Rahm and “that 5th CD Thing”

At his shiny new shack out back of the Big Orange Satan, Kagro X links to this article describing how Rahm is uninvolved (publicly at least) in the fight to replace him.

Rahm Emanuel’s role in attempting to influence Gov. Blagojevich’s choice of a U.S. Senate replacement for President-elect Barack Obama could impact the heated race to fill another important vacancy: Emanuel’s own seat in Congress.

Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th), Mayor Daley’s unofficial City Council floor leader, had hoped to emerge from the crowded field of candidates in the 5th Congressional District by winning Daley’s support and by persuading Emanuel to use his formidable powers of persuasion to clear the field.

But now that the Chicago Sun-Times has lifted the veil on Emanuel’s efforts to persuade Blagojevich to appoint Obama family friend Valerie Jarrett to the U.S. Senate, Emanuel has — as one veteran ward boss put it — "gone underground."

The new White House chief of staff is reluctant to get involved in the 5th District race, which has attracted more than two dozen candidates.

Of course, the Sun-Times presents this as a reaction to the news that Rahm was involved in discussions over Obama’s seat.

But I would suggest that it’s one more piece of evidence that suggests Rahm was involved in discussions–real or imagined–over his own seat.

After all, aside from calling the Special Election, Blago is not involved in this election: Richard Daley is the kingmaker here, not Blago. So why would Rahm’s involvement in discussions about the Senate seat prevent him from getting involved in discussions about his own seat?

As I’ve discussed, there’s evidence that Rahm and Blago (or Rahm and Blago’s flunkies) talked about more than the Senate seat.  The only mention of Rahm in the complaint, after all, includes this passage:

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]

Blago’s statements here may have been entirely delusional. But in mid-November, at least, Blago believed that Rahm was going to come to him with a specific ask regarding his own seat–not Obama’s.

Now that doesn’t mean that Rahm actually did make a request of Blago. Nor does it mean that, if there was a request, there was anything improper about it. 

But even what we see in the complaint shows evidence that Blago thought he had something of value to give wrt the House seat. Rahm knows that–if I noticed it in the complaint, I guarantee you he has. So he’s got to make sure he doesn’t appear to be furthering goals that Blago believed he had a role in influencing.

I don’t know Chicago politics, but with Daley’s blessing, you gotta believe that O’Connor may win the election anyway. Still, if being mentioned in the complaint against Blago prevents Rahm from trying to game his replacement (and with it, prepare for a return to the House and a run for Speaker), I consider that a good thing.

33 replies
  1. PJEvans says:

    Yes, I’d bet that Rahm was up to his ears in trying to set up a placeholder so he can run in a couple or four years, and claim his experience as WH CoS makes him the best choice for the job.
    (May I hope it backfires?)

  2. Mary says:

    It’s going to be interesting for Obama, having a COS that will be so tied in with that litigation.

    Totally OT and way way late, but I just now saw The Onion clip of Bush pardoning Scooter Libby in a turkey suit.


    I was worried about the girl scouts.

  3. Mary says:

    One of the supposed good things about Emmanuel was supposed to be that he was a bareknuckles, enforcer-type politico, wasn’t it? If that’s why Obama picked him, then this will be some insight into that process.


  4. MadDog says:

    Something I didn’t know:

    It certainly was appropriate for Rahm Emanuel to have discussion with the governor both about the vacant seat for the Senate and also about his own impending vacancy.

    Under Illinois law, a Congressman, when he resigns, resigns to the governor. So it would be impossible for Rahm Emanuel not to have had some communication with Governor Blagojevich when he was becoming chief of staff.

    (My bold)

    Speaking was “…former federal judge and Obama mentor, Abner Mikva…” on “FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace,” December 14, 2008.

    • emptywheel says:

      Did not know that either.

      Which suggests that November 13 or so conversation may have been when he resigned officially–it would certainly explain why Blago was sure it’d come up.

        • MadDog says:

          Ahhh…that was the info I was looking for. I was under the impression that Rahm hadn’t yet resigned, but I hadn’t found conclusive evidence of such.

      • MadDog says:

        Which suggests that November 13 or so conversation may have been when he resigned officially…

        I didn’t know that, and that was what got me googling to find that other tidbit.

            • emptywheel says:


              What would be really interested is if Blago started threatening to fuck with Rahmbo’s plans if he didn’t get something.

              Non-monetary, of course, just like Fitz said was increasingly discussed after he was refused a job.

                • raina says:

                  A recent article in the Chicago Sun-Times quoted an unnamed source, I believe from Emanuel or Obama camp, claiming the only time Emanuel spoke to Blago recently was to resign his seat.

