Judicial Watch claims today that they have documented proof that Barack Obama lied when he said he had no contacts with Rod Blagojevich. The letter they gained from a Freedom of Information query certainly does show that Obama acknowledged meeting with Blagojevich, but it falls far short of indicating any sort of discussion on replacing Obama in the Senate:
Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it has obtained documents from the office of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich through the Freedom of Information Act related to Blagojevich’s contacts with President-elect Obama and his transition team. The documents include a December 3, 2008, letter from Barack Obama following his December 2, 2008, meeting with Blagojevich as well as a November 17, 2008, letter signed by Presidential Transition Team co-chairs Valerie Jarrett and John Podesta providing Blagojevich with a list of transition team contacts.
The following are excerpts from the letter signed by President-elect Obama on December 3, 2008, less than one week before authorities arrested Blagojevich for attempting to “sell” Obama’s now-vacant Senate seat, among other corruption charges …
“These documents tend to undermine Obama’s claims that he had no contact with Blagojevich and suggest his transition is hiding documents about such contacts,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Why did President-elect Obama not release this letter? What else is he hiding?”
You can read the letter here. It acknowledges a discussion between Blagojevich, Obama, and Joe Biden, but the full context of the letter suggests that the conversation involved economic policy and not Obama’s Senate seat. In fact, the letter appears to be nothing more than a pro-forma, polite acknowledgment of a meeting, and has no real inculpatory value. Allahpundit e-mails me to say he’s 99.9% sure that the meeting referenced was at the governors conference in Philadelphia — and that Sarah Palin probably got the same letter as Blagojevich.
Barack Obama did say that he had “no contact” with Blagojevich, and the letter obviously negates that in a literal sense. However, the context for “no contact” was in regards to specific discussions about replacing Obama in the Senate, not “no contact” ever, at least between Obama himself and Blagojevich. Jake Tapper had a better argument a month ago when he pointed out David Axelrod’s statement in November which asserted a close relationship specific to that issue between Obama and Blagojevich.
Fitton does have a good point, though, in asking why Obama and his transition team didn’t bother to release the letter when they issued their report exonerating themselves from Blagojevich’s taint. That’s more to the point of competence than evasion, though. Why not release this with the report? Why have it sitting in the files waiting for a FOIA request to unearth it? They’re either acting like they have something to hide, or demonstrating a large degree of incompetence at handling crises.