
Sen. Dick Durbin,
Alan Solow,
Nathan Diament,
Lester Crown,
Jim Crown, and
Michelle Obama cousin Rabbi Capers Funnye, the leader of a Southwest Side Chicago synagogue, Beth Shalom B'nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation.

Obama's journey

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WASHINGTON--Guesting on Oprah Winfrey's pre-Inauguration show, broadcast from the Kennedy Center here, Jill Biden, wife of Vice President elect Joe Biden accidently made news on the show. She said that President elect Barack Obama offered Biden a choice between vice president and Secretary of State. That would imply that Hillary Rodham Clinton, tapped by Obama for the post was not at the top of the list. The statement below from Jill Biden's spokesperson tries to clarify Biden's remarks.

Statement from Spokesperson for the Vice President-elect Elizabeth Alexander:

"Like anyone who followed the presidential campaign this summer, Dr. Jill Biden knew there was a chance that President-elect Obama might ask her husband to serve in some capacity and that, given his background, the positions of Vice President and Secretary of State were possibilities. Dr. Biden's point to Oprah today was that being Vice President would be a better fit for their family because they would get to see him more and get to participate in serving more. To be clear, President-elect Obama offered Vice President-elect Biden one job only -- to be his running mate. And the Vice President-elect was thrilled to accept the offer."

johnson.jpg (photo courtesy Johnson family)

Sandra Johnson and daughters on the National Mall Sunday afternoon......on witnessing the inauguration of Barack Obama

"This is history. I'm never going to see this again. I want to tell my children about this."
---Jerae Johnson, 25, Robbins, a lab technician.

---"Seeing just the different people coming together, not just the African-American people, different people uniting for the purpose of the nation."
--Sharletha Johnson, 34, Oak Forest, a civil engineer.

"It was like Martin Luther King. He had a dream and Barack Obama fulfilled that dream."
--Sandra Johnson, 55, Robbins, a teacher.

WASHINGTON -- President-elect Barack Obama will be able to do things at "warp speed that no other president has been able to do in a long time," John Podesta, the co-chairman of the Obama transition team told me, basing his assessment "on the way he ran his campaign, the way he ran his transition."

Obama's smooth transition -- with only a few bumps along the way -- is the result of an organizational effort that began quietly last August when Podesta signed on. Big-picture thinking about what an Obama White House would look like started back in April, with Obama looping in just a few people.

Obama takes the oath of office Tuesday as the 44th president of the United States at a time when the economy is bad and Obama, in speeches, keeps warning that the situation will get worse.

Podesta, a Chicago native who grew up in Jefferson Park, served as chief of staff to President Bill Clinton. Podesta told the Chicago Sun-Times the top task in the first 100 days of the Obama administration is "to get this recovery package through the Congress."

"We need to get jobs stabilized and grown again, and so I think it's going to be all hands on deck to try to move that recovery bill through. It's big, it's complicated, but it's aimed at the right questions: energy, education, restoring the infrastructure in the country and health care.

"Those are bridges to long-term goals of the Obama administration, so that it is critical that that get done and it get done quickly, and I'm quite confidant that it will be done before Presidents Day," Podesta said.

On other matters:

• • Obama may have a team of rivals in his Cabinet and top White House staff -- but he won't tolerate rivalry. Obama "demands" teamwork, Podesta said.

"The people who develop rivalries in the Obamaland? They don't do so good. You may not have noticed that during the course of the campaign. But people who are shooting at each other? They tend to get iced out," Podesta told me.

below, from the PIC.....


WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, President-elect Obama and Vice President-elect Biden will appear at "WE ARE ONE: THE OBAMA INAUGURAL CELEBRATION AT THE LINCOLN MEMORIAL." The event will be broadcast live on an open signal by HBO and live on the radio by NPR. The event includes a diverse array of talent featuring both musical performances and historical readings.

Musical performers scheduled for the event include Beyonce, Mary J. Blige, Garth Brooks, Sheryl Crow, Renee Fleming, Josh Groban, Herbie Hancock, Heather Headley, Bettye LaVette, Jon Bon Jovi, Mstr.Sgt. Caleb Green (US Army), John Legend, Jennifer Nettles, John Mellencamp, Usher Raymond IV, Pete Seeger, Shakira, Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor, U2, and Stevie Wonder. Among those reading historical passages will be Jamie Foxx, Martin Luther King III, Queen Latifah, Denzel Washington, Jack Black, Steve Carell, Rosario Dawson, Tom Hanks, Laura Linney, Ashley Judd, Kal Penn, Forest Whitaker and Tiger Woods. The Rt. Reverend V. Gene Robinson will give the invocation. Rob Mathes will be the music director and arranger for the backing band, which will support all of the artists.

