Paging Eliot Ness! Will Mr. Ness please pick up the phone?

December 12, 2008

John Kass is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune who’s been writing some fascinating and grimly funny articles about the corrupt politics of Chicago and Illinois; the Blagojevich arrest has opened a gold mine for him. Today’s involves some speculations about Obama advisor and Chicago congressman Rahm Emanuel, Governor Blagojevich, and the man who connects them, State Senator James DeLeo: Man behind curtain is wizard of Rod, Rahm

DeLeo is an extremely powerful politician. You know this because he’s hardly ever quoted in newspaper stories.

Emanuel and DeLeo have a relationship. Emanuel is the congressman from the 5th Congressional District, where DeLeo is the Democratic state central committeeman. What hasn’t been reported on much is that Emanuel has not yet resigned from the House. And if you want to play politics in Jimmy’s sandbox, you need his OK.

DeLeo is also considered by some to be the real governor of Illinois. Blagojevich is the nutty guy who makes the speeches and gets the federal slap. They’re so close that if Jimmy suddenly stopped walking, Rod would chip his teeth on the back of Jimmy’s head.

It’s reasonable to assume that if there’s one fellow Rod would talk to about the Senate seat, it’s Jimmy. And given their relationship, Jimmy could talk to Rahm. I’m not suggesting money was offered. There is nothing illegal about politicians horse-trading to fill seats. Only when such deals are monetized—as the governor is alleged to have done—is it illegal.

I’m just talking about putting political pieces on the board the Chicago Way. A vacant Senate seat and a soon-to-be vacant House seat in Illinois would be a package deal. Consider this mathematical equation: Jimmy/Rod + Jimmy/Rahm = Happy Rod, Jimmy and Rahm. Get it?

Why do I keep hearing the theme to The Untouchables in the back of my mind? Chicken

 

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Let me rephrase that….

December 12, 2008

That’s what I expect President-Elect Barack Obama will soon be saying. Why? Well, first he said he was confident his aides had no negotiations with Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (D-DumbAsDirt) about whom to appoint as a replacement for Obama in the US Senate:

President-elect Barack Obama declared Thursday he was "absolutely certain" his staff members engaged in no dealmaking concerning the filling of his former Senate seat, and he announced an investigation into whether they had contacts with anyone on the subject.

That was yesterday afternoon, and we’ll come back to this in a bit. Meanwhile, I think PEBO’s* "absolute certainty" was shaken after this revelation came out later that same evening:

 

(hat tip: Ed Morrissey)

To summarize, sources within the US Attorney’s investigation into Blago’s corruption say Obama’s top aide and future White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel indeed met several times with Blagojevich over the senatorial succession.

Wait… Didn’t PEBO just say… Oooops… Blushing

Okay…. So, if there was no dickering over price negotiation going on, why did Emanuel need several meetings with Governor Capone Blagojevich to discuss the succession? As Jim Lindgren’s timeline and AJ Strata’s analysis both show, the key recorded conversation was that of November 10th, just six days after the election. Blagojevich makes it clear on the tape that the House of Obama wasn’t willing to give him anything more than "appreciation" for naming Obama’s preferred candidate to the vacant Senate seat. Surely Emanuel, as Obama’s top aide, knew about the demands. Why would he need more than one meeting to tell Blagojevich to take a flying leap?

It’s possible, as has been rumored, that Emanuel was cooperating with the Federal investigation. In that case, why not just come out and say so, instead of, as Ed points out, ducking reporters’ questions. (Though said avoidance is a habit with PEBO and his team.) The idea that Emanuel or someone else on the Obama team was cooperating with the investigation just isn’t believable to me; it doesn’t fit with their post-arrest behavior. It is also less than believable that, if Emanuel knew of Blagojevich’s schemes, Obama didn’t.

So, coming back to President-Elect Obama, there’s still nothing that ties him to Blago’s corrupt schemes. Indeed, Blago’s own words exonerate Team Obama from any attempt to buy the Senate seat. But that begs the question: why all the clumsy lies and evasions? Why not just come out and say "The Governor tried to involve us in a corrupt scheme, and we told him to go to the Devil"?

Unless, of course, the remainder of the 300 hours on those tapes (or what Blagojevich or Tony Rezko might reveal) contain information that would at least be highly embarrassing to the new administration. We still don’t know who many of the people are who are hidden behind pseudonyms such as "Advisor B."

We’ll see. It eventually will all come out, as the names will have to be revealed in discovery at Blagojevich’s trial — if it goes that far.

Meanwhile, I have to ask: Has there ever been an administration that came under a "cloud of scandal" before it even took office??  Doh

PS: "PEBO" is short for "President-Elect Barack Obama." Coined by Sister Toldjah, I couldn’t resist stealing it. Big Grin

LINKS: Ed Morrissey.