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Obama not involved in US Senate scam: prosecu -

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Obama not involved in US Senate scam: prosecutors

The World Today - Wednesday, 10 December , 2008 12:34:00

ELEANOR HALL: The US political community has been rocked by the arrest of a Democrat Governor who
allegedly tried to sell the US Senate seat being vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.

Prosecutors say the Illinois Governor was offering the seat to the highest bidder, but they say
there is no suggestion that the President-elect knew anything about it.

In Washington, correspondent Kim Landers reports.

KIM LANDERS: Just before dawn, the phone in Rod Blagojevich's Chicago home began to ring.

The man on the other end was Robert Grant, the FBI's special agent in charge in Chicago.

He told the Illinois Governor two agents were outside his front door with a warrant for his arrest.

Rod Blagojevich didn't believe him.

ROBERT GRANT: Well, I woke him up, so the first thing was "was this a joke?", but I'll leave the
rest, you know he tried to make sure this was an honest call.

KIM LANDERS: Prosecutors allege Blagojevich had been on a political corruption crime spree that had
to be stopped.

The US Attorney in charge of the investigation, Patrick Fitzgerald, says the most appalling crime
caught on tape was the Illinois Governor trying to sell Barack Obama's newly vacated Senate seat in
return for campaign cash or a new job for himself or his wife.

PATRICK FITZGERALD: The Governors own words describing the Senate seat quote "it's a bleeping
valuable thing, thing you just don't give it away for nothing".

KIM LANDERS: Rod Blagojevich has been charged with soliciting a bribe and mail and wire fraud and
faces up to ten years in jail.

He appeared in court today wearing a tracksuit and sandshoes and has been released on bail.

It wasn't only the Senate seat that Rod Blagojevich was allegedly trying to manipulate.

Prosecutors say he was scheming to send a message that if the Tribune newspaper company wanted to
sell the Wrigley Field baseball park, the price of doing so was to purge some of the paper's
editorial writers who'd been critical of him.

PATRICK FITZGERALD: In the Governor's words, quote "fire all those bleeping people, get them the
bleep out of there, and get us some editorial support" close quote, and the bleeps are not really
bleeps.

KIM LANDERS: Bruce Dold is the editorial page editor for the Chicago Tribune.

BRUCE DOLD: I never had a whiff of this, no-one in the Tribune parent has ever suggested to me what
we should write, how we should write and no one has ever said we had to back of the Governor.

Certainly no one was saying that I ought to get rid of my deputy editor. So I can tell you I think
he ran into a brick wall when they tried to do this.

KIM LANDERS: Patrick Fitzgerald says there are no allegations Barack Obama was involved in any
conversations regarding the Senate seat scheme.

The President-elect says he was unaware of the attempt to profit from the appointment of a new
Senator to serve the remaining two years of his term.

BARACK OBAMA: I had no contact with the Governor or his office, and so we were not, I was not aware
of what was happening. And as I said it's a sad day for Illinois, beyond that I don't think it's
appropriate to comment.

KIM LANDERS: Rod Blagojevich is a Democrat who became Governor in 2003 with promises to clean up
after his Republican predecessor, George Ryan, who's now serving a six year prison sentence after
being convicted on racketeering and fraud charges.

The US Attorney who won that conviction of the previous Governor is Patrick Fitzgerald, the same
man now going after Rod Blagojevich.

Patrick Fitzgerald is also the prosecutor who went after former vice presidential staffer Lewis
"Scooter" Libby.

It's unusual for a federal prosecutor to have on his resume two such politically sensitive
investigations.

Ordinarily it's up to an incoming president to choose new US Attorneys. But Barack Obama has
already pledged to keep Patrick Fitzgerald in his job.

This is Kim Landers in Washington for The World Today.