The Tuesday inauguration ceremony of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States begins at 10:30 a.m. Chicago time. There will be activities beforehand--coffee with President Bush and wife Laura and a prayer service. Here's the schedule for what will be taking place at the Capitol.

Material below from the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies

Line-up Includes Musical Greats Aretha Franklin, Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman
WASHINGTON, DC - The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, today announced the program for the 56th Presidential Inauguration, which will take place on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2009.
The program participants were based on requests from the President-elect and the Vice President-elect.
The order of the program will be as follows:

Musical Selections
The United States Marine Band
Musical Selections
The San Francisco Boys Chorus and the San Francisco Girls Chorus
Call to Order and Welcoming Remarks
The Honorable Dianne Feinstein
Dr. Rick Warren, Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, CA
Musical Selection
Aretha Franklin
Oath of Office Administered to Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
By Associate Justice of the Supreme Court
The Honorable John Paul Stevens

Musical Selection, John Williams, composer/arranger
Itzhak Perlman, Violin
Yo-Yo Ma, Cello
Gabriela Montero, Piano
Anthony McGill, Clarinet
Oath of Office Administered to President-elect Barack H. Obama
By the Chief Justice of the United States
The Honorable John G. Roberts, Jr.
Inaugural Address
The President of the United States, The Honorable Barack H. Obama

Elizabeth Alexander
The Reverend Dr. Joseph E. Lowery
The National Anthem
The United States Navy Band "Sea Chanters"

WASHINGTON--The British ambassador to the United States feted Illinoisans--and others--here for the inauguration of President elect Barack Obama at a Saturday afternoon reception in his residence along this city's Embassy Row.

Among those present: new Illinois Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago); assistant House Majority Leader Louis Lang (D-Skokie); Cheryle Jackson, chief of Chicago's Urban League; Tim Mapes, chief of staff to House Speaker Michael J. Madigan (D-Chicago); state Sen. James Clayborne (D-Belleville); state Sen. Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago).

Also seen: former Illinois State Democratic Party Chairman Gary LaPaille and wife Chris (they live here now); superlawyer Bob Barnett, a Waukegan native; Obama pollster Joel Benenson; Pat Souders, chief of staff to Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.); Tammy (Tam Cam) Haddad, the video producer and Obama budget director Peter Orszag

By Abdon M. Pallasch
Chicago Sun-Times Political Reporter
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. defied the cold Saturday to stand in their backyards or at train stations to wave at President-elect Barack Obama as he took an old-fashioned, Abraham Lincoln-style train ride to Tuesday's inauguration.

"As I prepare to leave for Washington on a trip that you made possible, I know that I will not be traveling alone. I'll be taking you with me," Obama told 40,000 cheering fans in downtown Baltimore in 20-degree weather.

"Folks, this is more than an ordinary train ride -- this is a new beginning," Vice President-elect Joe Biden told 8,000 fans in Wilmington, Del., at the train stop where he boards the Amtrak for work every day.

Aboard the Obama express

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Chicago Sun-Tmes Political Reporter
ABOARD THE GEORGIA 300 -- "Folks, this is more than an ordinary train ride -- this is a new beginning," Vice President-elect Joe Biden said as he prepared to join President-elect Barack Obama on a train ride to next week's inauguration.

"To the conductors who make our trains run and to the workers who lay down the rails; to the parents who worry about how they're going to pay the bills next month on the commute to work, and to the children who hear the whistle of the train and dream of a better life -- that's who we're fighting for. That's who needs change," Obama told the crowd of some 8,000 bundled-up Delaware residents in Wilmington who clapped in gloved hands at the Amtrak stop where Biden catches his train to work every day.

Like President Abraham Lincoln did 150 years ago, Obama is taking taking the train in from Philadelphia before his inauguration. It's a 79-yer-old Pullman car called the "Georgia 300."


