Silent By Request

It appears that, as I have thought previously, that the Obama transition team has been actively cooperating with U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation of Rod Blagojevich, which is the reason why they have not yet released the results of their own internal review of their staff inquiries to the public yet.

“I would ask for your patience,” Mr. Obama told reporters at a news conference in Chicago, “because I do not want to interfere with an ongoing investigation.”

Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the United States attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, said in a statement on Monday that he had asked Mr. Obama to delay releasing the findings of the transition team’s legal review so investigators could conduct interviews in the corruption case involving Mr. Blagojevich.

[…]

Gregory B. Craig, who will be the new White House counsel, shared the contents of the internal review with the United States attorney’s office and hoped to announce the findings publicly in an effort to move beyond the first major distraction of Mr. Obama’s transition to power. But the Obama team agreed to withhold the review, officials said, to help Mr. Fitzgerald’s office continue to build its case in the Blagojevich investigation.

I have stated over the past few days that I believe that the primary impetus behind the Obama team’s reluctance to speak out about Blagojevich is due to Obama’s reluctance to interfere or impair the federal investigation. As time has gone on, it has become increasingly clear that this is the case. Frankly, I find it admirable that the incoming president-elect is willing to take a political and reputational hit to do the right thing by helping Fitzgerald put Blagojevich behind bars.

Of course, what’s even more damning about our insipid media-driven culture is that it’s even necessary to say this. Obama and his team are in a position where they have to be careful about what they say and do to ensure that the case against Blagojevich isn’t damaged. That means this is a time for thoughtful deliberation, not a time to demand that Obama put out the “right spin” so that the gaping maw of the 24-hour news cycle can be satisfied.

Put simply, there was no need for any kind of immediate reaction to the charges against Blagojevich from the Obama team at all. It wouldn’t serve any useful purpose except to satisfy a smug political pundit class that demands that politicians need to condemn something right away, even if there’s no evidence of involvement, or else risk being smeared with complicity.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, Media, US Politics, , ,
Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.

Comments

  1. Bithead says:

    I wonder, how many would be willing to apply the same set of variables to ted Stevens.

  2. Eric says:

    I wonder, how many would be willing to apply the same set of variables to ted Stevens.

    How is this equivalent to L’Affaire Blogojevich? Stevens was directly indicted; Obama is being smeared by the ol’ guilt-by-association technique.

    Or, Bitsy, is this another one of your “obvious” analogies that you deem beneath you to clarify because it’s so “obvious?”

  3. DangerGirl says:

    Then Obama & Fitzgerald should have said that immediately following Fitzgerald press conference instead of waiting until now.

    “I would ask for your patience,” Mr. Obama told reporters at a news conference in Chicago, “because I do not want to interfere with an ongoing investigation.”

    This could have been stated within 24-48 hours of the initial press conference by Fitzgerald.

    Sorry I give the Pres Elect & Fitzgerald a FAIL on this!

    After all it was Fitzgerald who told Armitage to be quiet during the Valerie Plane investigation

    From the Washington Post:

    When Armitage now says he was mute because of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s request,

    As a result, Libby was jailed not for the initial crime of leaking which is what Fitzgerald was investigating but for perjury: in other words for lying about something he didn’t do.

  4. PD Shaw says:

    Blagojevich has been saying the same thing for a couple of years — he can’t disclose the subpoenas with which his office has been served because doing so might harm an ongoing investigation.

  5. anjin-san says:

    Eric,

    Are you denying that the Obama gang is directly tied to Al Capone? You know, Chicago? I challenge to prove that he is not…

  6. PD Shaw says:

    Bithead, I think the analogy you’re looking for lies in Obama’s strong condemnation of Jack Murtha accusation that our troops killed innocent people in cold blood.

  7. John425 says:

    Fitzgerald is being overly considerate to the Obama team and could ask the judge for a gag order while he investigates. Even a President-Elect is not above the law and this is beginning to smell fishy.

  8. Alex Knapp says:

    Even a President-Elect is not above the law and this is beginning to smell fishy.

    It is? What evidence do you have to back up that assertion?

