CNN's Griffin falsely suggested Obama denies assertions in Blagojevich complaint -- but there's no allegation for him to deny

››› ››› MATT GERTZ

CNN's Drew Griffin misrepresented President-elect Barack Obama's response to the criminal complaint against Gov. Rod Blagojevich, falsely suggesting that Obama disputes allegations made in the complaint. In fact, there are no allegations regarding Obama in the complaint for him to deny, as U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald made clear when he stated that the complaint "makes no allegations about the president-elect whatsoever."

On the December 11 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, correspondent Drew Griffin misrepresented President-elect Barack Obama's response to the criminal complaint against Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), falsely suggesting that Obama disputes allegations made in the complaint. In fact, there are no allegations regarding Obama in the complaint for him to deny, as U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald made clear when he stated that the complaint "makes no allegations about the president-elect whatsoever -- his conduct."

Discussing allegations in the complaint that Blagojevich attempted to seek a "three-way deal" with Obama and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), in which Blagojevich would be rewarded by SEIU for naming Obama's preferred replacement for his Senate seat, Griffin asserted:

GRIFFIN: The complaint outlines how Blagojevich and his chief of staff were allegedly cooking up what they called a "three-way deal" that would "leverage the president-elect's desire to have Senate candidate one appointed." Prosecutors say candidate one would become senator, Blagojevich would resign to become a high-paid leader of a political action group affiliated with a labor union called SEIU, and the president would then help SEIU by supporting its political agenda.

Convoluted, complicated, and simply not true, according to the president-elect -- at least as far as he is aware.

In fact, contrary to Griffin's suggestion that Obama said allegations included in the complaint are "not true," Obama has not denied any allegations made in the complaint, nor does he have any reason to do so. During a December 9 press conference announcing the charges against Blagojevich, Fitzgerald stated that the complaint "makes no allegations about the president-elect whatsoever -- his conduct" and cautioned the press to "not cast aspersions on people for being named or being discussed or if you learn they're being interviewed." Indeed, as Media Matters for America has documented, the complaint against Blagojevich does not include a single allegation of misconduct by Obama, and at least one mention of "president-elect" in the complaint affirmatively undermines any suggestion of wrongdoing on Obama's part. In that instance, the complaint alleges that Blagojevich "said he knows that the President-elect wants Senate Candidate 1 for the Senate seat but 'they're not willing to give me anything except appreciation. Fuck them.' "

In a press conference earlier on December 11, Obama said he was "appalled and disappointed by what we heard in those transcripts" in the complaint, and said he did not "think that the governor at this point can effectively serve the people of Illinois." Obama went on to say that he "had no contact with the governor's office" and "did not speak to the governor about these issues," adding that he was "absolutely certain" that "our office had no involvement in any deal-making around my Senate seat."

From the December 11 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

BLITZER: I want to go to Chicago right now. Drew Griffin is looking in this story as well, and it's a -- it's a fast-developing story in Chicago. Amid all of these allegations of political corruption, Drew, what's the latest?

GRIFFIN: The very latest is the Chicago Tribune Company announced it's been subpoenaed in the government's probe into the Blagojevich affair. The government wants to see the documents relating to that Blagojevich deal where the governor allegedly would help the Tribune Company sell Wrigley Field if the paper would fire some critical journalists.

Also today, Governor Blagojevich himself did not resign but apparently went to work -- showed up for work with his accused chief of staff; neither one of them making any statements publicly. In the spotlight today, Wolf, was the president-elect completely denying he had any involvement in any Blagojevich dealings. But when it came to his staff, he left the door open.

[begin video clip]

OBAMA: I was as appalled --

GRIFFIN: We already knew President-elect Obama was appalled. We already knew he wants Governor Blagojevich to resign. That hanging cloud is what he or his team or anyone representing him knew about the deal that at least the governor allegedly thought he was cooking up with the president-elect's administration.

Like it or not, says Jay Stewart of the Better Government Association of Chicago, Obama is dealing with his very first presidential scandal, and it grew out of the same political swamp Obama -- the politician -- was raised in.

STEWART: The president-elect's got a lot of serious issues to deal with. He really shouldn't be dealing with this. But, you know, Illinois politics is like a black hole -- it keeps sucking you back in.

GRIFFIN: Sucking him in is the deal mentioned deep into the government's 78-page complaint against the governor. Specifically, the deal to put candidate number one, believed to be Valerie Jarrett, in the vacant U.S. Senate seat. She is one of Obama's closest confidantes, money-raiser, and now White House staffer, who was considered a front-runner for the seat before suddenly pulling out.

The complaint outlines how Blagojevich and his chief of staff were allegedly cooking up what they called a "three-way deal" that would "leverage the president-elect's desire to have Senate candidate one appointed." Prosecutors say candidate one would become senator, Blagojevich would resign to become a high-paid leader of a political action group affiliated with a labor union called SEIU, and the president would then help SEIU by supporting its political agenda.

Convoluted, complicated, and simply not true, according to the president-elect -- at least as far as he is aware.

OBAMA: What I want to do is to gather all the facts about any staff contacts that I might -- may have -- that may have taken place between the transition office and the governor's office, and we'll have those in the next few days.

GRIFFIN: Valerie Jarrett did not respond to CNN's request for an interview. The Service Employees International Union sent only a statement, saying, "We have no reason to believe that SEIU or any SEIU official was involved in any wrongdoing."

[end video clip]

GRIFFIN: All of this amid calls, Wolf -- renewed calls for the governor to resign. The lieutenant governor went to Springfield today and said Blagojevich should resign. And it's looking more and more likely that the legislature will take up impeachment proceedings when they meet next week in Springfield. Wolf.

Network/Outlet
CNN
Person
Drew Griffin
Show/Publication
The Situation Room
Stories/Interests
Attacks on Barack Obama, Propaganda/Noise Machine
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