Obama's historic train trip

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By Abdon Pallasch
Chicago Sun-Times Political Writer

PHILADELPHIA -- Evoking yet another comparison with Abraham Lincoln, President-elect Barack Obama launched his march to the inauguration with a whistlestop speech at 30st Street Station here as Lincoln did 150 years ago.

"As I prepare to leave for Washington on a trip that you made possible, know that I will not be traveling alone," Obama told some 200 supporters gathered in an historic, marble-walled room at the station with nine flags behind him.


WASHINGTON--The iconic "Hope" mixed media collage of Barack Obama by artist Shepard Fairey was aptly hung on the "new arrival" wall at the entrance of the National Portrait Gallery on Saturday.

The painting was a gift of Tony and Heather Podesta in honor of Tony Podesta's late mother, Mary. Tony and his brother John, a co-chair of the Obama transition team, grew up on Chicago's Northwest Side.

Updated Aug. 6, 2009

I noticed a lot of comments about Mrs. Obama staff salaries coming in to this post referring to an earlier column I wrote over at PoliticsDaily. The original article on what Mrs. Obama's staff earns ran in July at PoliticsDaily


WASHINGTON--President elect Barack Obama's team is intent on continuing to use social networking tools to communicate directly with the millions of people on its lists, with a mass text message sent Thursday evening with information about Tuesday's inauguration, Monday's day of national service and more.

Roland Burris sworn into Senate



Roland Burris and family, Vice President Cheney at ceremonial Senate swearing in at the Old Senate Chamber (photos by Lynn Sweet)

WASHINGTON--Ending a painful chapter for Democrat Senate leaders, Roland Burris was sworn in by Vice President Cheney as an Illinois senator on Thursday. At a reception afterwards, hosted by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill,) Burris said "It's a dream of a lifetime'' to become a senator. Burris was appointed by impeached Illinois Gov. Blagojevich and Democratic Senate leaders did not want to seat a Blagojevich appointee, but relented after political pressure and racial politics forced them to reconsider and swear in Burris.

WASHINGTON--Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) is the new Democratic Chair of the 111th Congressional Caucus on Women's Issues, a bi-partisan group.

"I am excited to work with my co-chair Representative Fallin and Vice-Chairs, Representative Gwen Moore and Representative Granger to continue moving forward with an aggressive agenda to improve the lives of women," Schakowsky said in a statement.

"When I was first elected in 1999 the Women's Caucus had only 55 women in the Congress.

"There will be 78 women serving in the U.S. House of Representatives for 111th Congress and we have a woman serving as Speaker of the House!

"Currently there are 16 women serving in the Senate.

WASHINGTON--Another Chicagoan has been tapped for a White House post, Jonathan Samuels, a former deputy chief of staff to Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) Samuels, a Hill veteran, will be Special Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs.

Samuels, an Evanston native, served in the Obama presidential campaign as the southern regional director and has been working on the transition team dealing with congressional affairs. After Schakowsky, Samuels moved over to the office of House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.)

UPDATED 8:34 P.M. EASTERN TIME with Obama statement
WASHINGTON--All roadblocks were lifted Monday and Roland Burris will be sworn in later this week to replace President elect Barack Obama.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nv.) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the assistant majority leader issued a joint statement Monday afternoon after the controvery ignited by the tainted Illinois Gov. Blagojevich was resolved.

"We have spoken to Mr. Burris to let him know that he is now the Senator-designate from Illinois and as such, will be accorded all the rights and privileges of a Senator-elect," they said.

The Senate Democrats, who vowed not to seat a Blagojevich appointee--the governor was arrested Dec. 9 for, among other crimes, trying to auction off the Obama seat--ended up backing down in the wake of thin legal grounds for blocking Burris and a racial backlash that developed over filling the vacancy of the only African American in the Senate.

"As we had outlined to Mr. Burris, a path needed to be followed that respects the rules of the Senate. We committed to Mr. Burris that once those requirements were satisfied, we would be able to proceed. We are pleased that everything is now in order, we congratulate Senator-designee Burris on his appointment and we look forward to working with him in the 111th Congress," Reid and Durbin said.

Burris, a state lobbyist, former Illinois Attorney General and Comptroller, must mount a campaign almost immediately if he wants to run for the seat in 2010 since nominating petitions for the spot are due at the end of the year. Illinois and national Republicans already have him in their scope.

