Withdrawing Jarrett’s Candidacy as an F-U to Blagojevich

The WSJ notices something I pointed out Tuesday. There was a two-hour meeting on November 10 at which Blago’s team tried to concoct a way to get Obama’s team to give something of value in exchange for Valerie Jarrett’s appointment to replace Obama as Senator. Here’s my version:

Then, on November 10, Blago appeared to have gotten his first rebuff from the Obama team. On that day, Blago and his aides (and his wife), including Advisor B, had a two hour conference call with advisors in DC, brainstorming ways they could "monetize" the Senate seat. At one point, Blago said that he would appoint Jarrett,"but if they feel like they can do this and not fucking give me anything . . . then I’ll fucking go [Senate Candidate 5].” At that point, Blago’s already incensed at Obama, saying, "“motherfucker [Obama] his senator. Fuck him. For nothing? Fuck him.” […] By November 11, […] Blago said, “they’re not willing to give me anything except appreciation. Fuck them," it seems Obama has clearly already rebuffed Blago’s efforts.  And by the 12th, public reports had Jarrett announcing she didn’t want the seat.

The WSJ corrects my version, though, in one respect: it points out that CNN reported the night of the 10th that Jarrett withdrew her candidacy. Here’s CNN:

Two Democratic sources close to President-elect Barack Obama tell CNN that top adviser Valerie Jarrett will not be appointed to replace him in the U.S. Senate.

"While he (Obama) thinks she would be a good senator, he wants her in the White House," one top Obama advisor told CNN Monday.

But I think the WSJ asks the wrong question about the coincidence of these events. It asks,

But the big question today is this: Were any members of his transition team among the "Washington advisers" on the line during this marathon conference call, or did one of the participants fill them in about these wild ideas?


At a bare minimum, the timing of Team Obama’s decision to remove Ms. Jarrett’s name from contention, or at least to remove her name from the public speculation about the post, seems extraordinarily lucky. It came on the very same day the FBI secretly recorded Mr. Blagojevich telling a huge conference call loaded with politicos, in Illinois and Washington, that he wasn’t about to give the Senate spot away for nothing.

That is, the WSJ is in a tizzy wondering whether Blago ever contacted Obama’s team about its grand dreams for trading on that seat. 

But the WSJ ignores the key detail from the next day–a detal that, I pointed out, makes it clear that Obama’s team had been contacted and then rebuffed Blago’s efforts.  On the 11th, after all, Blago said, “they’re not willing to give me anything except appreciation. Fuck them." That makes it clear, I think, that Blago did approach Obama’s team. And Obama’s team said no. Jarrett’s withdrawal was simply the public expression of what someone in Obama’s team had privately already said to Blago: Fuck you.

Which is why, presumably, Obama could assert with such confidence today that, "no representatives of mine would have any part of any deals related to this seat."

Let me say that I was as appalled and disappointed as anybody by the revelations earlier this week. I have never spoken to the governor on this subject. I am confident that no representatives of mine would have any part of any deals related to this seat. I think the materials released by the US Attorney reflect that fact. I’ve asked my team to gather the facts of any contacts with the governor’s office about this vacancy so that we can share them with you over the next few days. 


What I want to do is gather the facts about any staff contacts that may have taken place, between the transition office and the governor’s office, and we’ll have those in the next few days and we’ll present them. But what I’m absolutely certain about is that our office had no involvement in any deal making around my senate seat. That, I’m absolutely certain of. 


Q: Have you or anyone in your transition or campaign been interviewed as it relates to the criminal complaint? And who is the transition advisor referenced in the complaint?

Obama: I have not been contacted by any federal officials. And we have not been interviewed by them. As is reflected in the US Attorney’s report, we were not, um, I think, perceived by the governor’s office as amenable to any deal-making.


Beyond that, I’m not really certain where the investigation is going forward. I’ll leave Mr. Fitzgerald to address those issues.

