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Obama Review Clears Staff in Blagojevich Probe


An internal review prepared for U.S. President-elect Barack Obama has concluded his aides had no improper contact with embattled Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, who is accused of seeking to sell Mr. Obama's Senate seat.

Mr. Obama's legal counsel, Greg Craig, Tuesday released the report as transition officials disclosed that the president-elect and two of his top aides, Rahm Emanuel and Valerie Jarrett, had been interviewed in connection with the federal investigation.

The review says Mr. Obama had no contact with Blagojevich or any of his staff about the seat Mr. Obama vacated after winning the presidency.

It says Emanuel, Mr. Obama's choice for White House chief of staff, had telephone conversations with Blagojevich and his office on the subject of the Senate seat and potential candidates. But it says there was no discussion of a Cabinet position or any other personal benefit to the governor in exchange for the Senate appointment.

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald has said his office makes no allegations about whether the president-elect was aware of Blagojevich's actions.

Transition officials say the report was ready for release last week but that its publication was delayed at the request of prosecutors, who were still conducting their investigation.

Governor Blagojevich and a top aide, John Harris, were arrested two weeks ago on corruption charges stemming from the scandal. The governor has strongly denied the claims and has vowed to fight the charges. He refuses to step down.

Prosecutors say investigators wiretapped the Illinois governor's phone conversations and uncovered what they described as a "political corruption crime spree."

State and national political leaders from Blagojevich's own Democratic Party, including Mr. Obama, have called on the governor to step down, saying he can no longer effectively lead the state.

A panel of Illinois state lawmakers is considering whether it should recommend that state lawmakers move to impeach Blagojevich.

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