Thomas Balanoff, head of the SEIU Illinois Council, testified under oath at the Blago trial that President Obama called him to lobby for Valerie Jarrett to be named by Governor Blagojevich to replace Obama in the Senate. This directly contradicts the President's repeated denials of any direct or indirect contact with Blago to influence the naming of his Senate replacement.
Sarah Ostman of the Chicago Sun-Times reports on the Blago trial testimony:
"Tom, i want to talk to you with regard to the Senate seat," Obama told him.
Balanoff said Obama said he had two criteria: someone who was good for the citizens of Illinois and could be elected in 2010.
Obama said he wasn't publicly coming out in support of anyone but he believed Valerie Jarrett would fit the bill.
"I would much prefer she (remain in the White House) but she does want to be Senator and she does meet those two criteria," Balanoff said Obama told him. "I said: 'thank you, I'm going to reach out to Gov. Blagojevich."
President-elect Barack Obama said Tuesday afternoon that he has had no dealings with Governor Blagojevich over his replacement in the Senate...
"I had no contact with the governor or his office, and so I was not aware of what was happening," Mr. Obama said. "And as I said it is a sad day for Illinois. Beyond that I don't it's appropriate to comment."
In December 2008, Obama said he was "appalled and disappointed" by the revelations that the Illinois governor was involved in a "pay-to-play" scheme to fill his Senate seat.
"I have never spoken to the governor on this subject. I'm confident that no representatives of mine would have any part of any deals related to this seat," Obama, then the president-elect, said at the time.
Blanoff and his union have been very big donors to both Blago and Obama, making him an ideal cut-out to do a deal for Obama.
The Washington press corps rolled over when the incident first surfaced and showed zero interest in following up on the many questions
the review left open
. The media can redeem themselves by refusing to allow Gibbs to get away with his usual dodge-the-tricky-questions game. And the president, when next he appears, should be queried on whether he really did talk to Blago's union pal and whether he later tried to deceive the American people.
The unpleasant image of Chicago pols running their backroom deals before and after they arrived in the Oval Office is not one that the president wants to take hold. The president is low on credibility these days, and refusing to put this matter to rest isn't going to improve things. It's time to come clean - on this and the Sestak and Romanoff deals