Obama is later asked why he believes that Blago believed Obama’s team wouldn’t play; Obama dodges the issue, saying he wouldn’t presume to imagine what Blago was thinking. 

Obama does several things with his comments here.

  • He does not deny that someone(s) from his transition team spoke to Blago’s team–he says simply that the press will get details about who spoke to whom and when in the next few days
  • He emphasizes that the complaint makes it clear that no one from Obama’s team was willing to deal with Blago–which suggests it is quite fair to assume someone told Blago to fuck off on November 10 or thereabouts
  • He parses carefully about contacts with Fitz’ office: he, Obama, has not had any contact with the office, and no one has been interviewed; but he does not deny that someone from the transition team has had contact with Fitz’ office
  • He refuses to say whether anyone shortly will be interviewed by Fitz’ office

All of which suggests, I think, that there someone did have contact with Blago’s team, that person told Blago to fuck off (and given the strong possibility that this person was Rahm, probably literally said just that). And that whoever that person is has already had contact with Fitz’ office about the incident.

So the question the WSJ should be asking is not whether Obama’s team talked to Blago or what they said–that’s all pretty clear. The question should be, did Obama’s team talk to Fitz about it before or after Tuesday morning?

In either case, it’s crystal clear they refused to play Blago’s game. But did they tell Fitz of Blago’s games before Tuesday?

29 replies
  1. sojourner says:

    It is certainly an interesting question! The way it is all unfolding fascinates me…

    Regardless of the answer, I think that Fitz and the new administration have just sent out a very powerful message: The U S government is NOT for sale. This message should get the attention of those who would attempt to buy it that there will be repercussions (unless, in the case of some politicos who are a little slow, they just don’t understand). There is a new day dawning…

  2. choochmac says:

    You were asking about a link to JJSr lawyering up. Here is one from local Chicago media:

    “Also, the congressman’s father, Jesse Jackson Sr., has retained legal council following the Blagojevich arrest.”


    I was afraid he might be involved. Hate to cast aspersions, but it seems that the Rev would be more likely to initiate that kind of thing than Jr. I hope this isn’t a case where he thought he was doing his son a “favor” and instead it ends his career.

      • choochmac says:

        It was the “other guy” will give us the next million line from the complaint which made alarm bells go off in my head. The way the phrase was used it made it sound like two well connected politicos who were closely linked. With JJJr being confirmed as #5, who would the likely “other guy” be who could raise big money? I also think that Fitz’s language in talking about “an associate” broaching the offer and “an emissary” meeting with them. It gives the impression that they were separate two people, but doesn’t actually say it. Lots of possibilities for a role for Sr. unfortunately.

        • emptywheel says:

          And there’s a third role.

          “Associate of SC 5″ Approached Blago “pay to play”
          “Emissary” The one who delivered the message (may be Associate, may not be)
          “Individual D” Blago trying to get campaign donations from him in the last several days, Blago believes D is close to JJJ

          Obviously, JJSr couldn’t be D (no question they’re close). Which suggests if he’s named, he’s associate or emissary.

        • prostratedragon says:

          Rereading it for the 1st time since JJJ’s identity was confirmed, that “other guy” passage plus the lawyering-up does look ominous. I’ll bet the local temperature on the matter can be estimated from Chi radio, where the family has a lot of input.

  3. prostratedragon says:

    Mr. Obama was refreshingly succinct on the subject today. And I liked the “I don’t know what the fuck Rod’s been thinking either” look he gave Mike Flannery, who’s been well-known for years to Chicago newsviewers.

  4. BlueStateRedHead says:

    And that whoever that person is has already had contact with Fitz’ office about the incident.

    I am not seeing where this is evident. Wiretaps are hard to arrange,require judicial authorization, technology, and if this was recorded by the bug and not a tap, cooperating individuals.

    Can’t see how it could not already have been in the works. Help me out here.

    • emptywheel says:

      I’m getting that from this, which was a VERY careful parse on Obama’s part (especially if you watch the video–he thought about how to say this):

      I have not been contacted by any federal officials. And we have not been interviewed by them.

