Is Rahm Still Running for Speaker of the House?


(Alex Wong/Getty Images photo)

Or is Blago delirious about that too?

I’m finally getting around to reading the collected works of Michael Sneed, the woman scribe calls "this scandal’s Judy." Sneed is the columnist whom Blago was using to launder his leaks about the Senate selection process, feeding her false information about his leading candidates, with the intention of pressuring Obama and others to respond accordingly. (Incidentally, TheraP pointed to this diary which claimed Sneed’s more embarrassing columns were getting removed from the Sun-Times archive, but they’re actually still there; it’s just that they go behind the pay firewall after one month.)

Given that we know Blago was using Sneed in that way, I’m particularly interested in her column from November 14 (which also just went behind the firewall).  In it, she has what may well be another regurgitated Blago rant.

IS IT EMIL? Sneed hears Gov. Blago, who will choose Obama’s replacement in the U.S. Senate, privately feels there may be only one choice that makes sense: His buddy, outgoing Senate President Emil Jones. – To wit: Jones is this/close to Blago, who may pay his pal back for being such a staunch ally. Jones would also be a strong ally in the Senate for his political godson — Obama.

– Hmmm: Isn’t it true Gov. Blago, who truly believes a federal indictment is not in his future, is hoping Jones would be a placeholder until 2010 — when Gov. Rod could opt for a Senate seat or another run at the governorship? Is someone smoking posies?

Fitz’s chronology ends on November 13–which would presumably be the day Blago would have leaked this to Sneed for her November 14 column; the complaint doesn’t confirm that the leak came from Blago. Yet the attribution seems to clearly point to Blago, and given the sheer number of leaks she was getting from him, it seems likely that he was her source for this, too. 

With that in mind, check out the news that led that column:

Incoming & outgoing: The rumor mill is going berserk!- To wit: Top Dem wags are whispering Rahm Emanuel, President-elect Barack Obama’s new chief of staff, plans to exit the White House in two years in hopes of reclaiming his congressional seat — thereby enabling him to work toward becoming speaker of the House, his dream job.

– The big question? Who would be Rahm’s seat warmer, the person willing to step down in two years? A phalanx of pols are already lining up for the job. (Crain’s reporter Greg Hinz is suggesting Rahm’s chief of staff John Borovicka.)

– The flip side: The rumor is being denied by Rahm’s office.

– The tip side: No one has faster moves than Rahm, who can pirouette around any problem faster than a speeding ballet dancer, which . . . of course . . . Rahm was trained to be. [my emphasis]

Would Blago count as a "top Dem wag"? Probably.

I ask, because the complaint describes this as Blago’s frenzied rant of the day on November 13:

On November 13, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH talked with JOHN HARRIS. ROD BLAGOJEVICH said he wanted to be able to call “[President-elect Advisor]” and tell President-elect Advisor that “this has nothing to do with anything else we’re working on but the Governor wants to put together a 501(c)(4)” and “can you guys help him. . . raise 10, 15 million.” ROD BLAGOJEVICH said he wanted “[President-elect Advisor] to get the word today,” and that when “he asks me for the Fifth CD thing I want it to be in his head.” (The reference to the “Fifth CD thing” is believed to relate to a seat in the United States House of Representatives from Illinois’ Fifth Congressional District. Prior intercepted phone conversations indicate that ROD BLAGOJEVICH and others were determining whether ROD BLAGOJEVICH has the power to appoint an interim replacement until a special election for the seat can be held.). [my emphasis]

In other words, the day before Sneed published the claim that Rahm was hoping to put a seat-warmer in his Congressional seat to set up a return to Congress and a run for Speaker after two years of serving as Obama’s Chief of Staff, Blago was planning to talk to Rahm about the "Fifth CD thing." And, Fitz reveals, there had been prior conversations about whether Blago could name an interim replacement for Rahm’s seat.

Now, as with all of Blago’s rants, we shouldn’t assume that they reflect any reality. For example, I cannot believe that Rahm, of all people, wouldn’t know well how his replacement would be chosen.

Still, the picture above of Rahm apparently nuzzling Grandma Pelosi (which was taken just after TARP passed) keeps haunting me. Sure, that picture almost certainly caught Rahm whispering to the Speaker and their proximity and her look of relief made it look very creepy. But boy he’s a slimy bastard.

This line from the complaint also keeps haunting me:

…nor does this affidavit set forth other calls where ROD BLAGOJEVICH and others discussed a possible appointment to the Senate seat based on considerations other than financial gain for ROD BLAGOJEVICH and his family, discussions which took place with greater frequency after efforts to arrange for a private job for ROD BLAGOJEVICH in exchange for appointing a particular candidate to the open Senate seat did not meet with success.

