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Group seeks Obama, Rahm interviews in Blagojevich probe

Then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich and eventual Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel discussed the Senate seat being vacated by President-elect Barack Obama. | Sun-Times file photo

Judicial Watch, a Washington D.C., conservative group that has doggedly pursued records involving government officials since the Clinton administration, filed a lawsuit seeking records from the FBI’s investigation of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich that relate to President Barack Obama, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Obama aide Valerie Jarrett.

The group first requested the files in a public records request not long after Blagojevich was convicted in 2011, but Justice Department officials refused to make them public, citing laws that bar the release of information that “could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings.”

The “enforcement proceedings” against Blagojevich presumably ended this week, when the Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear the former governor’s appeal of his conviction, the lawsuit states. Blagojevich got an appeals court to overturn five of the 18 counts against him, but the Supreme Court denial means he likely will remain imprisoned on the remaining charges until 2024.

The lawsuit states the FBI confirmed there were records related to interviews with Obama, Emanuel and Jarrett in a 2012 letter denying Judicial Watch’s request for the documents.

On several wiretapped calls recorded by investigators, Blagojevich and Emanuel discussed potential replacements for Obama. Emanuel was never accused of wrongdoing, and prosecutors have noted Emanuel was the target of strong-arm tactics by the former governor, who held up funding for a parks project in Emanuel’s Northside Congressional district in hopes of getting Emanuel’s talent agent brother, Ari, to host a Hollywood fundraiser.

Jarrett was floated by the Obama camp as a potential Senate replacement, but she apparently was not interested in taking the post, and Blagojevich was discouraged that the White House was offering only gratitude if he picked her.

Judicial Watch lawsuit