Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Testimony contradicts WH Council Internal Report on Blago!
On 12/23/09, while on vacation in Hawaii and unable to field questions from reporters, Obama’s White House Council (Greg Craig) released his internal report that exonerates the President elect and his Cabinet from the growing Senate Seat sale.
Excerpts from the report:
"the President-Elect had no contact or communication with Governor Blagojevich or members of his staff about the Senate seat. In various conversations with transition staff and others, the President-Elect expressed his preference that Valerie Jarrett work with him in the White House.
He also stated that he would neither stand in her way if she wanted to pursue the Senate seat nor actively seek to have her or any other particular candidate appointed to the vacancy.
After Ms. Jarrett decided on November 9, 2008 to withdraw her name from consideration as a possible replacement for him in the Senate and to accept the White House job, the President-Elect discussed other qualified candidates with David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel. Those candidates included Representatives Jan Schakowsky and Jesse Jackson, Jr., Dan Hynes and Tammy Duckworth. The President-Elect understood that Rahm Emanuel would relay these names to the Governor's office as additions to the pool of qualified candidates who might already be under consideration. Mr. Emanuel subsequently confirmed to the President that he had in fact relayed these names. At no time in the discussion of the Senate seat or of possible replacements did the President-Elect hear of a suggestion that the Governor expected a personal benefit in return for making this appointment to the Senate."
Testimony today in the blago trial:
"On (the day before the Presidential elections) -Top union leader Thomas Balanoff (SEIU) said he was at dinner the night before (November 4) the November Presidential election when he got a call that was blocked.
So he didn't take it.
Later he listened to his messages: "I walked outside, listened to it and it was from President Obama," Balanoff said.
"Tom, this is Barrack, give me a call," the soon-to-be President-Elect said on the message.
After Balanoff sent word through an Obama aide to call him back, Obama returned his call later that night.
"Tom, I want to talk to you with regard to the Senate seat," Obama told him.
Balanoff said Obama said he had two criteria: someone who was good for the citizens of Illinois and could be elected in 2010. Obama said he wasn't publicly coming out in support of anyone but he believed Valerie Jarrett would fit the bill. "I would much prefer she (remain in the White House) but she does want to be Senator and she does meet those two criteria," Balanoff said Obama told him. "I said: 'thank you, I'm going to reach out to Gov. Blagojevich."
Assessment: According to the internal report “The President-Elect had no contact or communication with Governor Blagojevich or members of his staff about the Senate seat”
According to Tom Balanoff (SEIU President) testimony today, Obama personally called him and said “Tom, I want to talk to you with regard to the Senate seat” and Balanoff ended the call on 11/4/08 with”thank you, I'm going to reach out to Gov. Blagojevich."
Obama personally had contact with Blagojevich staff, through a Union intermediary, specifically to relay Valerie Jarrett’s name for the seat.
Balanoff testified that on 11/6/08 he met with Blagojevich -- "Balanoff then described a Nov. 6, 2008 meeting he had with Rod Blagojevich to recommend Valerie Jarrett for Barrack Obama's Senate seat.
Blagojevich responded that he was in "active discussions" with the Madigan’s about appointing Lisa Madigan and was holding out for a legislative package with the House speaker.
"I said that could be months. He said, 'Yeah'. I said Valerie Jarrett, I don't believe she has that kind of time," Balanoff testified.
Blago then turned the conversation to a cabinet position, Balanoff said.
"He said, 'You know, I love being governor, but my real passion is health care,'" and then he asked about the Health and Human Services cabinet post.
"I told him that's not going to happen," Balanoff said. "He said, "Is that because of all the investigations around me?"
This exchange infers two things:
1) That by 11/6/08 Obama would have known that Blagojevich was seeking a “quid pro quo” for Jarrett and did not report it as a crime. And
2) When Blagojevich turned the conversation to a cabinet position and suggested his “passion” for the HHS post, Balanoff cut him off with the comment that “That’s not going to happen. This gives anyone with a brain that Balanoff has the authority to negotiate. Balanoff did not say he “believes that would never happen” but said directly that “that’s not going to happen”!
It is also important to note that Balanoff’s testimony was not given in exchange for a “lighter sentence” because he was not indicted for a crime. He is simply giving “witness testimony”. So Obama supporters will have a hard time explaining how Balanoff has a credibility problem like, let’s say John Harris or Tony Rezko.
I would say that Balanoff is very credible and that the proven relationship between Obama (pre-election and after) and SEIU is very cozy indeed. It explains why he would use one of their senior members to act as intermediary discretely.
In fact, after Balanoff received that message on November 4th from Obama, the first call Balanoff made was to Andy Stern. That fact has yet to come out at trial. Stern was Head of SEIU at the time and the most frequent visitor to the White House since Obama was elected.
Finally the White House Council report stated the following about Balanoff and Valerie Jarrett –
“On November 7, 2008 -- at a time when she was still a potential candidate for the Senate seat -- Ms. Jarrett spoke with Mr. Tom Balanoff, the head of the Illinois chapter of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Mr. Balanoff is not a member of the Governor's staff and did not purport to speak for the Governor on that occasion. But because the subject of the Governor's interest in a cabinet appointment came up in that conversation, I am including a description of that meeting.
Mr. Balanoff told Ms. Jarrett that he had spoken to the Governor about the possibility of selecting Valerie Jarrett to replace the President-Elect. He told her that Lisa Madigan's name also came up. Ms. Jarrett recalls that Mr. Balanoff also told her that the Governor had raised with him the question of whether the Governor might be considered as a possible candidate to head up the Department of Health and Human Services in the new administration. Mr. Balanoff told Ms. Jarrett that he told the Governor that it would never happen. Jarrett concurred. Mr. Balanoff did not suggest that the Governor, in talking about HHS, was linking a position for himself in the Obama cabinet to the selection of the President-Elect's successor in the Senate, and Ms. Jarrett did not understand the conversation to suggest that the Governor wanted the cabinet seat as a quid pro quo for selecting any specific candidate to be the President-Elect's replacement. At no time did Balanoff say anything to her about offering Blagojevich a union position."
Assessment: At the time of the interim investigation report, the White House council report deflects and tries to imply that Mr. Balanoff did not speak for the Governor when the report stated -- “Mr. Balanoff is not a member of the Governor's staff and did not purport to speak for the Governor on that occasion.”
We know from Balanoff testimony that this is disingenuous because Obama called Balanoff to speak to the Governor as his intermediary, not the Governors. In fact, Obama’s call to Balanoff was the prior evening to this accounting by White House Council.
This can be born out by the fact that Blagojevich turned the conversation with Balanoff to a HHS position within the Obama cabinet in which he shot Blagojevich down. That is not an indication that Balanoff worked or represented the Governor, it is indicative of Balanoff representing Obama.