Obama’s team deflected requests for any correspondence between the two, saying the president-elect wasn’t subject to federal disclosure laws.
Even if he were, an Obama spokeswoman explained, “I don’t even know if there’s any correspondence to be had.”
Now it turns out there at least two such pieces of correspondence to be had – even though neither dealt with the controversy linking Obama and Blagojevich, the governor’s attempt to sell Obama’s Senate seat.
The conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch disclosed the letters Monday, saying it had obtained the documents from Blagojevich’s office, which was compelled to release them under Illinois law.
Team Obama cried foul – saying the letters were merely routine communications and had nothing to do with the criminal investigation, and therefore didn’t deviate from their “no contact” claim.
"These are form letters that went to dozens - if not hundreds — of recipients, and clearly aren't contacts about the Senate vacancy," transition spokesman Tommy Vietor said in an emailed statement.
The letters don’t necessarily contradict Obama’s own blanket assertion that he “had no contact with the governor's office. I did not speak to the governor about” the Senate seat.
But they provide interesting context behind the administration-in-waiting’s necessary dealings with outsiders – even those who later find themselves facing federal charges.
In one – a Dec. 3 letter from Obama to Blagojevich – Obama begins “Dear Rod,” and thanks his former political ally for meeting with him the day before during the National Governors Association meeting in Philadelphia.
The meeting was likely their last before Blagojevich’s Dec. 9 arrest on an array of sensational public corruption allegations, and the men were photographed shaking hands at the event.
The other letter was sent by Obama’s three transition team co-chairs – Valerie Jarrett, John Podesta and Pete Rouse – two weeks after Obama’s historic victory in the presidential election, listing contact information for officials handling intergovernmental affairs. Jarrett is the “Senate Candidate 1” in the U.S. attorney complaint against Blagojevich but is accused of no wrongdoing.
It also thanks the governor “for all your efforts on behalf of our nation and for your commitment to working together on the transition and in the new Administration.”