Probe will clear Obama team of Senate seat bribe, says Biden

A report into an alleged bid to sell off the Senate seat of Barack Obama will prove there was "no inappropriate contact" between the US President-elect's team and accused Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.


AFP - Barack Obama will Tuesday try to shrug off the distraction of an alleged bid to sell off his Senate seat by releasing a report clearing his aides of improper dealings with the accused Illinois governor.

Vice president-elect Joseph Biden said the internal transition team probe would show no wrongdoing by president-elect Obama or his staff.

"It is clear the president-elect has had no contact with (Rod) Blagojevich ... that there was no inappropriate contact by any member of the Obama staff or the transition team with Blagojevich," Biden told reporters in Washington.

"And I think the report you will see will reflect that," Biden said after meeting Obama's top economic advisers.

Obama was not expected to make any public statement on the report as he is on vacation in Hawaii, where he was snapped shirtless by a paparazzi photographer, despite a tight Secret Service cordon.

The scandal, an unwelcome distraction for Obama as he prepares to take office on January 20, meanwhile showed little sign of fading from the headlines as prospects of hastily removing Blagojevich from office dimmed.

Federal prosecutors asked legislators investigating whether there were sufficient grounds to impeach Blagojevich not to dig into the criminal charges laid against the Democratic governor, in a letter released Tuesday.

US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald warned the panel it could "significantly compromise the ongoing criminal investigation" if they investigate the allegations outlined in a 76-page FBI affidavit.

Fitzgerald declined to release evidence such as the identities of unnamed witnesses. He also asked the committee to limit their inquiry to allegations of wrongdoing not included in the criminal charges such as fraudulent hiring and firing of state workers.

A battle is also being fought over whether a special election should be called to fill the seat Obama won in 2004 and relinquished after winning the November 4 presidential election.

The president-elect said last week that the review, delayed a week at the request of Fitzgerald, would show no-one from his staff had "inappropriate" dealings with Blagojevich.

The probe will reportedly personally clear Obama's incoming White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and other named staff members of inappropriately trying to influence the governor over his choice of Obama's Senate successor.

Blagojevich last week vowed to fight to clear his name and brushed aside calls for him to resign over a scandal that has focused attention on the bearpit politics of Illinois where Obama made his name.

"I am not going to quit a job the people hired me to do because of false accusations and a political lynch mob," Blagojevich said.

Federal prosecutors accuse the Democratic governor of engaging in "a political corruption crime spree" they say was exposed by wiretaps of the governor's home phone and bugs at his campaign office.

In details of tapes released by prosecutors, Blagojevich discussed ways he could swap an appointment to Obama's former Senate seat for a cabinet post, ambassadorship or high-paying job for himself or his wife.

Blagojevich's lawyers have dismissed partial transcripts in which the governor allegedly said the appointment was "golden" and "I'm just not giving it up for (expletive) nothing" as "jabbering" that didn't go anywhere.

With the scandal swirling, Blagojevich's lawyers have indicated that the governor does not intend to exercise his right to name Obama's successor.

The 76-page FBI affidavit accuses the governor of a staggering pattern of corruption, including refusing to free up funds for a children's hospital until he received a 50,000-dollar campaign contribution and trying to get editors who were critical of his administration fired from the Chicago Tribune.

Obama and his team have not been accused of any wrongdoing and transcripts of FBI wiretaps showed Obama's staff were offering nothing more than "appreciation" to Blagojevich -- much to the foul-mouthed frustration of the governor, who wanted a cabinet post at the very least.

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