An internal review prepared for President-elect Barack Obama says his incoming chief of staff had multiple conversations with Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's office, but no one close to Obama suspected that the governor might be trying to sell Obama's Senate seat as prosecutors allege.
The report was released Tuesday as an Obama transition official confirmed that Obama and two of his top aides, Rahm Emanuel and Valerie Jarrett, have been interviewed in connection with the federal investigation of Blagojevich.
The report states: "Mr. Emanuel and the Governor did not discuss a cabinet position, 501c(4), a private sector position for the Governor or any other personal benefit for the Governor."
The Obama report says that in the days after the election, Emanuel suggested Valerie Jarrett to the governor as a possible candidate for the Senate seat, but Obama later told Emanuel not to put forward any one candidate, but to provide Blagojevich's office with a list of names of multiple candidates to be considered. The next week, Jarrett accepted a post on Obama's staff.
Incoming White House attorney Greg Craig conducted the internal review at Obama's request. He found that the president-elect had no contact with Blagojevich or any of his staff about the Senate seat Obama vacated to take over the presidency.
On a call following the release of the report, Craig said his inquiry extended before Election Day. When asked if reports that Emanuel had tipped off the U.S. Attorney's office about possible misdoings in Blago's office, Craig said he had no evidence of that and did not believe it was true.
The report shows that Jarrett was aware that Blagojevich was interested in a position in Obama's cabinet, according to a conversation she had with Tom Balanoff, an Illinois union leader. Balanoff isn't on Blagojevich's staff, but did tell Jarrett that the governor was interested in being appointed to head the Department of Health and Human Services.
Craig told reporters that Jarrett thought the idea of Blagojevich getting a cabinet appointment while he was under investigation was ridiculous.