Big winner. Picture the leader of the free world, walking the family dog, Bo, on the White House lawn, the plastic bag in the pocket, like some perfect TV dad.Soon after U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald swooped in and had then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich arrested for trying to sell Obama's Senate seat, my fellow blogger Debbie Schlussel noted a source in the Chicago law enforcement community who told her Fitzgerald had more than enough evidence to bring charges against Blagojevich months before his post-election move in 2008, but he deliberately avoided bringing charges against Blago to avoid harming the presidential campaign of Obama. Here's what Schlussel quoted her source as saying at the time:
He hears the news that Blagojevich has rested his case and won't testify or call any witnesses.
And that's when — in my purely fictional mental tableau of the president waiting for Bo to do business on the lawn — Obama fishes into his pocket for a smoke and lights up.
Our president takes a big drag, exhales with a satisfied sigh. Ahhhhh.
Why is our president satisfied?
Because with Blago cutting short his defense, Rahm Emanuel, Obama's chief of staff, won't be called as a defense witness to talk about how the Obama White House transcended the old broken politics of the past by haggling with Blago over the Obama Senate seat.
As a lawyer, Obama would know that without a defense case, there's no way that the president's old real estate fairy, Tony Rezko, would come up as a prosecution rebuttal witness.
"My man," he says, thinking of Dead Meat, as he looks to the west, toward Chicago, blowing smoke through that famous smile.
Then he and Rahm enjoy some celebratory mojitos in the Rose Garden and toast Blago again.
I know for a fact FBI Chicago had enough to indict Blagojevich in June. They were 2 weeks from indictment in June based on cooperation and testimony at the Stu Levine trial. Levine was Tony Rezko’s bud, fund raiser for Blago, and our President-Elect.
I wonder what took them so long? My guess is when it started to look like a lock for Obama’s nomination by the Dems, someone at the U.S. Attorney’s Office put it all on hold, so as not to spoil “The Annointed One’s” shot.
I reacted skeptically to Schlussel's take initially, but as the story of the Senate seat bargaining played out during Blago's trial, it clearly appeared from the evidence presented in the case that the Obama folks were in the game playing in typical Chicago political fashion. The timing of Blago's arrest indeed may have prevented the new administration from getting caught red-handed in the act, not that it stopped them from later trying to buy Senate seats in Pennsylvania and Colorado in this year's election buy offering candidates not of their choosing federal jobs.
While so much of the criminal activity in which Blago was engaged as governor involved convicted political fixer Tony Rezko, who was actually much closer to Obama than he was to Blago, he was nowhere to be seen in the government's case against him. Instead, the government opted to use employees of Rezko for testimony. We know that Rezko has been cooperating with federal investigators since his conviction more than two years ago because the government has still not sentenced him in that case. As Blago's trial began, the feds quietly moved Rezko to a prison in Wisconsin instead of keeping him in the Chicago lock-up where he had been held. It looks to me like Fitzgerald actually took a chance on weakening his case against Blago in order to protect Obama from the obvious political corruption in which he was engaged. I still have a lot of respect for Fitzgerald, but it really bothers me that he may have rolled over for him in an effort to keep one of the highest profile prosecutor jobs in the country.