Obama says staff cleared

The Baltimore Sun


President-elect Barack Obama said yesterday that an investigation by his office has found that his staff had no inappropriate conversations with Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich over who would succeed Obama in the Senate.

But Obama said the review of his staff's contacts would not be made public until next week at the request of federal prosecutors, who are investigating Blagojevich for allegedly putting Obama's vacated Senate seat up for sale.

"I had no contact with the governor's office, and I had no contact with anybody in the governor's office," Obama said at a news conference called to introduce his energy and environment team. He said the internal review showed that the Blagojevich scandal "had nothing to do with my office."

Obama's comments came as Illinois state lawmakers moved toward impeaching Blagojevich. The Illinois House voted, 113-0, to create an investigations committee to consider allegations that the governor, a Democrat, had abused his office.

In addition to allegedly trying to enrich himself through his power to name Obama's successor, Blagojevich is accused in a criminal complaint of scheming to exchange state favors for campaign funds.

Ignoring a chorus of calls for his resignation, Blagojevich reported to work yesterday and signed a bill giving tax credits to filmmakers who do work in Illinois.

The scandal has become a distraction for Obama in what had been a smooth transition. The Chicago Tribune reported last week that incoming White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel had conversations with Blagojevich's administration about Obama's successor. The newspaper's sources did not suggest that Emanuel was involved in any discussions of deal making.

Obama's transition office released a statement yesterday saying that the internal review had "affirmed" Obama's public statements that he had not talked directly with Blagojevich or his office and that Obama's staff "was not involved in inappropriate discussions with the governor or his staff."

Obama has promised to release the review, but he said at yesterday's news conference that it would not be made public until next week at the request of U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who is leading the Blagojevich investigation.

In an unusual move late in the day, Fitzgerald released a statement backing up Obama's account that a delay had been requested.

Copyright © 2021, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad