The attempt by President-elect Barack Obama to distance himself from the scandal erupting in Illinois took a big hit last night with this exclusive report from Chicago’s Fox affiliate. Sources within the investigation say that Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s chief of staff, spoke with Governor Rod Blagojevich on “multiple occasions” about the Senate succession that Blagojevich had wanted to sell to the highest bidder — and that Emanuel will likely be on the FBI wiretaps:
On the surface, this makes sense. The notion that Obama and his team had nothing to say about the Senate appointment and had no contact whatsoever with Blagojevich was ridiculous. Emanuel, with his ties to Illinois politics and his status as Obama’s right-hand man, would make the most likely candidate to handle those negotiations.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that Emanuel knew about Blagojevich’s efforts to extort payment for the selection, but it puts a damper on the idea that Emanuel tipped off the feds, too. It wouldn’t take “multiple” meetings for Emanuel to decide to squeal. If Emanuel continued meeting with Blagojevich, that indicates some kind of negotiating was happening, and that would strongly suggest that Emanuel was working on Blagojevich’s terms.
It’s still possible that Emanuel was working with the feds, but why stay silent about it now? They’ve already arrested Blagojevich. Emanuel could now say, “I helped Patrick Fitzgerald when I saw something wrong and worked with them to get him to make explicit statements,” rather than spend this week ducking reporters. The “sources within the investigation” would hardly want to make a cooperating witness look bad, either. Emanuel has been acting like someone advised him to keep quiet to keep from making incriminating public statements, and this may be the reason why.