President Barack Obama’s chief of staff, then a congressman in Illinois, apparently attempted to trade favors with embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich while he was in office, according to newly disclosed e-mails obtained by The Associated Press.
Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, agreed to sign a letter to the Chicago Tribune supporting Blagojevich in the face of a scathing editorial by the newspaper that ridiculed the governor for self-promotion. Within hours, Emanuel’s own staff asked for a favor of its own: The release of a delayed $2 million grant to a school in his district.
The 2006 discussion with Blagojevich’s top aide, Deputy Gov. Bradley Tusk, doesn’t appear to cross legal lines, and Emanuel couldn’t speed up the distribution of the funds. But it offers a peek at ties between two high-profile Illinois politicians — one now the president’s right-hand man, the other facing years in prison if convicted of political corruption.
Discussion of the exchange could come up at Blagojevich’s corruption trial, currently under way in Chicago. Blagojevich, who is accused of plotting to profit by selling an appointment to Obama’s former Senate seat, also tried later that year to use the school grant in an extortion attempt against Emanuel, according to federal prosecutors.
Authorities say he ordered Tusk, who told the AP he is scheduled to testify in the case Monday and couldn’t comment, to get Emanuel to compel his Hollywood agent brother to host a political fundraiser before the grant was paid.
White House spokesmen did not respond to requests for comment.