Illinois Republican Party Chairman Andy McKenna said in a statement, "By failing to strip Rod Blagojevich of his senate appointment power, Democrats chose to trust a madman over the people of Illinois.

"The national embarrassment of the Blagojevich saga could have been avoided first in 2006 when Democrats endorsed the Governor knowing he was under intense federal investigation and second by stripping him of his senate appointment power following his arrest.

"Today's endorsement of Rod Blagojevich's handpicked choice for U.S. Senate confirms what Republicans have been saying for years - that Illinois is in dire need of change," McKenna said.

Republican National Committee Chairman Robert M. "Mike" Duncan slapped Reid and Durbin in a statement.

"It is regrettable that Senate Democrats have gone back on their word and will now seat Governor Rod Blagojevich's appointee. Harry Reid and Dick Durbin have placed Washington politics above the people of Illinois or transparency. Democrats had every opportunity to strip Governor Blagojevich of his power to appoint a U.S. Senator, but ultimately they accepted a Blagojevich appointee rather than risk losing a Senate seat in a special election. The Senate Majority Leader's lack of confidence in the ability of Illinois voters to select their own representative in the Senate for the 111th Congress is extremely disappointing and sends exactly the wrong message," Duncan said.

BY LYNN SWEET Sun-Times Columnist

WASHINGTON--President-elect Barack Obama revealed Sunday he is closing in on selecting the first dog -- either a labradoodle or a Portuguese water hound. Here for one week, Obama and his family explored some of the city over the weekend.
The long-promised dog is a gift for daughters Malia and Sasha. "This has been tougher than finding a commerce secretary," Obama told George Stephanopoulos, host of ABC's "This Week."

The Obamas moved here a week ago, coming a bit early so their girls could start at the beginning of the semester of their new school, Sidwell Friends.

Obama told Stephanopoulos that his children "seemed to thrive" the first week and "don't seemed to be fazed by anything. People think -- you know, folks think I'm cool, but they are a lot cooler than I am."

In other first family-elect developments here:

• • Marion Robinson, Michelle Obama's mother, has been bunking here with the rest of the family at the Hay-Adams Hotel near the White House. She will probably move into the White House with the family. However, I'm told that Robinson values her independence and is not sure if she wants to live there long term or give up her home on Chicago's South Side.

• • The Obama family visited the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday night; at one point, Obama seemed to pause in front of Abraham Lincoln's statute.


Chicago Sun-Times Political Reporter

CHICAGO--The two-tiered dias at which 19 Democratic ward and township committeemen sat Saturday at the Zam Zam Banquet Hall on the Northwest Side looked like a wedding head table. There was elegant white bunting and mirrored walls, and canopied tables with coffee and cookies and doughnuts sat off to the side.

But none of the five would-be grooms could quite muster the 50 percent-plus-1 of the weighted vote to be officially joined to the Democratic Party of Cook County as slated candidate to replace former Rep. Rahm Emanuel.

So it's every man or woman for himself or herself for the next 50 days, in this abbreviated primary election likely to determine who will represent Emanuel's district in Congress.Emanuel has given up his seat to become President-elect Barack Obama's chief of staff.

Ald. Patrick O'Connor (40th), Mayor Daley's unofficial floor leader, had said as late as Friday night that he had close to enough votes to wrap up the endorsement, and he had pleaded with his fellow committeemen not to "shirk their responsibility" by declaring an "open primary." That's what backers of State Rep. John Fritchey, D-Chicago, had sought .

Host George Stephanopoulos on ABC's "This Week" covered a lot of ground Sunday with President elect Barack Obama. Click at the end for the full transcript. Links follow for key elements.

Obama: Gitmo Likely Won't Close in First 100 Days

From George's Bottom Line online column:
Obama: Finding Girls' Puppy 'Tougher Than Finding Commerce Secretary'

Obama Leaves Door Open (a Bit) On Prosecuting Bush Officials

Obama Defends Tax Cuts in Stimulus Plan

Obamas to Search for D.C. Church

Obama Worried About Mumbai Attack 'Copycats'

Obama Slams Cheney Over Waterboarding

Obama: Closing Gitmo More Difficult Than People Realize

Obama's first trip will be to Canada


A spokesman for the Canadian prime minister today confirmed that Barack Obama's first foreign trip as president will be to Canada.

