Commerce Secretary-designate Bill Richardson’s unwillingness to answer any questions from reporters after word broke of a grand-jury investigation about pay-for-play allegations — even whether or not he discussed the investigation with Obama administration vetters — illustrates, I think, the most legitimate objection to the way Team Obama has handled the Blagojevich scandal.
Obama and the team around him insist they’ve done nothing wrong, and Patrick Fitzgerald indicated he’s not targeting any member of the transition team in his investigation, at least for now. But the auctioning off of Obama’s Senate seat raises many legitimate questions in the minds of the public and the press, and so far, we’ve been given little or no information other than the fact that the internal review by the Obama camp has cleared them of any wrongdoing. (Reassuring, huh?) Yes, Fitzgerald asked them to hold back on releasing certain information. But that restriction couldn’t apply to questions like, “Does Obama think that his replacement should be appointed or that a special election is a better option? Did Obama or anyone on his team know that this was Blagojevich’s character? Does he agree with the state attorney general’s contention that the criminal complaint is sufficient to get Blagojevich declared unfit to hold office?”
Beyond that, we’re left with some major unanswered questions: Did Valerie Jarrett ever talk with Blagojevich? Who in the Obama transition team knew that Blago was looking for a bribe? Did anyone go to Fitzgerald or other law-enforcement sources? What was the reaction when Blago asked for compensation for selecting their preferred candidate?
The press has been told that Emanuel never had any direct conversations with Blago about the seat; now other sources are contradicting that. Which is right? What was said in those conversations? Were there really 21 conversations, as one press account claimed?
Instead, we’re told, wait until the week of Christmas.
These are not unreasonable questions, and the response of the Obama team has been essentially that the public does not have a right to know — “I don’t want you to waste your question.”