I’ve already talked about the degree to which Fitz was signaling that he had much more–without revealing what he had.  If Rahm was trying to game his replacement to set up a run for Speaker … or, alternately, if Blago was trying to falsely insinuate via leaks to Sneed that Rahm was trying to game the replacement in hopes he might get the upper hand over Obama’s team … it suggests those conversations about non-montary exchange would be mighty interesting. As Fitz says, such conversations took place more frequently just after Fitz stops his narrative, and there’s a certain drama in the way Fitz’ narrative introduces what appears to be Rahm, then drops the story.

Two days ago, Obama promised that his team would produce a summary of all contacts with Blago in a few days. We’re still waiting for that summary.

I still believe the reports that Rahm is neither a target nor a subject of Fitz’ investigation. I’m still confident that Obama has reason to be certain that "no representatives of mine would have any part of any deals related to this seat."

But I’m increasingly wondering whether Rahm’s contacts with Blago immediately after Fitz drops his narrative are either significantly embarrassing and revealing for Rahm. Or, whether they reflect Blago’s twisted and frenzied fabulations about having some kind of power over the Obama camp. 

33 replies
      • prostratedragon says:

        Oh my-y-y, what a rich brew we have here —and thanks for calling out Sneed, something no one in town that I know of’s been willing to do, though (because?) her function’s been pretty evident for a while now.

        I’ve got just the thread music for that photo, but unfortunately I can only find it accompanied by a lovely recitation (poem of Neruda) that I’m not sure I want. Well, just focus on the music and it’ll be clear why I thought of it:

        Romance del Diablo

  1. Alison says:

    Bad news for PEOTUS if Rahm is exploiting his position on the inside. Obama is getting a lot of kudos for his ability to judge character.

    If his CoS is going behind his back, that’s a really bad signal before he even gets to DC. Boy, I sure hope Rahm didn’t $##@ it all up already.

  2. dipper says:

    Sure, that picture almost certainly caught Rahm whispering to the Speaker and their proximity and her look of relief made it look very creepy. But boy he’s a slimy bastard.

    Rather Shakespearean, don’t you think?

  3. CasualObserver says:

    EW, an OT question regarding this whole Blago thing. It’s remarkable to me that such incredible and immediate pressure has been brought to bear on this Executive, and upon the machinery of Illinois state government, to remove him from office.

    And this based not a guilty plea, not even an indictment, but a criminal complaint.

    How can it be that Blago is so immediately and obviously guilty and punishable on one hand (see todays MTP), but the national executive branch, on much more obvious evidence of felony, can’t even be questioned?
    Doesn’t this say something pretty important about rule of law in the US right now?

    • emptywheel says:

      Good point, CO. I may try to hit MTP later today. I think Madigan’s really pushing it. Right now, we have a lot of political evidence, but not the legal evidence, to remove him from office.

      • CasualObserver says:

        And it’s not just that–our national Democratic leaders have also chimed in on Blago. How can they be so fast to act as judge, jury, and executioner re: Blago–and at the same time fail to enforce their own subpeonas in a matter that actually does fall within their job description–the national executive? How can impeachment be “off the table” for one blatantly criminal executive, but that same impeachment (albeit state-based, under state law) be almost too slow to be acceptable in regard to a state executive?

        • ktlyst says:

          It’s also political will and means. Sure, you could get articles of impeachment through the house, but then you’d have to go to the senate. And then after some debate, you’d still need to have 60 votes to end debate.

          So first you saw the heads of the houses of legislature in ILL. counting votes. So they can move quickly here because they have the votes.

          They don’t have the votes to impeach a republican in the Senate today.

          • CasualObserver says:

            The president is not impeached in the Senate. He’s impeached in the House. I’d like to see any evidence you have that anyone on Cap. Hill whipped the Senate and counted votes on an impeachment trial. That simply didn’t happen, and that is not the reason Congressional Democrats won’t take any legal action, in spite of a plethora of reasons to do so.

        • scribe says:

          The short answer, I think, is that the House Dems believe that Bush and Cheney would likely just lock them up in a basement somewhere rather than let an impeachment even get going.

          And I mean that quite seriously – just whisk them off the streets and behind a locked door.

          It’s been said, time and again, that while Bush/Cheney did a lot of illegal things during their time in office, they only did what they thought they could get away with. They had a lot more they wanted to do, but didn’t think they could get away with.

          So, whether it’s just a belief that Bush and Cheney would do that, or that they actually communicated a message to that effect to the House, matters not. The fact is, the Dems believe they would be willing to go that far.