                  I posted this link to Crain’s/Greg Hinz column in another thread, but I think it’s more relevant to this one:


                  A governor appointing a Congressional seat thereby denying the vote would raise all sorts of questions, especially this governor and this seat. I can see Blago being willing to take a risk like this; he’s got nothing to lose, something to gain and he doesn’t seem that bright, to say the least. But would Emanuel, especially when he has the money and clout to support someone who could actually get elected, or when the possibility of redistricting exists, as mentioned in the Hinz column?

                  I think a more plausible scenario is Emanuel was discussing the option of supporting someone who would be willing to give up the seat when he left the White House so he could run for re-election, and Blago got wind of it and looked for a way to insert himself into the situation so he could get something out of it.

  5. plunger says:

    But I would suggest that it’s one more piece of evidence that suggests Rahm was involved in discussions–real or imagined–over his own seat.

    If so, it would be accurate to say that those discussions were about his own ass. If he was stupid enough to discuss any type of quid pro quo with Blago, given all of the resources at his disposal to ascertain what was then going on behind the scenes, he’s simply an idiot.

  6. Mary says:

    More OT, but I find this interesting – Tepperman with Newsweek has a piece up about the Bush torturer conspirators where he says this, with no sourcing or attribution:

    Constitutionally, Bush could pardon everyone involved in formulating and executing the administration’s interrogation techniques without providing specifics or naming names. And the pardon could apply to himself.

    You know, that might ultimately be the case, but there is sure no court precendent or ruling that would support the “constitutionality” of that approach and there are quite a few people who don’t think a President can pardon himself and who don’t think that, in the instance of an extraordinary remedy like pardon, you can have non-specific crimes and criminals pardoned. You might kind of wonder where he got his legal advice, that goes unattributed.

    I’m sure it wouldn’t have been from a lawyer like the one telling him, eh, what’s the excitement, let’s just forget about all this, ‘kay?

    Conservative legal experts like David Rifkin (who served in the Reagan and first Bush administrations) argue that no accounting is necessary, since the worst interrogation techniques, like waterboarding, have already been abandoned and Obama is expected to make further changes.

    emph added

    Surely that’s not the same legal expert who opined about the alleged Bush torture associates, “Try them for a week. Give them a chance to say what they have to say and then execute the senior ones. Is there any doubt they’re guilty?

    Ooops, my bad – apparently that was Rifkin opining on Hussein’s associates – the ones who did bad things in the name of Iraq’s national security. Apparently the difference is that Obama will be making changes to torture and random murder, while in Iraq, Hussein’s then successor — not so much.

    • MadDog says:

      …You know, that might ultimately be the case, but there is sure no court precendent or ruling that would support the “constitutionality” of that approach…

      As you know, IANAL, but wasn’t Jimmy Carter’s pardon of Vietnam War draft dodgers something close to if not identical?

      It too was a “blanket” pardon without naming names.

  7. Mary says:

    Serendipty – you’d think Tepperman would have at least done the “fair and balanced” thing and linked to this:


    First, a president cannot immunize himself or his subordinates for committing crimes that he himself authorized.

    While I’d say no one KNOWS the answer beyond a shadow, I have to buy into her take more than Rifkin’s. You can’t construe the pardon provision without context and in a way that nullifies the rest of the Constitution, for example, by letting a President negate his stated Constitutional duty to enforce the law by instead actively violating the law, then pardoning himself. There is no ability of Congress to make the law or the courts to interpret the law if the President has the power to “unbind” himself and his conspirators from the rule of law, including from the directives of the Ultimate law of the land, the Constitution.

    • Hmmm says:

      Sound just like the UE paradigm, don’t it? And since we know they believe in the one, or at least think they can get away with it, not so totally surprising that they might believe in the other. Or at least think they can get away with it.

      Now. Who’s gonna do something about it?

      Tweets & Rachael have been squawking about that increasingly of late. Will it build? Big enough? Fast enough?

    • Leen says:

      If Bush pardons all involved including himself…what a message. The U.S. government one of the most corrupt on the planet.

  8. nextstopchicago says:


    I think she’s referring to the constitutionality of pardoning someone for a crime you yourself asked them to commit, rather than to the idea of a blanket pardon, though I could be wrong.

  9. Mary says:

    13 – 15 I’m saying both. The Carter pardon was of a) a specific crime, and b) was never challenged (for example, as to whether an amnesty would have been appropriate but a pardon not). There is the “other” point, which is that he did not order up the crime, but that’s a separate argument from the argument that you cannot provide a pardon to unspecified individuals for unspecified crimes.

