Will Blagojevich Taint Obama?
In the wake of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s arrest, many in the conservative community are hoping for a scandal that reaches all the way to Obama. The Bush Administration Justice Department is “all over this,” says one GOP source.
The view from within the Bush Administration is that “this is bigger than the news media has yet picked up on,” he says. One conjecture is that they expect that the phone records will show that Blagojevich talked to Obama, and perhaps to Axelrod and others.
Of course, that’s not necessarily nefarious. Any contact could have been entirely benign. After all, Blagojevich apparently called Obama a “motherf****” for not playing along with his schemes. But the potential problem for Obama is that he’s already gone on record as saying: “I had no contact with the governor or his office.”
“You can be sure that this will be pursued,” says the GOP source. If the phone records (or other evidence) show communications between the now-disgraced governor and the President-Elect, Obama “has got himself a potential scandal. The conservative community is already all over this like ticks on a hound.”
UPDATE FROM BUSINESSWEEK WRITER THEO FRANCIS:
At a press conference this afternoon on another topic, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, told reporters that he and Obama both had chilly relations, at best, with Blagojevich.
When Durbin called Blagojevich’s office around Election Day this year, to discuss potential successors for Obama’s seat, the governor didn’t call back for 12 days, Durbin said. Blagojevich never returned a call Durbin made to congratulate him on his initial gubernatorial election victory.
“We certainly don’t enjoy a close relationship,” Durbin said.
The senator said he last spoke with Blagojevich two weeks ago, and that his interaction with the Illinois governor’s office was “extremely limited.” He added that he would say the same of Obama’s ties to Blagojevich.
In his own press conference, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald — who also prosecuted Scooter Libby in the Plame affair — took pains to note that his office says nothing about Obama or his team, according to press accounts. Then again, neither did he absolve the president-elect.
“The complaint makes no allegation whatsoever about the president-elect,” The Wall Street Journal quotes Fitzgerald as saying.
“I’m not going to speak for what the president- elect was aware of. We make no allegations that he’s aware of anything. And that’s as simply as I can put it,” Fitzgerald said, according to a transcript of his briefing at The New York Times.