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A Closer Look At Valerie Jarrett's Role In The Blago Mess

(CBS)
Incoming White House counsel Greg Craig's report on conversations between Barack Obama's transition team and the office of embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich flatly states that Valerie Jarrett, Mr. Obama's choice to fill his Senate seat before she took herself out of the running, "had no contact or communication with Governor Blagojevich, with his Chief of Staff, John Harris or with any other people from the Governor's office about a successor to replace the President-Elect in the United States Senate or how the decision should be made."

But it does include an interesting tidbit concerning a conversation Jarrett had with Tom Balanoff, the head of the Illinois chapter of the Service Employees International Union. According to the report, Balanoff told Jarrett her had spoken to Blagojevich about the possibility of Jarrett being appointed to the seat, adding that Lisa Madigan was also discussed as a possible appointee.

"Ms. Jarrett recalls that Mr. Balanoff also told her that the Governor had raised with him the question of whether the Governor might be considered as a possible candidate to head up the Department of Health and Human Services in the new administration," the report says. "Mr. Balanoff told Ms. Jarrett that he told the Governor that it would never happen. Jarrett concurred."

Continues the report: "Mr. Balanoff did not suggest that the Governor, in talking about HHS, was linking a position for himself in the Obama cabinet to the selection of the President-Elect's successor in the Senate, and 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 replacement. At no time did Balanoff say anything to her about offering Blagojevich a union position."

On a conference call with reporters upon release of the report, Craig said Jarrett called Blagojevich's desire for the HHS post "ridiculous," and he characterized the conversation between Jarrett and Balanoff as "appropriate."

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