Could the Blago Scandal Ensnare Team Obama? You Betcha.
I have a new story up on the ways in which the Blago scandal could damage the incoming Obama administration, even if no one on Team Obama has engaged in any pay-for-play dealings with Rod Blagojevich or his circle. We have to remember how little we know about the investigation, even after reading the 76-page criminal complaint against Blago. Are witnesses being called before a grand jury? We don’t know. Who has been interviewed by Patrick Fitzgerald and his prosecutorial team? We don’t know. Who will be interviewed? We don’t know. Will Fitzgerald and his prosecutors have any doubts about their truthfulness? We don’t know. We just know that there are a lot of questions to be asked, and the man who is asking them also ran the Valerie Plame case, one of the most intense and politically-charged perjury-and-false-statements prosecutions in Washington history. There was no underlying crime charged in the Plame case, so does it matter whether Team Obama has any part in such a crime in this case? Maybe not.
“There is a lot of investigation that still needs to be done,” Rob Grant, who is the special agent in charge of the FBI office in Chicago, told reporters at the news conference announcing the Blagojevich charges last week. “There are critical interviews that we have to do and cooperation we need to get from different people.” At the same press conference, Fitzgerald himself added, “We have a tremendous amount of information gained from the wiretap and bugs that occurred over the last month and a half or so….One of the things we want to do with this investigation is to track out the different schemes and conspiracies to find out which ones were carried out or not and who might be involved in that or not. And that’s something we haven’t done yet. Now that we’ve gone overt, we’ll be interviewing people and figuring that out.”
One of the things Fitzgerald and his fellow prosecutors and FBI agents will be doing is trying to determine who is telling the whole truth and who is not. “There’s always a danger that people will make a mistake, get it wrong. There’s human frailty. They may also lie,” says Joseph diGenova, a former U.S. attorney who was a vocal critic of Fitzgerald’s handling of the Plame affair. “Fitzgerald will try to do perjury traps, because that is what he does.”
Fitzgerald and his team have a lot of wiretap material. That has likely given them a lot of information to ask witnesses about. Some of those witnesses may be members of the Obama transition team. For example, the Chicago Tribune recently reported that “communications between [incoming White House chief of staff Rahm] Emanuel and the Blagojevich administration were captured on court-approved wiretaps.” Emanuel might be asked many questions, under penalty of perjury or false-statement charges. Prosecutors will compare his answers to what they have on tape. Perhaps they’ll invite him in for another session of questioning. Then they’ll compare his answers in the second session to his answers in the first. Perhaps they’ll repeat that a few times. As anyone in the Bush administration could advise Emanuel, it doesn’t matter if he did anything wrong or not. He just better have his answers in order.