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Illinois Scandal Taints Obama Halo

The investigation into Governor Rod Blagojevich's selling Obama's Senate seat could involve the president-elect's closest aides.

by
Clarice Feldman

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December 10, 2008 - 10:26 am
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Today’s papers carry reports of the arrest of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and his aide, along with reports that FBI agents were shocked at the crude talk on the wiretaps of his conversations in which he demanded that everyone who wanted something from him had to pay for the privilege.

We can anticipate that the criminal charges that have been filed (reprinted here ) will be hard fought.

The first question on most peoples’ minds has to be is the new president-elect involved and will he be drawn into this? It’s been known for a long time that Obama has had strong ties to Rezko (see, i.e.,) who is revealed yet again in these tapes as the governor’s bagman. If you wanted anything done in Chicago, it appears that you had to do it through payoffs for the governor to Rezko.

In his press conference, prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald denied that there was anything in the criminal complaint linking Obama to the events, but Jim Lindgren at the Volokh Conspiracy finds a rather well-defined trail of crumbs back to the president-elect .

From the evening of Nov. 10 until yesterday, Blagojevich, Obama, and his transition team acted in ways that are consistent with a knowledge of Blagojevich’s bribery attempt and a rejection of that attempt. What doesn’t fit easily with the timeline is Obama’s statement yesterday.

It should be noted that it is not a crime to fail to report a bribery attempt. The federal misprision of felony statute would seem to make it a federal crime to fail to report a federal felony:

Whoever, having knowledge of the actual commission of a felony cognizable by a court of the United States, conceals and does not as soon as possible make known the same to some judge or other person in civil or military authority under the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both. 18 USC s.4.

But case law has conclusively determined that mere non-reporting is not enough. Active concealment or the acceptance of a benefit for concealing is required.

Yet, looking at this timeline of Blagogate, it seems quite possible that someone in the Obama Camp is either lying or at least not revealing what they know. I also find it hard to believe that Obama’s closest advisors were hiding major corruption from him, especially as he was making decisions about where to place Senate candidates such as Jarrett.

We’ve all been through this drill before; countless aides and advisers hauled before the grand jury under suspicion of process crimes — that is, not disclosing the truth of the events. Lindgren notes:  “Since by all accounts, the Obama camp refused Blagojevich’s bribery attempt, it would be extremely unwise to lie about it. Remember, it’s not the crime that trips you up; it’s the cover-up.”

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