What did Obama know ... and when did he know it?
Unanswered questions alarm anti-corruption investigators
Posted: December 09, 2008
8:56 pm Eastern
By Bob Unruh
© 2008 WorldNetDaily
The corruption arrest of Gov. Rod Blagojevich is raising questions about what Sen. Barack Obama knew of the Illinois Democrat's alleged activities, including his apparent offer to appoint Obama's preferred candidate to serve in the U.S. Senate in return for "private sector" help from Obama.
"This is a burgeoning crisis for Obama that should shake his presidency to its core," said Tom Fitton, chief of the Judicial Watch organization today.
"The criminal complaint filed today indicates that Obama and his team knew about Blagojevich's efforts to sell Obama's Senate seat," he said.
"Did Obama report Blagojevich to investigators about any efforts to sell his Senate seat?" Fitton asked.
ABC's Jake Tapper also expressed concern over the same issue.
On his blog, he wrote that while appearances seem to indicate Obama "refused to go along with the 'pay to play'" Blagojevich plan, there were significant questions.
For example, he wondered "how Blagojevich knew that Mr. Obama was not willing to give him anything in exchange for the Senate seat – with whom was Blagojevich speaking? Did that person report the governor to the authorities?"
Judicial Watch said it has been investigating Blagojevich for more than two years and has an ongoing open records litigation concerning "the sale of government jobs for which he was arrested today."
"Blagojevich has stonewalled and refused to turn over documents to Judicial Watch that could have alerted the American people to his corruption," Fitton said.
"There has been an air of lawlessness around Gov. Blagojevich for some time and Judicial Watch applauds U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald for his actions," Fitton said. "Blagojevich's corruption is no surprise, but its breadth and depravity is shocking. The alleged efforts to sell the Senate seat of Barack Obama are outrageous, but also seem to implicate many other powerful politicians and political players. Especially disturbing are the questions the scandal raises about Barack Obama and his close associates."
The case outlined by prosecutors today targeted Blagojevich and his chief of staff, with prosecutors stating several times their work contained no allegations against Obama.
The case did, however, mention Tony Rezko, a longtime Obama friend, fundraiser and real estate partner, Judicial Watch noted.
Obama told reporters, "I had no contact with the governor or his office, so I was not aware of what was happening," clearly distancing himself from his home state and its governor, whom he previously had endorsed for re-election.
"I am saddened and sobered by the news that came out of the U.S. attorney's office today. But as this is an ongoing investigation involving the governor I don't think it would be appropriate for me to comment at this time," he said.
But Tapper noted Obama's senior adviser, David Axelrod, appeared "said something quite different" in an interview Nov. 23 with Chicago's Fox affiliate.
"While insisting that the president-elect had not expressed a favorite to replace him, and his inclination was to avoid being a 'kingmaker,'" Axelrod said, "I know he's talked to the governor and there are a whole range of names many of which have surfaced, and I think he has a fondness for a lot of them."
Campaign officials today said Axelrod mispoke but offered no further information.
Prosecutors alleged Blagojevich repeatedly tried to negotiate personal benefits for his official duties, including the provision in Illinois that he as governor would appoint a successor for Obama's now-vacated U.S. Senate seat.
The complaint alleged the governor sought information on what he could get from Obama in return for appointing Obama's selection to the post.
According to recordings made during the investigation, Blagojevich said, "Can [Obama] help in the private sector … where it wouldn't be tied to him? … I mean, so it wouldn't necessarily look like one for the other?"
Prosecutors said the governor was given a negative response about getting something in return and then called Obama an obscenity.
Blagojevich called the Senate appointment responsibility "golden."
"Unless I get something real good … I'll just send myself," he said at one point.
Tapper also cited the previous links between Obama and Blagojevich: Obama endorsed Blagojevich in 2002 and 2006 and served as his adviser during 2002.
It's just the latest controversy to surround Obama's campaign and election victory Nov. 4. There still are legal challenges pending before the U.S. Supreme Court that claim he is not eligible to be president because he fails to meet the Constitution's requirement that only "natural-born" citizens be president.
Even as the court this week was rejecting one case, Donofrio v. Wells, another case was being scheduled for conference Friday.
The new case, Cort Wrotnowski v. Susan Bysiewicz, Connecticut secretary of state, also makes a dual citizenship argument. The case had been rejected by Justice Ruth Ginsburg Nov. 26 but then was resubmitted to Justice Antonin Scalia. There was no word of its fate for about 10 days, then the court's website confirmed it has been distributed for Friday's conference, a meeting at which the justices consider whether to take cases.
Blagojevich returned the endorsement of Obama in 2004.
Besides questions about his birth certificate, Obama also has faced questions about his links to Rezko, now convicted and jailed, as well as unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers. Other questions have been raised about discussions with foreign governments on U.S. policy as a candidate, his pro-abortion stance that has gone beyond even what the National Abortion Rights Action League sought and his gun-control advocacy.