Obama adviser had talks with governor, aides

WASHINGTON (AP) - An internal review prepared for Barack Obama found his incoming chief of staff had multiple conversations with the Illinois governor's office, but said the talks did not involve any deal concerning whom the governor would appoint to replace Obama in the Senate.

The report was released Tuesday as a transition official disclosed that Obama and two of his top aides, Rahm Emanuel and Valerie Jarrett, have been interviewed in connection with the federal investigation into Gov. Rod Blagojevich. The transition official, speaking on a condition of anonymity before the report's public release, also confirmed that Emanuel had been captured on wiretaps taken as part of the investigation.

Blagojevich was charged on Dec. 9 with plotting to use his governor's authority to appoint Obama's Senate replacement and make state appointments and contracts in exchange for cash and other favors. He has denied any criminal wrongdoing and has resisted multiple calls for his resignation, including one from Obama.

Incoming White House attorney Greg Craig, who conducted the internal review at Obama's request, found that the president-elect had no contact with Blagojevich or any of his staff about the Senate seat Obama vacated to take over the presidency.

Emanuel, Obama's pick for White House chief of staff, was the only Obama adviser to talk to Blagojevich and his top aide, John Harris, Craig found. The two men have been arrested as part of a federal corruption investigation.

Emanuel had one or two conversations with Blagojevich and four with Harris on the subject of the Senate seat, according to the review. The report said Obama authorized Emanuel to pass on the names of four people he considered to be highly qualified to take over his seat-Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes, Illinois Veterans' Affairs Director Tammy Duckworth, Rep. Jan Schakowsky and Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.

"In later telephone conversations, Mr. Emanuel-also with the president-elect's approval-presented other names of qualified candidates to Mr. Harris including Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Ms. Cheryle Jackson," the report said. "Mr. Harris did not make any effort to extract a personal benefit for the governor in any of these conversations. There was no discussion of a Cabinet position, of 501c(4), of a private sector position or of any other personal benefit to the governor in exchange for the Senate appointment."

The report said that earlier, Emanuel recommended Jarrett for the Senate seat without Obama's knowledge, and Jarrett later accepted a job as a senior White House adviser.

Craig revealed his findings into a memo to Obama. The memo was dated Tuesday, but a transition official said an initial copy was given to Obama on Dec. 15. On that day, Obama announced that the report was ready but that he was withholding it from public release for a week at the request of the U.S. attorneys still conducting their investigation.

In the meantime, the transition official said, Emanuel was interviewed by federal officials who replayed a wiretapped conversation for him. He then was able to give Craig more details about what he said, and those details were included in the final report, the transition official said. Transition officials discussed the final version with Obama on Monday as he vacationed in Hawaii.