Patrick J. Fitzgerald interrogated convicted political fundraiser Tony Rezko
and others intensively about then-senator and presidential candidate Barack
Obama, a former managing editor of the Chicago Tribune said on television
Jim Warren, now a
political commentator for MSNBC, told Hardball host Chris Matthews that
Fitzgerald questioned Rezko �very aggressively� about possible involvement of
Obama in alleged political scandals in Chicago, and came away �with nothing.�
Warren said, �They
have come away with zilch.�
This item, lost amid
furor over newly released Justice Department torture memos last week, came out
April 14. Warren was at the Tribune from 1984 until August 2008,
according to the newspaper, going to the Tribune from the rival Chicago
Sun-Times where he began in 1977. Warren was Washington Bureau Chief for
the Tribune for eight years beginning in 1993.
that his own viewpoint on whether Fitzgerald�s investigations included Obama
has changed. From the MSNBC transcript:
. . . And, if I can also just add something, in talking to a couple of lawyers
close to the case, which is something, Chris and Lynn, that has totally
undermined my prevailing assumption that Patrick Fitzgerald took it easy on
then candidate Obama, then President-elect Obama, now President Obama, in fact,
now I can only attribute this to sources very close to the case.
It turns out that Patrick Fitzgerald
and his guys were very aggressively questioning a host of witness, including
the notorious developer, now convicted, Tony Rezko, even when he was in
solitary confinement a few blocks from here, aggressively questioning him about
the involvement of Barack Obama in any of this, and came away, apparently . . .
MATTHEWS: So . . .
WARREN: . . . with nothing.
my notion that they took a passive attack toward Obama for a variety of
reasons, I now have to admit, according to my sources, is simply wrong.
after a highly publicized trial during the 2008 primary election, reportedly
said in 2008 that he was under intense pressure to give prosecutors damaging
information on Obama or on then-Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Rezko said
at the time that he did not have information about Obama. The remarks were not
publicly followed up, presumably out of concern by Rezko�s defense attorneys
that reports might harm their client.
Rezko remains in
solitary confinement, where he has been since mid-2008. NDIL spokesman Randall
Samborn, questioned earlier about Rezko�s confinement, said that a status
hearing was scheduled for early February.
District of Illinois (NDIL) office has declined to comment on the MSNBC
his statement several times:
Well, let me rephrase that for you.
LYNN SWEET: But one of the . . .
MATTHEWS: Well, let me rephrase that for you, let you -- did they try to nail
SWEET: No, no, no. I think they had to follow the string. They . . .
WARREN: They aggressively -- they . . .
SWEET: Jim . . .
WARREN: They aggressively questioned a host of folks, including Tony
WARREN: And the fact that you see virtually nothing about Obama, even
indirectly, smelly, either in the criminal information revealed on December 9 .
WARREN: . . . of last year or recently in an indictment, is not apparently
because they took a pass because they were spineless or cutting him some slack.
WARREN: It was because, to this point . . .
SWEET: Well, I don�t -- I don�t know necessarily . . .
WARREN: . . . they have come away with zilch.�
since Fitzgerald became U.S. attorney in 2001 have generally bypassed large
donors, with a few exceptions such as Rezko, to focus on public officials. The
office has not extensively targeted corporate fraud. Recently the Tribune
reported that two donors in Chicago�s Indian-American community approached
politicians with an offer of up to $5 million in contributions. The eventual
fundraiser, in December 2008, raised about $20,000. Widespread reports have
involved the name of Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., in connection with the two Indian
businessmen, who are not under indictment and are reportedly talking with
spokespersons and media outlets often speculated during the presidential
primaries that the Rezko trial would implicate then-candidate Obama. The public
speculation, largely partisan, subsided toward the end of the trial when
prosecutors alleged that persons under investigation had tried to get Patrick
Fitzgerald removed from office, naming former Bush White House advisor Karl
Rove was questioned
by Fitzgerald extensively in the CIA leak investigation that indicted I. Lewis
�Scooter� Libby, and he appeared five times before the grand jury. Fitzgerald
publicly cleared Rove in June 2005. Before the Rezko trial, Fitzgerald and Rove
did not comment publicly on whether they had discussed Chicago political
The allegation that
persons of interest tried to get Fitzgerald removed has surfaced again in the
indictment of Rod Blagojevich.
Burns, a freelance writer in the Washington, DC, area, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.