Absolving Emanuel

ABSOLVING EMANUEL…. In the latest in a series of strange reports from the Associated Press, hoping to connect the Blagojevich controversy to Barack Obama and his team, the wire service has a new report this morning insisting that the scandal “threatens” Rahm Emanuel.

The AP doesn’t point to any wrongdoing, of course, but it suggests some unknown evidence might, at some point, emerge to make Emanuel look bad. To describe this reporting as baseless speculation is an understatement.

The article, however, was published shortly before ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos came up with some more concrete reporting, which points in the opposite direction.

Sources tell me that the Obama team’s review of contacts with Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich will show that Rahm Emanuel had only one phone conversation with Blagojevich.

The contact, described as a “pro-forma” courtesy call, came as Emanuel was named Chief of Staff for Obama. Most of the discussion concerned Emanuel’s Congressional seat (which had previously been held by Blagojevich), with only a “passing reference” to the Senate vacancy, according to these sources. No deal for the Senate vacancy was discussed. […]

The sources add that the report will show Emanuel also had four phone calls with Blagojevich Chief of Staff John Harris. During those conversations, the Senate seat was discussed. The pros and cons of various candidates were reviewed, and the sources say that Emanuel repeatedly reminded Harris that Blagojevich should focus on the message the pick would send about the governor and his administration.

Sources also confirm that Emanuel made the case for picking Obama confidante Valerie Jarrett during at least one of the conversations. In the course of that conversation, Harris asked if in return for picking Jarrett, “all we get is appreciation, right?” “Right,” Emanuel responded.

Bottom line: these sources say that Obama’s report, which is expected to be released this week, will confirm what Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and President-Elect Obama have said — and what Governor Blagojevich clearly believed: that Obama officials were not open to any kind of deal for the Obama Senate seat.

As serious as Blagojevich’s problems are, it sounds like the Obama/transition team angle is a dud. There’s just nothing there.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.