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Americas

Obama's chief of staff spoke to Blagojevich, says Tribune

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Latest update : 2008-12-14

Barack Obama's White House chief of staff to-be spoke to Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's office about the governor's choice for Obama's seat in the U.S. Senate, according to the Chicago Tribune. There was no suggestion of a deal-making scheme.

REUTERS - President-elect Barack Obama's choice for White House chief of staff spoke to Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's office about who the governor should appoint to replace Obama in the U.S. Senate, the Chicago Tribune reported on Saturday.

 

The talks did not suggest that Rahm Emanuel, currently a Chicago congressman, was involved in an alleged deal-making scheme for the Senate seat that has resulted in federal charges against Blagojevich, a 52-year-old Democrat.

 

The two-term governor and his former chief of staff John Harris are charged with attempting to peddle the Senate position for campaign cash or a lucrative job for the governor, as well as paid corporate board appointments for his wife.

 

The Tribune, citing sources, reported that contact between Obama's staff and the governor's administration about the Senate seat started days before the Nov. 4 election. The governor has sole power to appoint a replacement for Obama.

 

Emanuel called Harris with a list of names "acceptable" to Obama to fill the Senate vacancy, in conversations that were captured on court-approved wiretaps, the newspaper said.

 

Obama has called for Blagojevich's resignation and has ordered an investigation to see what, if any, contacts his staff had before the governor was arrested on Tuesday.

 

Obama officials on Saturday did not respond to requests for comment on the Chicago Tribune report.

 

Blagojevich is also accused of threatening to withhold state assistance to the owners of the Chicago Cubs baseball team, and threatening to rescind millions of dollars in state funds from Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

 

He has remained silent about the charges even as fellow Democrats called for him to resign and state officials took steps to oust him. Through his lawyer he has denied any wrongdoing and said on Friday he would speak "at the appropriate time."

 

The governor has now retained Edward Genson, a prominent Chicago criminal-defense attorney who recently worked for R&B star R. Kelly, helping the singer gain acquittal on child pornography charges, and disgraced media mogul Conrad Black.

 

On Friday, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan went to the state supreme court to try to get Blagojevich temporarily removed from office.

 

Separately, the Illinois House and Senate will meet early next week to take up motions to specifically strip Blagojevich of his ability to appoint Obama's replacement in the Senate, and potentially start impeachment proceedings.

 

"We need good leadership ... if he doesn't step down I believe (the state legislature) should impeach him," Democratic Rep. Jan Schakowsky said on CNN, adding that she would favor a special election for the Senate seat now to give the winning candidate "credibility."

Date created : 2008-12-14

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