In December 2008, a few days after Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was arrested, I discovered this photograph in a newsletter published by the State of Illinois on November 12 celebrating the election of Barack Obama:
The photo was posted along with an article discussing the selection process for Obama’s replacement in the Senate. The caption to the photo read simply:
Governor Blagojevich confers with now President-elect Barack Obama
Within hours after we published the photo on Verum Serum, and after it was picked up by Hot Air and ultimately the Drudge Report (along with other blogs), the newsletter disappeared from the State of Illinois web site. Fortunately we were smart enough to save a copy.
The question of course is this: when did this meeting take place and what exactly were Blagojevich and the President-elect “conferring” about?
The governor is on trial accused of trying to auction off Obama’s Senate seat to the highest bidder. An SEIU official has testified that Obama contacted him the night before the election to discuss the seat, with the clear understanding that he would function as an intermediary between Obama and Governor Blagojevich.
But is it so far-fetched to think that the President met with Blagojevich directly to discuss the opening sometime shortly before or subsequent to the election? This would be consistent with media reports from the time.
- Local Chicago media reported on a meeting between Obama and Blagojevich held on November 5, 2008.
- Governor Blagojevich’s own press office put out a press release on November 5 headlined “Governor Blagojevich Congratulates President-elect Obama and Discusses U.S. Senate Seat”.
- In an interview with Fox News on November 23, Obama-adviser David Axelrod stated unequivocally “I know he’s talked to the Governor” in reference to the President-elect. (Axelrod’s office subsequently claimed he “misspoke.”)
Here is why this is all important. After Blagojevich was arrested, Obama claimed that nothing improper had taken place and that he “had no contact with the Governor or his office.” Weeks later the official White House investigation of this matter supported the President’s assertion on this.
It’s possible of course that the meeting in the photo took place some time well in advance of the election, about other matters. But Blagojevich had no role in Obama’s campaign and I’m hard pressed to think of anything important enough to warrant such a serious face-to-face meeting between them. In fact if anything Obama did everything possible to avoid Blagojevich during the campaign to avoid reminding voters of their mutual ties to Tony Rezko.
On the flip side Obama was in Chicago for the post-election celebration, and based his transition team there as well. Thus, he would have had plenty of opportunity to have a little chat with the governor about a subject he was clearly interested in, given the testimony this week about his call with the SEIU official.
In any case, given the timing of when the photo was published, and the context of the newsletter, it certainly warrants follow-up by someone in the media with access to the White House or Rod Blagojevich.