  9. Bithead says:

    How is this equivalent to L’Affaire Blogojevich? Stevens was directly indicted; Obama is being smeared by the ol’ guilt-by-association technique.

    The question is with regards to the reaction of the press and the left… and yes, I include you in this. I the case of Obama, we’re suppsoed to let the system work itself through. Yet, in the case of (insert Republican here) your generosity tends to fade.

    The patter is so well established it is in fact obvious, except to those trying to AVOID the obvious… and yes, I include you in this, as well.

  10. Steve Verdon says:

    It wouldn’t serve any useful purpose except to satisfy a smug political pundit class that demands that politicians need to condemn something right away, even if there’s no evidence of involvement, or else risk being smeared with complicity.

    Huh? If there is no evidence of involvement then, generally speaking, why not condemn something that is worthy of being condemned? And Obama has condemned Blagojevich and has called for his resignation. Of course it was well after the news had already broken, the Illinois Lt. Gov. had called for Blagojevich to resign, the State’s Attorney General proposed that the Supreme Court to bar Blagojevich from naming a person to Obama’s seat and Senator Dick Durbin urged the legislature to call a special session to fill the seat. Obama’s response,

    “Obviously, like the rest of the people of Illinois, I am saddened and sobered by the news that came out of the U.S. attorney’s office today. But as this is an ongoing investigation involving the governor, I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to comment on the issue at this time. It’s a sad day for Illinois.”–link

    Two days later we get this,

    “I do not think that the governor at this point can effectively serve the people of Illinois. The legislature is going down to Springfield to make a determination as to how to resolve this issue. I think they’re going to the same conclusion. I hope that the governor himself comes to the conclusion that he can no longer effectively serve and that he does resign.”–link

    Something isn’t adding up here Alex.

    I agree that releasing lots of details and so forth isn’t good. But Obama did come out and condemn Balgojevich even after noting it was an on-going investigation. We have all kinds of spin coming out on this and Obama and his people are one of the sources, IMO.

    Same ol’ same ol’.

  11. Drew says:

    C’mon, Alex.

    “It appears that, as I have thought previously, that the Obama transition team has been actively cooperating with U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation of Rod Blagojevich, which is the reason why they have not yet released the results of their own internal review of their staff inquiries to the public yet.”

    OK, that’s fine. But they haven’t felt the responsibility to stay completely silent either, having released statements favorable to their image.

    This selectivity in public communication is pure politics. I’m not saying Obama did anything wrong, but the tortured attempt to paint Obama favorably has no basis.

  12. Eric says:

    [DangerGirl said:] Then Obama & Fitzgerald should have said that immediately following Fitzgerald press conference instead of waiting until now.

    Well, why? Maybe Fitzgerald didn’t say anything to Obama’s team until 72 hours later. Or 96 hours. Bottom line: you don’t know what Fitzgerald told whom when. And let’s not forget here that it’s not Obama who’s been indicted. So, frankly, it seems ridiculous here for you to be all upset that Team Obama didn’t shout denunciations from the mountain top 5 minutes after Blagojevich was arrested.

    As a result, Libby was jailed not for the initial crime of leaking which is what Fitzgerald was investigating but for perjury: in other words for lying about something he didn’t do.

    I know conservatives like to think perjury is just this little, itsy bitsy, innocent, victimless “fake” crime that liberals invented because they had nothing better to do, but the fact of the matter is perjury is a felony. Secondly, claiming that Libby lied about something “he didn’t do” is begging the question–Fitzgerald couldn’t even determine if Libby did or didn’t do anything illegal because Libby perjured himself!

    [PD Shaw said:] Bithead, I think the analogy you’re looking for lies in Obama’s strong condemnation of Jack Murtha accusation that our troops killed innocent people in cold blood.

    More conservative nonsequitur. This makes no sense at all. Y’know, Obama didn’t denounce my mom at all for forcing me to eat liver when I was a kid, therefore he’s hiding something. I just know it!

    [John425 said:] Fitzgerald is being overly considerate to the Obama team and could ask the judge for a gag order while he investigates. Even a President-Elect is not above the law and this is beginning to smell fishy.

