In her July 9 Wall Street Journal column, Kimberley Strassel falsely claimed that there are "contradictions between" union official Tom Balanoff's testimony in former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's corruption trial and White House Counsel Greg Craig's investigation into the administration's interaction with Blagojevich. Strassel claimed that Craig's conclusion that Obama "had no contact of communication with Governor Blagojevich or members of his staff about the Senate seat" contradicts Balanoff's testimony that Obama had discussed with him his belief that Valerie Jarrett would make a good Senator. However, as Media Matters has noted, this is not a contradiction, as Balanoff was not a member of Blagojevich's staff.
From Strassel's column:
Consider the trial of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, which is sucking in most of the president's Chicago intimates. The threat to the White House isn't that Mr. Obama will be accused of wrongdoing. The threat is that the trial offers evidence for a growing view that Mr. Obama isn't so much "new politics" as a typical Chicago pol.
We've already seen a hint of the threat. Among the many accusations against Mr. Blagojevich is that he sought to sell Mr. Obama's old Senate seat. Mr. Blagojevich appeared particularly interested in naming Obama confidante Valerie Jarrett in return for a cabinet post or a union job.
When the scandal broke after the 2008 election, the incoming administration scrambled to distance itself from its old Chicago crew. Greg Craig, future White House counsel, was tasked with an internal investigation and dutifully reported that "The President-Elect had no contact or communication with Governor Blagojevich or members of his staff about the Senate seat." Moreover, the president-elect "did not actively seek" to put Mrs. Jarrett in that post. Nothing to see here, folks.
Nothing to see save top union official Tom Balanoff, who last week took the stand in Chicago. Mr. Balanoff testified under oath that the night prior to the election, he was called by Mr. Obama. "Tom, I want to talk to you with regard to the Senate seat," said the future president. According to Mr. Balanoff's testimony, Mr. Obama laid out two criteria for who he'd like to see get the post--good for Illinois, electable in 2010--and then noted that Mrs. Jarrett certainly met those two criteria. Mr. Balanoff testified that he then assured Mr. Obama he'd "reach out to Gov. Blagojevich."
This is a Barack Obama the White House would prefer the public not see.
The White House, trying to tamp down a scandal, has flatly refused to discuss contradictions between the Balanoff testimony and the Craig report. Its bigger concern should be that the trial begins to cast a new and unflattering light on this administration.