Emanuel pal delivered message from Obama
White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel has indirectly re-entered the picture at the Blagojevich corruption trial. Government witness John Harris, Blagojevich’s onetime chief of staff, said he received a call from an intermediary for Emanuel on Nov. 10, 2008, six days after the presidential election.
The intermediary was John Wyma, a lobbyist pal of Blagojevich and Emanuel. And the message Harris said Wyma was asked to deliver was that President-elect Barack Obama “would be thankful and appreciative” if Blagojevich would appoint Obama’s friend Valerie Jarrett as Illinois’ new U.S. Senator.
On a wiretapped phone call with Blagojevich the next day, Harris related details of his talk with Wyma. Blagojevich was at home and said he had babysitting duties. Cartoons on TV could be heard in the background.
“They’re not willing to give me anything but appreciation, (expletive) them,” Blagojevich said of Wyma’s message.
Blagojevich also wondered out loud whether he could use the Senate appointment to induce Obama to lean on Obama’s friend, billionaire Warren Buffett, to bankroll an issue-advocacy group to be run by Blagojevich that would give the governor a way to make some money and remain on the public stage.
Then he floated more ideas. Maybe he would appoint deputy governor Louanner Peters to the Senate seat and have her keep it warm for him in case he was facing impeachment. In that event, she would resign and he would appoint himself to fill the new vacancy.
And then there was the U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. feint. Blagojevich said he would plant a false story with Chicago Sun-Times gossip columnist Michael Sneed that “Jesse Jackson Jr.’s star is rising,” meaning that the governor was considering putting him into the Senate post vacated by Obama.
Harris made it clear that Blagojevich had no intention of actually appointing Jackson but just wanted to use the prospect to scare Obama’s people into cutting a deal on the Senate seat.
In an earlier wiretap played in court, Blagojevich was heard referring to Jackson as “a bad guy” and noting that Obama didn’t want to see him as senator either.