Obama cleared of wrongdoing over disgraced governor

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The Independent US

An internal report released by Barack Obama's transition team confirmed that the incoming White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, spoke with the disgraced Governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich, and his top aide about the Senate seat being vacated by the President-elect but that there was nothing untoward in the conversations.

The document, released while Mr Obama is on holiday in Hawaii, was clearly designed to shut down speculation of possible fall-out from the Illinois scandal for either Mr Emanuel or indeed the President-elect. Mr Blagojevich and his chief of staff, John Harris, were arrested on 9 December and charged with attempting to trade Mr Obama's Senate seat for cash or other personal gain.

Last night's report will hardly be the end of the affair as prosecutors prepare formally to charge the Governor. Its findings fit with the assertions made by the federal prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, that Mr Obama is in no way implicated in his investigations.

It came out, however, on a day when transition officials confirmed that Mr Obama, Mr Emanuel and another senior adviser who had been mentioned as a possible candidate for the Senate seat, Valerie Jarrett, had been interviewed by investigators about the affair. Ms Jarrett, who is with the Obama family in Hawaii, has since been appointed to a senior White House post.

"The accounts contain no indication of inappropriate discussions with the Governor or anyone from his office" by Obama's aides, says the report, prepared by Mr Obama's senior legal counsel, Greg Craig. Although it was dated yesterday, it had been completed last week, but Mr Fitzgerald had requested that its release be delayed until last night.

Mr Craig insisted last night that Mr Emanuel's contact with Governor Blagojevich was "totally appropriate". He added that no one in the President-elect's circle was aware of any questionable conduct. "No one was approached with any kind of deal," he added.

Mr Blagojevich is free on bail and remains the Governor of Illinois.

An impeachment panel established in the Illinois legislature that is seeking to force him from office is making only slow progress.

Obama to swear on Lincoln bible

While most incoming presidents like to use their family bibles for their swearing-in ceremonies, that will not do for Barack Obama, who has secured permission instead to lay his hand on the velvet bible with gilded edges used by Abraham Lincoln at his inauguration in 1861.

It is the latest example of Mr Obama likening himself to Lincoln, even from the day he announced his candidacy in Springfield, Illinois – home of the 16th president. Next month he will trace the train route Lincoln took from Philadelphia to Washington DC for his swearing-in 200 years previously.

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