          Blago, on the other hand, doesn’t have that kind of power, nor the infrastructure in the bureaucracy that Cheney does. Also, this reaction needs be seen through the lens of “we’re not letting anything like Whitewater get started again, and we’re going to turn the flamethrowers on anything that even remotely looks like it might.”

        • MadDog says:

          Very simply, because it is Democrats feeding on their own.

          They don’t go after Repugs because they fear them.

          They do go after other Democrats because they know them. Nothing to fear, doncha know?

      • nextstopchicago says:

        >but not the legal evidence …

        No such thing in Illinois. This is constitutionally a political procedure. As the phrase went in today’s capitol fax blog, they could impeach him for crossing the street — with the light.

        • emptywheel says:

          You’re missing my point.

          I’m arguing that impeachment is the proper way to remove Blago right now, NOT a court deciding to remove him for precisely the reason you say. There is an abundance of political evidence and a good deal of legal evidence–but not, yet, legal evidence presented according to the presumption of innocence.

          I’m also suggesting taht Fitz has twice handed legislatures with impeachments made to order. The last time, Congress didn’t even realize it. This time around, Lisa Madigan is talking about using the courts instead of impeachment, which is the appropriate process.

            • MadDog says:

              Yup, tis grandstanding for political points.

              I’d like to believe this isn’t very effective at pursuing her obvious political dreams of higher office, but then I remember this is Illinois and what makes sense to them may not make any sense at all to the rest of us.

    • nextstopchicago says:

      Casual Observer,

      You have to understand that all sorts of incriminating things had happened in recent months, including the fact that Patti’s real estate practiced emerged out of thin air when Rod took the governorship, and is entirely limited to condos and buildings owned or to be owned by people awarded state contracts.

      You have to understand that the Trib has been calling for impeachment for months, based on things that happened BEFORE Tuesday’s announcements. This was just a straw, the camel’s back was already bent nearly in two.

  4. posaune says:

    ahh…… we’re back in the glory dayz of EW parsing Fitz filings . ….. goes great with a Sunday morning espresso.

    slightly OT: why hasn’t anyone suggested putting Peter Fitzgerald back in the senate seat? seems like it would be completely acceptable (’cept for party lines).

    • mamayaga says:

      why hasn’t anyone suggested putting Peter Fitzgerald back in the senate seat?

      Um, maybe because, despite his independence from the Party, he’s still a rigid corporocon?

    • RAMA says:

      Fitzgerald (Peter) is an anti-choice right wingnut of the first water whose only (and I really mean only) saving grace was his total antipathy for the Republican power structure in Illinois. And that led to his only worthwhile act of his entire term of office: Picking our man Fitz as U.S. Attorney. And frankly, nobody likes the guy for good reason. He’s as unlikable in person as he is on TV.

  5. JohnLopresti says:

    Looking at the picture I see two perhaps bored elected officials, one of whom I should recognize, probably both reluctantly having voted for Tarp funding, and between those two are RahmE and the Speaker in what appears to me a genuine moment of mutual appreciation and friendliness all too difficult to find in the lower chamber of congress, though it is an image reminscent of a horse I know who waxes friendly when trying to convince someone to let him into a greener pasture. I remain unsure of the (horse)’s politics. I think it is moments like those that make Mme Speaker look youthful.

  6. nextstopchicago says:

    >You’re missing my point (that impeachment is more appropriate than removal by a court at this point)

    Ahh. “Madigan’s really pushing it” meaning pushing the limit, not pushing impeachment. I get it.

    • emptywheel says:

      Yeah, given that they already had plenty to impeach on, and Fitz just gave htem an impeachment in a box, having a potential replacement candidate push for the courts to decide this is unseemly.

      • Mauimom says:

        and Fitz just gave htem an impeachment in a box

        Oh, this brings to mind those “presents” Justin Timberlake and Adam Samburg had “in a box.”

  7. SparklestheIguana says:

    I actually find the photo kind of charming. They make an attractive couple. It’s like Rahm’s never smelled anything better.

    You know what else got leaked to Sneed – thus allowing Sneed to break the story? When PJF first appeared in public with his lady friend (now wife), Sneed got the scoop. Who leaked…..?

  8. raina says:

    Maybe this has been covered before, but now that Blago has been revealed to be a source for Sneed, I’m wondering if Sneed’s rumor about Lisa Madigan being considered for the Senate seat came before or after she was added to the list of preferred candidates that Emanuel allegedly gave to Blago’s staff.

    Rahm’s just giving Nancy some post-bail out bill passage lovin’. Consider the photos after they failed the first time. Pelosi looked positively stricken:


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