      Obama has not been contacted by any feds. We (presumably his entire team) have not been interviewed. Which, given the amount of thought Obama put into the question, would seem to suggest that someone had been contacted–but not yet interviewed.

      Plus, remember that Fitz knows “President-elect Advisor’s” name–we don’t but he does.

      It would be inconceivable if–by Tuesday at the latest–someone on Fitz’ team hadn’t contacted Rahm that person to let him know he had been mentioned in the tapes. The leaks about Rahm make it possible they made that contact sooner–but certainly, by Tuesday, contact would have been made.

      Also, I would assume that we’re not going to get the list of contacts until after Fitz does. The transition team has undoubtedly been asked for such a list, already.

  5. BlueStateRedHead says:

    But the big question today is this: Were any members of his transition team among the “Washington advisers” on the line during this marathon conference call, or did one of the participants fill them in about these wild ideas?

    It has been clear all along that The advisers a and b were Blago’s. This is not only wrong, this is libel, to consider that any one in PE’s employ would put up with the vulgarity about his own boss and team. (yea, public figures can’t be libeled, but I am trying to express outrage.)

  6. BayStateLibrul says:

    Good point. Schuster just asked WAPO’s Kornblut the same question…
    Kornblut was more reserved, but agreed that it made sense.
    Why isn’t Isikoff banned from MSNBC… consistently brings up the worst in Dems. Now there’s a guy I wouldn’t play poker with… he’s ruin the ambiance (sp)

    • BlueStateRedHead says:

      Isikoff is the reason I have reactivated my throw at tv plush toys. I don’t see him much on the 7-10 shows, CM, KO and the Rache. Am I right on this?

      Thanks fellow baystater for the agreement. and remember the two severe weather watches, flood and ice.

  7. choochmac says:

    I hope they helped Fitz out before Tuesday. It makes Obama look even better. If they didn’t tip him off, then I can hear the Isikoff’s of the world harping on the Obama may not be guilty of anything but “why didn’t they turn him in” line of attack.

  8. maryo2 says:

    I hope the emissary is a lobbyist blowing smoke out his/her ass. That said, a few weeks ago I saw Rev. Jackson Sr. on tv (probably MSNBC) be asked if his son was a candidate for Obama’s Senate seat. Rev. Jackson’s reply was (quote) “I am not part of that conversation.”

    A fatherly thing to say would have been something like ‘Of course I hope so, if that is what my son and his family want and if that is what is in the best interest of the people of Illinois. You know, I love my son and I am so very proud of him and all the work he has done, yadda yadda yadda.’

    So I wonder:
    – what conversation Rev J Sr. was talking about
    – why he was so (uncharacteristically) tight-lipped
    – if he knew about the investigation
    – if he thinks Blago is a crook and a jerk and simply does not have conversations with Blago outside public appearances

    Did anyone else see that interview on tv?

      • maryo2 says:

        No, I don’t think he would be stupid at all which why he said “I am not part of that conversation.” The sentence reads like a denial as opposed to an opinion.

  9. Ollie says:

    The only way Blagojevich would know that Team Obama was unwilling to give him anything other than “appreciation” for appointing their candidate would be if he asked for something and was rebuffed.

    The question then arises, if a poltician asks you for a bribe and you decline, are you not under some obligation (moral if not legal) to report the request to the authorities?

    Since Obama says his team knew nothing about any requests for pay for play…something doesn’t add up.

    • emptywheel says:

      I don’t think he says they “knew nothing” about requests for pay to play. He said:

      no representatives of mine would have any part of any deals related to this seat.


      But what I’m absolutely certain about is that our office had no involvement in any deal making around my senate seat. That, I’m absolutely certain of.

      In fact, his comments make it pretty clear, there were contacts between Blago and his team. But he’s aaying they refused to engage in those discussions.