    So if, for example, Carter had attempt to provide a pardon for “anyone following Executive orders or orders from a commanding officer” who commits “any crime” that’s a different creature than specifying the exact crime, draft dodging, and pardoning an identifiable if unnamed group – although I’m still not sure that, if it had not had the peculiar poltical surround it might have been challenged as being something for which amnesty, but not pardon, was appropriate. Generally, extraordianry remedies, of which pardon would be one, are required to be exercised and interpreted in specific and limited fashions.

    But the bigger issue imo is the direction issue – it nullifies the Constitution in an enormous number of areas – from all of the bill of rights through habeas through separation of powers through Presidential duties to enforce the law, basically, it nullifies the whole document – to interpret the Pardon clause to allow a President, with co-conspirators, to violate the Constitution and the laws of the nation and then pardon his co-conspirators and himself. The Constituion has no meaning if a President’s pardon power is deemed to allow him to knowingly and with intent violate the Constitution and the laws generated under it, “classify” his illegal behaviour, then do an 11th hour pardon. It pretty much undercuts the rationale of the Nixon case, for that matter, bc it would be saying that the President does not have to abide by court orders and can pardon himself for their violation – and it would be saying that the legislature has no function by saying that the President can violate statutes and pardon himself. It would pretty much turn the Keith case determinations that no man, including the President, is above the law on their ear by making the Constitution only applicable to the extent a President chooses to voluntarily – electively for that matter – follow it.

    I’m not saying that with some of the Sup Ct justices we have

    • MadDog says:

      …The Constituion has no meaning if a President’s pardon power is deemed to allow him to knowingly and with intent violate the Constitution and the laws generated under it, “classify” his illegal behaviour, then do an 11th hour pardon…

      Like you, I’d like to think there would be the entire population of the country in the streets should this ever be attempted by Junya (or for that matter, any other President).

      …I’m not saying that with some of the Sup Ct justices we have.

      The only potential roadblock to certain Supremes ruling in this fashion would be their own likely immediate impeachment.

  10. Mary says:

    to finish my dropped sentence – I’m not saying they couldn’t do it, but that as a matter of statutory and contractual construction the power would normally not be allowed to be interpreted in that manner (to negate the rest of the document). The closest precedents would be HW’s pardons of the Iran Contra crew – done before anyone affirmatively tied HW to the actions being pardoned himself and without any investigation on the part of the Clinton admin to see if HW had been directly involved and to challenge the pardon.

    Still, who is there to object? I guess if you had a president elect who was very tough on the issue, they might indicate that in the event of blanket pardons preventing the American justice system for working, they would be forced to authorize extraditions, you might get some folks reconsidering whether they wanted a pardon or not. What was it Rifkin said about, ‘give them a week…’

  11. bmaz says:

    Generally, extraordianry remedies, of which pardon would be one, are required to be exercised and interpreted in specific and limited fashions.

    Heh, so you are anticipating that the Roberts’ Court will apply the rules of equity conservatively here? Whoo doggie, I dunno sister; that may be a bridge too far.

    Paragraph three I agree with. Although, I think Bush might avoid the personal deal and not pardon himself, but issue them to the others and assume that Obama will not grab the difficult mantle of trying to overcome the presumption that Bush has the unequivocal power to have done so.

  12. JimWhite says:

    OT: I put up a link last night to a memo from Waxman summarizing his digging on the Bush State of the Union claim that Iraq was seeking uranium. After reading the memo in more detail today, I came away with respect for Jami Miscik. I then did more reading about her and wrote an Oxdown where I suggest she might make a good DCI. I welcome feedback on that idea.

  13. Mary says:

    20 – the droppoing and cramming they typing in when I was trying to do something else makes it pretty garbledy, but I do agree with you on the “bridge too far” likelihood for the politicized court – but I think it is the correct, normal approach on construction and should be made. You actually might, possibly, conceivably, end up with Scalia opting in favor of not allowing a President to order abrogation of the Consitution in secret and then granting 11th hour pardons, but likely not. He’d probaby take it all as an opportunity to excoriate Congress for not doing what they were supposed to with impeachments, and leave that as the remedy. But even if they had proceeded with impeachment, pardons are always quicker than the impeachment process and abuses involving classification of criminal behaviour will always make it hard for Congress to act timely, especially when the Courts acquiesce in the classification without review.

    So basically I think the arguments against the ability to pardon those he directed to commit crimes are solid and correct, but I have no faith in anyone ever having a forum where they can make them (I don’t think Obama’s DOJ will go there) – I pretty much have no confidence in the process anymore.

  14. raina says:

    Let me correct myself – the Sun-Times article said Emanuel spoke to Blago to tell him he accepted the Chief of Staff position, not to resign his seat.

Comments are closed.