And as it turned out, from her days in Chicago, Jarrett already “hated Jesse Jackson,” a source close to Sharpton tells me. “Obama needed a legitimate black voice from the civil-rights community,” the source adds. “Jesse had made disparaging comments about Obama, [so] Jesse got sidelined. Sharpton is the next person in line.”

Brian Mathis, a media-shy New York financier who had attended law school with Obama and raised money for his campaign, helped open communications between Jarrett and the reverend, sources close to Sharpton say. Around December 2007, they say, Jarrett met with Sharpton to talk politics in New York; some place the meeting at the exclusive Grand Havana Room cigar club on the 39th floor of a Fifth Avenue skyscraper.

Sharpton disputes their account, telling NRO it is “unequivocally untrue” that Jarrett courted him for the Obama campaign. “I had already had a developing dialogue with [Obama], and he even spoke at [National Action Network’s] 2007 convention in April,” Sharpton tells me. He adds: “I’ve known Ms. Jarrett as introduced to me by the president. . . . I don’t remember ever meeting her in the Grand Havana Room. Does she smoke cigars?”

Regardless of the venue, sources close to Sharpton say that in late 2007 or early 2008, Jarrett negotiated a simple deal with the reverend: Sharpton would discreetly support Obama for president, working mostly behind the scenes; he wouldn’t publicly criticize Obama, but he also wouldn’t back him in a way that aroused attention.