    OK. So what’s it gonna be? Are you all pissing and moaning because Team Obama didn’t denounce Blagojevich fast enough? Or because Fitzgerald didn’t ask Team Obama to shut the hell up? Get your stories straight, then come back. And sometimes something smells fishy because it’s just the fish.

    [Bithead said:] The question is with regards to the reaction of the press and the left… and yes, I include you in this. I the case of Obama, we’re suppsoed to let the system work itself through. Yet, in the case of (insert Republican here) your generosity tends to fade.

    The patter is so well established it is in fact obvious, except to those trying to AVOID the obvious… and yes, I include you in this, as well.

    First of all, in what way should the press have reacted? Obama’s NOT the one under indictment here, nor has there been anything resembling evidence that there is a coverup by Team Obama. Is this the same line as your whole Ayers/Wright conspiracy? That if only the press would pursue this like rabid dogs, we’d finally find out who the real Obama is? How’d that work out for ya?

    Secondly, I don’t think you’ve demonstrated in any way that Republicans aren’t given the benefit of the doubt in legal cases, or that anyone doesn’t “let the system work itself through.” In Stevens’s case, let me remind you, he himself was indicted, not some other politician he knew. Same thing with Libby. Can you come up with at least one provable example where someone wasn’t given the benefit of the doubt? Siegelman? Oh, wait…

    [Steve Verdon said:]

    Y’know, Steve, I simply don’t know what to say to you that would make you happy. Your complaint seems silly. First you say he hasn’t said enough fast enough, then you complain that he said too much after he said he wasn’t going to comment. So therefore something doesn’t “add up” and we should all assume (presumably) a coverup. What’s wrong with Team Obama commenting that they shouldn’t comment, but at least saying something until they release more details (per Fitzgerald)? I mean Team Bush did this all the time with very little complaint from most of the posters posting here now (though I admit you personally have been very nonpartisan in your disdain for nontransparency).

    [Drew said:] OK, that’s fine. But they haven’t felt the responsibility to stay completely silent either, having released statements favorable to their image.

    This selectivity in public communication is pure politics. I’m not saying Obama did anything wrong, but the tortured attempt to paint Obama favorably has no basis.

    As I said above, why isn’t it OK to say at least something without saying too much? Why must Team Obama either be completely silent (which of course would have raised your ire even more), or vociferously denounce L’Affair Blagojevich before he’s even gone to trial? Is there no middle ground?

    Of course you didn’t say Obama did anything wrong, but your all seriously suggesting he did. Why don’t you all just come out and own your statements?

    Personally, all of you complaining here should listen to yourselves. You sound desperate, and you really are making a mountain out of what probably will be a molehill. I suppose I should add obligatory troll protection here, namely, that I’m not saying Team Obama couldn’t be hiding something, but rather that you all seem to be jumping the gun here.

  13. Eerl4 says:

    Steve et al.,

    A couple of you seem to be caught up in the faux contridiction between the Obama transition team offering condemnation of Blagojevich on one hand while demuring to comment on aspects of their internal investigaions as requested by Pat Fitzgerald. Granted, we are winding down the days of an administration that for years used the excuse of an ongoing criminal investigation as a shield to stonewall against any questioning of their own involvement in said criminal activity. In this case though, we are talking about delaying by one week the release of voluntary, internal investigations at the behest of the U.S. Attorney’s office. Explain the me please, how this gives the impression that Obama is placing himself “above the law”? Explain to me please, what about this “smells fishy”? What exactly is not “adding up”?

  14. John425 says:

    Now it is leaking out that Rahm may have had 21 taped conversations with Blago. Don’t tell me Obama never discussed his Senate seat with his Chief of Staff on a regular basis. For Obama to maintain that he “didn’t know” is akin to sitting in church for 20 years and “didn’t know” Rev Wright was a hate-monger. This is Chicago politics at it’s worst, so you can almost guarantee it is nasty and ugly. Or… is this just another thing that is Bush’s fault?

  15. Drew says:

    Eric asks: “Is there no middle ground?”