Barack Obama to visit Canada after inauguration (

Sarah Palin video


.com/v/-95wkCMeUkk&color1=0xb1b1b1&color2=0xcfcfcf&hl=en&feature=player_embedded&fs=1" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowfullscreen="true" width="425" height="344">

While controversy swirls over getting Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White's signature on a document to certify the Senate appointment by Gov. Blagojevich of Roland Burris, I thought I would show what the Senate certificate for Barack Obama signed by Blagojevich and White looks like.


Blagojevich impeachment

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WASHINGTON--Michelle Obama's mom, Marion Robinson is in Washington already, helping getting her granddaughters settled. But she is not sure she wants to move permanently from Chicago to Washington--and even if she does, if she wants to live in the White House.

Incoming First Lady spokesman Katie McCormick Lelyveld, said in an e-mailed statement, "Mrs. Robinson will be coming with the family to help the girls get acclimated, and she will determine in the coming months whether or not she wants to stay in DC permanently."

Michelle Obama often said during the campaign that she felt free to be on the trail because her daughters were in the care of her mother.

WASHINGTON--Dashing rumors that a Chicago chef would be tapped for White House duty, word comes that Michelle Obama will be retaining the incumbent White House Chef, Cristeta Comerford.

The incoming First Lady said in a statement, "Cristeta Comerford brings such incredible talent to the White House operation and came very highly regarded from the Bush family. Also the mom of a young daughter, I appreciate our shared perspective on the importance of healthy eating and healthy families. I look forward to working with her in the years to come,"


Chicago Sun-Times Staff Reporte

CHICAGO--The next step in the impeachment of Gov. Blagojevich is a trial in the Senate on whether he should be thrown out of office for corruption and abuse of power.

Here's what the trial will look like, according to details outlined this morning by the state Senate impeachment rules committee:

WASHINGTON---Here's an update on a Dec. 29 column I did faulting the Obama transition team for not posting meetings transition officials are having with outside groups on a Web site. The omission of this data violated the transition "seat at the table" transparency policy. The transition does post documents groups bring to a meeting or submit for study by transition officials. That's good, an improvement on past practices of prior administrations. But that's not a meeting list.

Right after my column ran, the transition started to list some meetings with groups that did not bring any documents to post. The names of the groups and the representatives were listed. Not included were names of the transition officials who they met with.

Tim Kaine, Barack Obama (photo by Lynn Sweet)

Barack Obama (photo by Lynn Sweet)

WASHINGTON--President elect Barack Obama introduced his pick to run the Democratic National Committee, Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, Thursday, declaring "we cannot afford to abandon the movement that we built."

Obama and Kaine appeared together for a 10 minute event at the DNC headquarters here, taking no questions. Kaine is replacing DNC chair Howard Dean, whose term ends next month. Kaine's term as governor ends in 2010.

In taking the post, Kaine said "I want to promote this
president's agenda. I want to carry the proud banner of a proud
party. And I want to work to creatively engage citizens in new ways
through this party to be active in civic life."

Obama noted the "movement" his campaign created and signaled that the DNC will be playing a major role in being the keeper of the flame. Obama also said his DNC will be looking for pragmatic candidates who favor results over ideology.

"On the other hand, it would be a mistake to take our success in
the campaign as a sign that our work is somehow complete. At a time
when the challenges we face in this country are so vast, we cannot
afford to abandon the movement we built. We have to strengthen it," Obama said.

"We must build a movement for change that can endure beyond a
single election. And that will require redoubling our efforts to
reach out to Americans, throughout our 50 states, north and south,
east and west.

"We start 2009 in the midst of a crisis unlike any we have seen in our lifetime, a crisis that has only deepened over the last few weeks."--President elect Barack Obama, Jan. 8, 2009.

WASHINGTON -- When President-elect Barack Obama visited Capitol Hill on Monday to meet with congressional leaders, he huddled with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), and the subject of Gov. Blagojevich's controversial appointment of Roland Burris to fill Obama's vacant Senate seat came up.

Obama's message, a Democratic source told me, was that the nation is facing a lot of problems, Illinois needs someone in the Senate seat, the commotion over Burris is a distraction, and an amicable solution needs to be found.

