The Fallout Thickens...

From Pejman Yousefzadeh we learn that in the heat of the Blagogate scandal, President-elect Barack Obama’s chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel was asked by reporters Thursday if he was the Obama advisor named in the criminal complaint against Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D-IL):

Emanuel refused–rather brusquely, as the story points out–to answer any questions concerning this issue. He can run, but he can’t hide and the press had better be working to smoke him–and the rest of the transition team–out.

At least one reporter appears to be on the case. Craig Wall of Fox Chicago News reported Thursday night that a source “close to the investigation” told him:

…that there were indeed conversations between Barack Obama’s chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel and the governor himself about candidates that might be filling the seat vacated by Barack Obama — and the conversations may have been taped.

Wall reported that a source “familiar with the investigation” confirmed that Emmanuel had “multiple conversations” with Governor Rod Blagojevich and John Harris, the governor’s chief of staff, about the Senate seat.

Blagojevich and Harris were named as defendants in a criminal complaint filed by the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Northern District of Illinois. The two are charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and solicitation of bribery.

According to Fox Chicago’s source, a list of names was given to the governor’s office of candidates for Obama’s senate seat that would be acceptable to the president-elect. Since the conversations took place after the FBI had established wiretaps on Blagojevich’s telephone lines, the phone conversations between Rahm and the two defendants were likely recorded and in the FBI’s possession.

The big question now is whether the conversations contain evidence of any quid pro quo or deal-making. At a December 11 press conference, Obama told reporters:

“I am confidant that no representatives of mine would have had any part of any deals related to this seat. I think the materials released by the U.S. attorney reflect that fact.”

We will have to wait to see – or rather hear — the tale of the tapes if indeed this story is accurate.

Wall said that several e-mail requests for comment were sent by Fox Chicago last night to the Obama transition team, but the station received no replies.

Obama has promised to release a list of the contacts between his transition team and representatives of the disgraced Illinois Governor “in the next few days.” Stay tuned. As this story unfolds, it just keeps getting more interesting.

– JP