Page last updated at 22:42 GMT, Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Obama cleared by internal review

Rod Blagojevich
Mr Blagojevich has sole responsibility to pick Mr Obama's successor

President-elect Barack Obama's team had "no inappropriate discussions" with Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, according to an internal review.

But his Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel talked to Mr Blagojevich about who should fill Mr Obama's senate seat.

Mr Blagojevich has been accused of attempting to "sell" the seat, but says he is not guilty of any wrongdoing.

The review reveals that the US Attorney leading the Blagojevich probe spoke to Mr Obama as part of his investigation.

Patrick Fitzgerald also questioned Mr Emanuel, and Obama aide Valerie Jarrett last week about their contacts with Mr Blagojevich.

No quid pro quo

The internal review was conducted by Greg Craig, a legal adviser to Mr Obama.

He concluded that Mr Emanuel had indeed discussed potential successors to Mr Obama with Mr Blagojevich and his Chief of Staff John Harris, but that at no time had anyone from the Blagojevich camp made "any effort to extract a personal benefit for the governor" from him, or from anyone else on the Obama team.

Mr Craig revealed that Ms Jarrett, who at one stage had been mentioned as a possible replacement for Mr Obama in his senate seat, had been spoken to by a union official with links to Mr Blagojevich about the possibility of the Illinois governor being picked by Mr Obama to serve as health and human services secretary.

I am dying to show you how innocent I am
Rod Blagojevich

But Ms Jarrett "did not understand the conversation to suggest that the Governor wanted the cabinet seat as a quid pro quo for selecting any specific candidate to be the president-elect's [senate] replacement", the review concluded.

"She thought it was ridiculous for the governor of Illinois to talk about being appointed to Barack Obama's Cabinet at a time when he was being investigated," Mr Craig told reporters.

In a statement to reporters on Friday, Mr Blagojevich vowed to "fight the false accusations" made by what he termed a "political lynch mob".

And he expressed a desire to explain his actions in court.

"I'm dying to answer these charges - I am dying to show you how innocent I am," he said.

'Pay to play' deals

The Illinois state legislature has formed a committee to investigate the possibility of impeaching Mr Blagojevich.

Federal agents say Mr Blagojevich
Tried to obtain campaign contributions in exchange for official actions
Tried to use state funds for the private purpose of inducing the Tribune Company to fire Chicago Tribune editorial board members critical of him
Tried to obtain personal financial benefits for himself in return for his appointment of a US senator

There have been calls from many politicians, including Mr Obama, for the governor to step down.

Mr Blagojevich was charged on 9 December with a number of offences including soliciting a bribe.

The charges relate to a variety of corruption schemes in which the governor was allegedly involved, including so-called "pay to play" deals - the doling out of jobs, contracts and appointments in return for campaign contributions.

On the day of his arrest, investigators released transcripts of conversations between Mr Blagojevich and others intercepted by court-authorised wiretaps.

In the conversations, the Democratic governor allegedly discussed offering Mr Obama's Senate seat in return for a well-paid position at a non-profit organisation or a group affiliated with trades unions, according to the affidavit.

As Illinois governor, it is Mr Blagojevich's responsibility under state law to select a replacement if one of the state's senate seats becomes vacant.

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