Here is everything U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said at his news conference Tuesday about any possible involvement Barack Obama might have had with the alleged attempt of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich to sell Obama’s newly vacant Senate seat to the highest bidder:
I should make clear, the complaint makes no allegations about the president-elect whatsoever, his conduct. This part of the scheme lost steam when the person that the governor thought was the president- elect’s choice of senator took herself out of the running. But after the deal never happened, this is the governor’s reaction, quote, “They’re not willing to give me anything but appreciation. Bleep them,” close quote. And again, the bleep is a redaction….
But we ask that the press, in particular, recognize that we’re not casting aspersions on people other than the two people we charged, and bear that in mind and be responsible….
Okay. I’m not going to speak for what the president-elect was aware of. We make no allegations that he’s aware of anything, and that’s as simply as I can put it….
So I simply pointed out that if you look at the complaint, there’s no allegation that the president-elect—there’s no reference in the complaint to any conversations involving the president-elect or indicating that the president-elect was aware of it. And that’s all I can say….
[Q: Sir, just to be crystal-clear on this point, you’re not aware of any conversation, then, that took place between the governor and any member of Barack Obama’s transition team at all?]
And what I simply said is you can read the complaint. I’m not going to sit here with a seventy-six-page complaint and parse through it. You know, that’s all we’re alleging. And I’m just—I’m not going to start going down and saying, “Did anyone ever talk to anyone?” You can read what we allege in the complaint. It’s pretty detailed. Look in the seventy-six pages, and if you don’t see it, it’s not there.
Once upon a time, a blanket statement like that would have led reporters to say in their stories, “The U.S. Attorney said there was no evidence that Obama was involved in any way with the governor’s effort.” And then moved on from there.
Sinners: Mike McIntire and Jeff Zeleny of The New York Times, for a truly exotic story about how Obama was somehow besmirched by a role in all this. Last September, at the height of the presidential campaign, Obama successfully lobbied his political mentor, the president of the Illinois State Senate, to override the governor’s veto of an ethics reform bill. Per McIntire and Zeleny: “After the call from Mr. Obama, the Senate overrode the veto, prompting the governor to press state contractors for campaign contributions before the law’s restrictions could take effect on Jan. 1, prosecutors say.”
Sounds like Obama couldn’t be cleaner on this issue, right? But according to the Times, there’s a dark side to all of this:
Mr. Obama’s unusual decision to inject himself into a statewide issue during the height of his presidential campaign was a reminder that despite his historic ascendancy to the White House, he has never quite escaped the murky and insular world of Illinois politics. It is a world he has long navigated, to the consternation of his critics, by engaging in a kind of realpolitik, Chicago-style, which allowed him to draw strength from his relationships with important players without becoming compromised by their many weaknesses.