Incoming White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel pushed Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to appoint longtime Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett to fill Barack Obama’s Senate seat, and even gave Blagojevich’s staff a deadline by which an appointment was expected, according to a report in today’s Chicago Sun-Times.
Citing sources “with the Obama camp,” the Sun-Times report says Emanuel began to push for Jarrett to fill Obama’s seat “just days” after the Nov. 4 election.
That story also cites a source close to Emanuel admitting it is “possible” Emanuel discussed the appointment with Blagojevich chief of staff John Harris, and that a specific date for the appointment was given.
The Sun-Times’ revelations suggest that Emanuel was more deeply involved in discussions with Blagojevich and his staff than previously reported, and was more assertive in promoting a specific candidate.
Those conversations could have contributed to Blagojevich’s apparent belief that the Senate appointment held great political value.
“I’ve got this thing and it’s f**king golden,” Blagojevich told one of his advisers, according to the federal-wiretap transcripts. “I’m not just giving it up for f**king nothing.”
On Monday, Obama said that an internal review showed that his aides “did nothing inappropriate” concerning the search for his Senate replacement, but added that at the request of U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald details of the review will not be released until next week.
Blagojevich and Harris were arrested Dec. 9 after Fitzgerald released a 76-page criminal complaint alleging they conspired to sell Obama’s vacant Senate seat, and pressured the Chicago Tribune to fire editorial writers who had been critical of Blagojevich.
Shortly after the complaint was released, speculation began regarding the possible involvement of Emanuel, who filled the Fifth District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives that Blagojevich vacated in 2002 when he decided to run for governor.
Although Obama has generally avoided commenting on the investigation, sources close to Emanuel appear to be preparing the media for further revelations. The Chicago Tribune has cited sources who say Emanuel called Harris’ cell phone on Nov. 1, and presented a list of Senate replacements acceptable to Obama. Jarrett’s name was reportedly on that list.
Jarrett initially expressed an interest in serving in the Senate, but withdrew her name after accepting a position as a White House senior adviser.
According to the Tribune, Emanuel subsequently spoke with Harris and added another name to the Obama-approved list: Lisa Madigan, the Democratic state attorney general who has taken the lead in trying to push Blagojevich from office since his arrest.
Fitzgerald’s criminal complaint states that many conversations recorded by the listening devices have not yet been made public. There have been many reports that conversations involving Emanuel were recorded.
MyFoxChicago.com reporter Craig Wall, for example, has cited “a reliable source familiar with the investigation” that Emanuel and Blagojevich had direct discussions about the Senate seat, and that those conversations may have been caught on federal wiretaps.
At one point, according to the wiretap transcripts, Blagojevich issues a profanity-laced tirade because he states the Obama administration is refusing to give him anything other than its “appreciation” in return for the Senate appointment.
On Wednesday, Obama senior adviser David Axelrod offered a staunch defense of Emanuel on MSNBC.
“I’ve known Rahm ... for a very long time. I've worked with him closely. He is someone who I think has enormous integrity and unparalleled skill. And I think we're lucky to have him.
"I have no concerns about Rahm. He is an enormous asset to us and will be an enormous asset to the country, as he has been in the Congress," Axelrod said.
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