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Obama attorney's review: No 'deal' with Blagojevich

WASHINGTON — Neither President-elect Barack Obama nor his top staff had any inappropriate contact with Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich about the state's vacant Senate seat, an internal review by Obama's attorney reported on Tuesday.

Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel, the incoming White House chief of staff, had several conversations with the governor's office and discussed the vacancy, while Obama himself had no contact with Blagojevich or his staff about the seat, according to the four-page report from Greg Craig, the incoming White House counsel.

Craig reported that he found "no indication of inappropriate discussions with the governor or anyone from his office about a 'deal' or quid pro quo arrangement in which he would receive a personal benefit in return for any specific appointment to fill the vacancy."

Obama resigned from the Senate last month after he was elected president. Federal prosecutors allege that Blagojevich talked about trying to secure a Cabinet appointment or an ambassadorship in return for naming a successor who was acceptable to Obama.

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald has said that Obama, who'd held the seat since January 2005, wasn't involved in the matter, and Obama has said that he knew nothing about the schemes.

Craig's report found that Emanuel had one or two phone calls with Blagojevich shortly after the November election, and another after he decided to accept the chief of staff job.

Emanuel was elected to the Chicago-based seat in the House of Representatives that Blagojevich left in 2002 to run for governor, and the two men talked about the House vacancy.

"He also had a brief discussion with the governor about the Senate seat and merits of various people whom the governor might consider," the report said. "Mr. Emanuel and the governor did not discuss a cabinet position" or any other job or "personal benefit" for Blagojevich.

Later in November and early December, Emanuel had "about" four conversations with John Harris, Blagojevich's former chief of staff, about the seat.

With Obama's blessing, Emanuel gave Harris the names of four people who Obama thought were highly qualified: Reps. Jan Schakowsky and Jesse Jackson Jr., both Chicago Democrats, as well as Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs Director Tammy Duckworth and Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes.

"Mr. Harris did not make any effort to extract a personal benefit for the governor in any of these conversations," the report said.

ON THE WEB

The report: Transition Staff Contacts with the Governor's Office

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