It’s almost inconceivable that Barack Obama would have participated in Gov. Blagojevich’s “pay to play” scheme for appointing the president-elect’s successor, and the evidence affirmatively indicates that he did not. But we also know that, as one would expect, Obama was quite interested in who his successor would be. Thus, David Axelrod’s statement that “I know [Obama has] talked to the governor and there are a whole range of names many of which have surfaced” has the ring of truth.
On the other hand, Obama denies talking to Blagojevich, and Axelrod has said he misspoke. Since the FBI has been recording Blagojevich’s conversations, it would be awfully reckless for Obama to deny having a conversation with the governor if, in fact, he had one. So perhaps Axelrod was just assuming that, given Obama’s interest, there must have been a conversation.
Given that interest, it’s quite likely that someone on Obama’s staff was in contact with Blagojevich about this matter, as the tape suggests. The chances are good that this staffer found out what Blago was up to and told Obama. The question then would be: what (if anything) did Obama do?
UPDATE: Jim Lindgren at the Volokh Conspiracy has an excellent time line and analysis. Lindgren raises the possibility that Obama’s staffers cooperated with federal investigators. If they did, he notes, it was almost certainly with Obama’s knowledge.
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