And here is what emerged: The Senate Democrats backed down from their vow not to seat anyone appointed by Blagojevich, who is accused, among other crimes, of trying to sell Obama's seat. Burris pulled back his demand to be seated immediately and agreed to a road map laid out by Reid and Sen. Dick Durbin, the assistant majority leader, that should lead to Burris securing the seat.

WASHINGTON--When I was chatting with Greta Van Susteren last night before guesting on a segment of her Fox show, "On the Record," I mentioned that Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White is the founder of a well known tumbling team. Greta brought it up briefly-here's the explanation.

White figures in the controversy over the seating of Roland Burris in the Senate because he has declined to sign the document certifying the Burris appointment by the tainted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

While White has a long political career, he founded the tumbling team in 1959 to keep disadvantaged youths who lived in Chicago public housing projects off the streets.

The Jesse WhiteTumbling Team has been invited to perform in Obama's inauguration parade.

Burris team at the Burris press conference in Washington on Wednesday. (photo by Lynn Sweet)

Click below for the transcript

WASHINGTON--"I'm happy," said a beaming Roland Burris at a Wednesday press conference, confident after a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nv.) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the assistant majority leader, that the pieces are falling into place for him to get sworn into the Senate, working out objections Senate Democrats had to seating him because he was appointed by the tainted Gov. Blagojevich.

Burris said he went into the 45-minute meeting bolstered by a phone call from former President Jimmy Carter, who he called a "friend."

There are several hurdles Burris must clear:

*Getting Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White to sign his appointment certificate. Burris is asking the Illinois Supreme Court to direct White to sign.

*Testifying Thursday before the Illinois House impeachment panel. Burris must satisfy the Senate Democrats there was no illicit deal involved in the appointment. Blagojevich was arrested Dec. 9 for, among other crimes, trying to sell the seat vacated by President elect Barack Obama.

*After those two items, a referral to the Senate Rules Committee, to determine the properness of the appointment

*Having a vote of the entire Senate. Reid is encouraging Burris to reach out to Senate Republicans.

Illinois GOP to reply to Durbin Reid

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from Illinois GOP release...
Media Advisory

What: Illinois Republican Party Response to Durbin/Reid Press Conference, Reports of Back Room Deal

Who: Illinois Republican Party Chairman Andy McKenna

When: 12:30 P.M. (Central)

WASHINGTON--After a 45-minute meeting with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nv.) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) Wednesday morning, Roland Burris seemed set on a course to take a seat in the Senate.

Reid, who met Burris for the first time said the question will eventually be put before the entire Senate. Durbin has known Burris for more than 30 years. The mood was one of conciliation. Senate Democrats had said--before Burris was appointed--that they would not seat anyone tapped by Blagojevich, accused of trying to sell the Obama seat for a job or campaign contributions.

Burris has two hurdles to clear--none seem to be a problem-- before Senate Democrats lift their objections to approving an appointment from the tainted Gov. Blagojevich: a certification signature from the Illinois Secretary of State, expected soon one way or the other; and for Burris to testify before the Illinois House impeachment panel that he made no deal with the scandalized governor for the appointment.

Illinois U.S. Senate Appointee Roland Burris, center, meets with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev., right, and Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., left, on Capitol Hill in Washington. AP

Jesse White tells WGN radio on Wednesday morning Senate Democrats are making him the fall guy in the controversy over seating Roland Burris in the Senate.

Burris enters Capitol; media horde greets him


WASHINGTON -- Roland Burris walked into the Senate side of the US Capitol Building at 10:27 a.m. Tuesday and was greeted by the sergeant-at-arms of the Senate who hurriedly rushed him past the usual security procedures, into an elevator, and up to the third floor of the Senate where Burris is meeting now with the secretary of the Senate.

A crush of media was awaiting the arrival of Burris and his team. Burris did not say anything upon entrance to the Capitol, even declining to say "good morning" to a reporter.

The meeting is not expected to result in Burris being sworn in as a member of the Senate at noon today, but rather the continuation of his legal and political battle to have the appointment made by tainted Gov. Rod Blagojevich approved.


(photo by Lynn Sweet)

WASHINGTON -- Capping a busy Monday -- sending daughters to a new school, meeting with congressional leaders and his economic team, President-elect Barack Obama delighted some 500 supporters of Sen. Dick Durbin by dropping by a party for him -- and new Democratic senators -- at Bobby Van's Steak house.
I don't want to leave you in suspense. Roland Burris was not at this affair for senators-elect. Turned out he was doing press interviews instead.

