Obama’s team OK's contacts with Gov. Blagojevich, asked not to share specifics

Jake Turcotte

President-elect Barack Obama’s team has studied the transition staff’s contacts with Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and found nothing improper. But at the request of US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, the transition office will not share specifics of its inquiry with the public for another week.

The downside of keeping mum

The result is sure to be continuing press questions about who on the Obama team talked to Blagojevich and what was said. Last week the Governor was arrested on federal fraud and bribery charges. A key allegation is that Blagojevich sought profit from his ability to fill the US Senate seat Obama had held.

Obama Transition Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer released a statement in advance of the President-elect’s Monday afternoon press conference saying, “A review of Transition staff contacts with Governor Blagojevich and his office has been conducted and completed and is ready for release. That review affirmed the public statements of the President-elect that he had no contact with the governor or his staff, and that the President-elect's staff was not involved in inappropriate discussions with the governor or his staff over the selection of his successor as US Senator.”

Spokesman Pfeiffer noted that, at Mr. Obama’s direction, the counsel to the transition, Gregory Craig, “kept the US Attorney's office informed of this fact-gathering process in order to ensure our full cooperation with the investigation.”

The feds say keep quiet

The decision not to release details of the Obama team’s review was made at the request of the US Attorney’s office, Pfeiffer said. "The US Attorney's office requested the public release of the Transition review be deferred until the week of December 22, in order not to impede their investigation of the governor. The Transition has agreed to this revised timetable for release.”

As President-elect Obama fills out the rest of his cabinet, the questions surrounding staff contacts with Blagojevich are an unwelcome distraction. No wrongdoing by the President-elect or his staff has been charged. In fact, Blagojevich is heard to complain on a court approved wiretap that all the Obama team would offer was “appreciation” for filling the Senate vacancy with someone they liked.

Action by Illinois lawmakers

Meanwhile, the Reuters news agency reported that Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan has appointed a committee to assemble grounds for an impeachment trial for Blagojevich.

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