    No. You can’t have it both ways. If silence is virtue for legal reasons, then public statements favorable to your cause can’t be selectively slipped in.

    Is silence required for the greater good – legal reasons – or not? Pick one, Obama.

  16. Steve Verdon says:

    Y’know, Steve, I simply don’t know what to say to you that would make you happy. Your complaint seems silly. First you say he hasn’t said enough fast enough, then you complain that he said too much after he said he wasn’t going to comment.

    No that is your interpretation of what I’ve written. I have two points.

    1. Right off the bat several key Democrats from Illinois came out strongly against Blagojevich pretty much on day one. Obama did not. He waited 2 days before he decided things were ripe to come out strongly against Blagojevich.

    2. Alex’s contention is that Obama has been reticent to speak because of a request by Fitzgerald. That doesn’t appear to fit the facts since Obama did decide to be a Johnny-come-lately to the Bash Blagojevich party.

    Obama made a noob mistake on this one. Actually several.

    1. Knowing that Blagojevich was under surveillance he dispatched at least one person to discuss this issue with Balgojevich. At the very least it brings up the possibility of impropriety. Dumb move.

    2. He decided to play it cautiously when the news broke that the governor was arrested when several of his fellow party members (lower ranking ones at that) came out clearly and strongly on the issue.

    Obama looks, at best, both foolish and overly cautious…like a rookie?

    So therefore something doesn’t “add up” and we should all assume (presumably) a coverup.

    Boy you do have a rich fantasy life. No, what doesn’t add up are Obama’s public statements and Alex’s narrative as to what has been going on in regards to Obama’s public statements. I’m not suggesting a cover-up.

    What’s wrong with Team Obama commenting that they shouldn’t comment, but at least saying something until they release more details (per Fitzgerald)?

    Nothing. My beef is that it doesn’t preclude Obama saying, “Hey that is just awful we need to get that guy out of office ASAP,” or words to that effect as Alex appears to be implying. And Obama’s response so far has been…not good.

    And one last time, I don’t think Obama nor Emanuel are stupid enough to think they should have “paid-to-play” with Balgojevich. They probably wanted to see if they could get their preferred candidate into Obama’s seat, and if Blagojevich wanted to try and do some horse trading they said no thanks.

    Also there are the contradictory statements. Axelrod says yes there was contact…oh he mispoke. Nobody talked to Balgojevich…oh wait Emanuel may have talked to him by phone, or some of Emanuel’s people talked to some of Balgojevich’s people…we aren’t sure…uhhh we didn’t do anything wrong. We can’t talk anymore though because of the investigation.

    It looks bad at the very least. It looks like spin and misdirection while convienently hiding behind Fitzgerald’s legal briefs. And now it may dog Obama for months maybe even years. It was a dumb sequence of moves, IMO.

  17. steve says:

    So what you are say Mr. Verdon, is that on the day news breaks, and we know they always get everything right on the first day, you want your political leaders to make immediate denouncements. Ok, I can live with that. I prefer someone who waits to hear all the facts and talk it over. Other than feeding the news cycle, what is harmed by waiting a couple of days?

    Steve

  18. Steve Verdon says:

    So what you are say Mr. Verdon, is that on the day news breaks, and we know they always get everything right on the first day, you want your political leaders to make immediate denouncements. Ok, I can live with that. I prefer someone who waits to hear all the facts and talk it over. Other than feeding the news cycle, what is harmed by waiting a couple of days?

    While I suppose it is possible that Fitzgerald might jump the gun and arrest an innocent man, I think it would be reasonable to think otherwise. And think about what you are talking about…politicians who are some of the most calculating people on the planet. Most came out and denounced Blagojevich right away. If they are smelling the blood in the water, I’m inclined to think there really is blood in the water.

  19. Politicianstink says:

    After reading the affadavit(Criminal Complaint) by special FBI agent Cain in December 2008, it is apparent that Obama had contact with Blago either first hand or at the least second hand through one of his staff. Having a member of your staff ask questions for you for illegal gain is an old Chicago political dodge to avoid prosecution. A weasal move all to common in our already economically weakened USA. Politicians stink and are a large part responsible for our current status quo.