The purpose of the gathering was to celebrate the swearing-in of the Democratic senators-elect today. Burris, who has had no use for the suffix for those not yet sworn in to office -- arrived here from Chicago on Monday, hoping to be sworn in today. He won't. More about that later.

"It's got to be a great thrill for all these Illinoisans who can't come to the inauguration to have a chance to have their picture taken and shake hands with the president- elect prior to Jan. 20. It shows Obama not only loves Durbin, he loves Illinoisans," said Ray LaHood, the Peoria Republican who just wrapped up a career in the House of Representatives only to find himself tapped by Obama to be his transportation secretary.

WASHINGTON--Another Chicagoan is being tapped for the White House; Susan Sher, the vice president for Legal and Governmental Affairs and General Counsel at the University of Chicago Medical Center will be an associate counsel to President elect Barack Obama. Sher is a close friend of Michelle Obama--and her boss at the U of Chicago--as well as Valerie Jarrett--incoming White House adviser. Sher will provide legal advice to the incoming First Lady according to the transition as well as working on legal issues connected with health care policy.

Sher served as Mayor Daley's Corporation Counsel between 1993 and 1997, where she worked in City Hall with Jarrett. Jarrett also has been Sher's overseer, as the Chair of the University of Chicago Medical Center Board and also Chair of theExecutive Committee of that board.

WASHINGTON--President elect Barack Obama and wife Michelle--based in their temporary home in the Hay Adams hotel--sent daughters Malia and Sasha off to their new school on Monday. While Obama headed t Capitol Hill to meet with congressional leaders, Michelle took Malia, 10, to the Sidwell Friends school in northwest Washington, down the street from the National Cathedral where she is in the fifth grade. Sasha, 7, in second grade, is at the lower school campus in Bethesda, Md.

The Obamas are trying to find a balance of guarding the privacy of their girls and realizing the enormous public interest in their kids. Towards that end, the Obama transition website, www, released a photo gallery Monday morning of the girls with their backpacks and the folks.

By Chris Fusco
Chicago Sun-Times Staff Reporter

Firing the first shot in Washington in the fight over Roland Burris' appointment as Illinois' next U.S. senator, Gov. Blagojevich's acting chief of staff hand-delivered Burris' nomination paper to the U.S. Capitol this morning only to see it rejected by the secretary of the senate.

WASHINGTON -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) opened the door Sunday for Roland Burris to be sworn in as a senator from Illinois. "There's always room to negotiate," Reid told David Gregory on NBC's "Meet the Press."

From the soundings I took Sunday, I have a well-informed hunch that if Burris wants to get a deal done quickly, he needs to say he won't run for the seat in 2010.

Obama girls in Washington

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(Obama Transition Office)

WASHINGTON--Saying goodbye to Chicago, President elect Barack Obama landed at Andrews Air Force Base near 7 p.m., flying in a government plane for the first time since the election. "I gotta say I choked up a little bit leaving my house today," Obama told reporters on the aircraft for the historic ride. Obama, usually a careful eater, order a cheeseburger during the flight.

A stretch limo headed Obama off to the Hays Adam hotel, where he will be staying with this family.

WASHINGTON--Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia are here getting ready for the first day of school at Sidwell Friends on Monday. I'm told by a pal whose kids go to Sidwell that the parents were sent word just to be normal. The guidance from Katie McCormick-Lelyveld, Michelle Obama's spokesman is this "There are no public events scheduled for Michelle and the girls this week, but they are in DC getting settled." I'm also told that there may be a photo op tomorrow morning allowing a pool photo of Michelle getting the girls off to class. Still no official announcement yet if Marion Robinson, Michelle's mom, who is moving to Washington, will be living in the White House or someplace else.

In the meantime, President elect Obama wants to focus on Congress and big economic bill; he meets with House and Senate leadership in the afternoon and with his own economic team.

Monday's guidance from the Obama transition:

President-elect Barack Obama will meet with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Capitol Hill on Monday. Vice President-elect Joe Biden will join Obama for a meeting with Democratic and Republican congressional leadership on Capitol Hill on Monday afternoon. Meeting participants will include Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin, Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, House Minority Leader John Boehner, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn and House Minority Whip Eric Cantor. There will be a pooled spray at the top of the bi-partisan meeting.

