Did Obama lie about conversation with Blago? 

In an explosive post, NBC Chicago cites a redacted portion of a motion filed by attorneys for former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, in which they claim that “President Obama’s public statements contradict other witness statements.”

Blago will go on trial in June for allegedly trying to sell Obama’s old Senate seat for personal gain in a conspiracy the government alleges existed between Oct. 22, 2008 and Dec. 9, 2008.  U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald called the charges against Blago serious enough to “make Lincoln turn over in his grave.”

There was some controversy during the presidential transition over just how much Obama knew. After Blagojevich’s arrest, several commentators noted that on Nov. 23, 2008 Obama senior advisor David Axelrod had appeared on Fox News and said of the president-elect: “I know he’s talked to the governor and there are a whole range of names, many of which have surfaced, and I think he has a fondness for a lot of them.”

Axelrod later retracted: “I was mistaken when I told an interviewer last month that the President-elect has spoken directly to Governor Blagojevich about the Senate vacancy. They did not then or at any time discuss the subject.”

Yet the court documents now claim that Obama did in fact speak to Blago about the Senate seat. The alleged conversation happened on Dec. 1 — a week after Axelrod’s statement, and a week before Obama would deny having spoken to Blagojevich, telling reporters in Chicago, “I had no contact with the governor or his office and so I was not aware of what was happening.”

The court documents state that Blagojevich and Obama discussed the Senate seat issue on Dec. 1, 2008 in Philadelphia – presumably while they were both in that city attending a National Governors Association meeting.

Blagojevich’s attorneys cite evidence from a taped phone call (Call #139) on chief of staff John Harris’ cell phone in which Harris and Blagojevich’s legal counsel discuss details of a conversation which – according to Obama’s public account, anyway – never happened.

There’s more. The specter of Obama fundraiser Tony Rezko, who is a possible government witness in the case, hangs over the upcoming trial like a volcanic cloud. Blago’s legal team evidently wants Obama to testify in order to discredit Rezko’s testimony against him related to other charges in Blagojevich’s federal indictment. Blagojevich’s defense complains that they have been kept in the dark about Obama’s statements to the FBI regarding Rezko and regarding the Senate seat:

“As of today’s date, the defense has not received any notes, transcripts, or reports from President Obama’s interview with the government” about his ties to convicted developer Tony Rezko and Blagojevich’s alleged attempts to sell his old Senate seat, defense lawyers wrote.

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