      Blago’s “refuse to give me anything but appreciation” is likely close to a direct quote. Which would be a very clean way of refusing to deal.

  10. Leen says:


    Still, there are questions for Obama and his team. Jarrett is one of his top advisers, and, in keeping with Obama’s public comments about transparency, she should tell the story from her side. Aides have suggested that Obama didn’t want her in the Senate but thought she would be more valuable in the White House. The indictment suggests he was pushing for her to get it. Which is it? On Nov. 9, Obama seemed to want her for the Senate seat. On the 10th, he didn’t seem to. What happened in between? Jarrett pulled herself out of the running for the Senate seat rather abruptly—did she know something funny was going on? Did Obama know something funny was going on? There are loose threads that should be taken care of.

    So what happened for Jarrett between Nov 9 and Nov 10?

  11. Neil says:

    I don’t think I’ve said this recently enough. I love reading your analysis and your coverage of this is pure gold.

  12. drational says:

    I am wondering to what extent the timing of the wiretaps and the enthusiasm of the investigatory team was aimed at seeing what Obama would do with Blago?

    • emptywheel says:

      The timing doesn’t add up–unless Fitz is hiding some significant discussions pre-November 3, which he doesn’t seem to be doing.

      The taps went up on October 22 and October 29. It seems clear that Blago had a substantive communication with Obama’s team on November 10–but not much more than that (aside from the SEIU contact).

      The initial taps were related to the campaign donation stuff–pretty clearly. It’s possible they added a tap for Monday’s meeting bt JJJ and Blago, but that would mean Jackson was the attraction, not Obama. But picking up the Obama stuff seems to have been something unexpected.

      • nextstopchicago says:

        Very much agree that the Blago approach to Obama was completely unexpected, and I can imagine the tappers cursing and thinking, holy crap! I hope they don’t fall for this, since I can’t imagine they’d look fondly at the task of taking on anyone in Obama’s inner circle. I’m sure they’re relieved that nothing came of it.

        Still, I’m concerned that Obama said no one on his team was involved in any deal-making. Is he using an overly broad term? It seems crazy to me that they wouldn’t have been involved in ‘deal-making.’ After all, as Fitz said, no one is trying to outlaw politics. Of course Obama wants someone in his own seat who will support him, someone who will hew closely to the administration’s line. It would be foolish not to try to talk to the Governor, and possibly even “deal” on a political level. That doesn’t mean you give the jagoff and his wife seats on a corporate board, but why not “deal” politically. Isn’t dealmaking the primary task of someone like Rahm, for instance. Securing loyalty from a home state senator seems like a pretty important, reasonable task.

        So I don’t quite believe the statement that no one was involved in deal-making, and therefore, it concerns me.

  13. MrWhy says:

    What about the possibility that Blagojevich contacted Jarrett directly about Obama’s senate seat? And she told him to eff off.

  14. Dismayed says:

    Blago wants to trade on a seat. Obama’s people say we don’t roll that way. Blago gets busted.

    Open and shut on all fronts. End of story.

    Who tipped Fitz? The world may never know.

    Fitz for AG!!!!

  15. siri says:

    meanwhile, Blago is at work in the Governor’s office and Liebermann is presiding on his committee (in his finest pomposity on CSpan, I swear he’s some kind of narcissist) and I’m tuning out of all this chit in total disgust.
    Christmas cookies anyone? fresh baked!
    are we there yet to 1/20??????
    are we there yet?
    are we?

  16. Nell says:

    nextstopchicago: So I don’t quite believe the statement that no one was involved in deal-making, and therefore, it concerns me.

    I believe it. Look at all the candidates mentioned for the job — Lisa Madigan, Jesse Jackson, Jr., Tammy Duckworth, Jan Schakowsky, Emil Jones, Luis Gutierrez. Does Obama have a bad relationship with any of them? Wouldn’t any one of them be an acceptable Senator? So why even allow the appearance of making a deal with Blago, well known as one of the sleaziest of a sleazy crowd?

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