President-elect Barack Obama will hold a meeting with his top economic advisors on Monday afternoon at his Washington DC transition office. There will be a pooled spray at the end of the meeting. Participants in the meeting will include Melody Barnes, Director-designate, Domestic Policy Council; Carol Browner, Assistant-designate to the President for Energy and Climate Change; Former Senator Tom Daschle, Health and Human Services Secretary-designate and Director-designate, White House Office on Health Reform; Rahm Emanuel, Chief of Staff-designate; Timothy Geithner, Treasury Secretary-designate; Ron Klain, Chief of Staff-designate, Vice President-elect; Peter Orszag, Director-designate, Office of Management and Budget; Christina Romer, Director-designate, Council of Economic Advisors and Lawrence Summers, Director-designate, National Economic Council.

WASHINGTON--The race to replace former Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) is heating up. A special election will be in late February or early March. "Bored Now" over at MyDD put together a good story about the websites of the contenders. There will be a few posts along the way in this condensed election: money raised always is one. Who makes the best web play--and gets the net roots and grass roots going--is another.

WASHINGTON -- Roland Burris, being Roland Burris, put it to me this way Friday when we talked: "We are the senator."

And we, that is he, the former Illinois attorney general, told me that he will try to avoid making a scene when he comes to the Capitol on Tuesday to claim the seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama. Burris is arriving in town Monday night.

"There is no confrontation here, there is no antagonism here," Burris said in a phone interview from Chicago. "And so we are proceeding very diplomatically, and we are proceeding with all concern about not creating any type of circus that will entertain the media."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nv.) hits Gov. Blagojevich following the report of his conversations with him about filing the vacant Obama Senate seat. Reid statement below, followed by Chicago Sun-Times front page Sunday story on the Reid-Blagojevich call.


WASHINGTON, D.C.--Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today in response to reports that Gov. Blagojevich has been leaking and distorting conversations about the process for filling Illinois' vacant Senate seat:

"Gov. Blagojevich appears to be trying to distract attention from his daunting legal problems and damaged credibility by distorting information about private phone calls between himself and other public officials. It is regrettable and reprehensible.

"Gov. Blagojevich's efforts to try to tarnish others while the cloud of suspicion continues to grow over him are shameful, as are his efforts to further betray the public trust and sow seeds of division. As each day passes it becomes increasingly clear that Gov. Blagojevich is not fit to lead, and he should resign.

"I will not allow his corruption charges or his antics to distract me from leading the Senate, to drive a wedge in our party or to obscure the facts."



Chicago Sun-Times

Days before Gov. Blagojevich was charged with trying to sell President-elect Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat to the highest bidder, top Senate Democrat Harry Reid made it clear who he didn't want in the post: Jesse Jackson, Jr., Danny Davis or Emil Jones.

Rather, Reid called Blagojevich to argue he appoint either state Veterans Affairs chief Tammy Duckworth or Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, sources told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Sources say the Senate majority leader pushed against Jackson and Davis -- both Democratic congressmen from Illinois -- and against Jones -- the Illinois Senate president who is the political godfather of President-elect Barack Obama -- because he did not believe the three men were electable. He feared losing the seat to a Republican in a future election.

WASHINGTON -- Roland Burris does not want to be in the face of the senators whose ranks he hopes to join, I am told. Yet Burris, appointed by the scandalized Gov. Blagojevich to replace President-elect Barack Obama, is expected here Monday. Burris' mere presence to try to claim the seat will, of course, be a spectacle.

He won't get into the chamber because the Senate Democratic leadership doesn't want anyone sent by Blagojevich, accused of trying to sell Obama's seat for a plum job or campaign cash.

Here's what I've learned New Years Day:

I think Burris is underestimating how hard the Senate Democratic leaders are resisting his appointment. No one doubts that Burris is eligible to serve. No one is going to challenge Blagojevich's power to make the appointment. But they won't make it easy

WASHINGTON--Here's the latest on a rumor making the rounds: I've heard there are no plans now for scandalized Gov. Blagojevich to accompany Roland Burris, his pick to replace President elect Barack Obama ,to Washington next week to help him claim the Obama seat. Senate Democrats don't want to seat any appointment from Blagojevich, accused of selling the Obama slot for a plum job or campaign contributions.

Burris, Blagojevich, 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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