ABC News: Obama: Witness for the Defense?
Chicago Lawyers Say Sen. Barack Obama Could Be Called to Testify in the Rezko Trial
By BRIAN ROSS and AVNI PATEL
March 3, 2008—
Sen. Barack Obama could be called as a witness for his longtime friend and accused Illinois fixer Tony Rezko, according to Chicago lawyers following the case.
“I think it’s realistic that that could happen during the trial,” said Zach Fardon, a former Chicago federal prosecutor who was part of the team that convicted former Illinois Gov. George Ryan on corruption charges.
Jury selection for Rezko, accused of bribing public officials and taking kickbacks, began this morning in a Chicago federal courtroom.
Although contributions Rezko steered to Obama’s 2004 Senate campaign are cited in pretrial motions, he is unlikely to be called by prosecutors to testify about them.
From the Times UK today, “Court case makes life difficult for Barack Obama“:
Buried on page 59 of the indictment is a reference to one of many alleged kickbacks on a state contract that appears to have ended up as a $10,000 donation to an unnamed “political candidate”.
The kickback was allegedly arranged by Antoin “Tony” Rezko, a Syrian immigrant who became a powerful political fixer in Chicago. The “political candidate” who benefited from the $10,000 has been identified as Barack Obama, the Democratic contender calling for “change we can believe in” in the presidential race, who is said to be a longtime friend of Mr Rezko. …
Read all of the Times’s story.
There is a LIST of questions — all sourced — that the Obama campaign must answer about his relationship with Tony Rezko, indicted by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald. (Jury selection begins today; opening statements are expected tomorrow or Wednesday).
To: Interested Parties
From: Clinton Campaign
Date: Monday, March 03, 2008
Regarding: Questions Sen. Obama Should Answer About Tony Rezko
The trial of indicted influence peddler Tony Rezko – longtime friend and political patron of Sen. Barack Obama — starts today . Sen. Obama’s name has already surfaced in pre-trial documents submitted by the prosecution and, according to media reports, is likely to surface again as the trial progresses. Democrats deserve the answers to these questions as they consider their votes:
1. Will Sen. Obama release all documents related to his relationship with Tony Rezko, including all documents related to his controversial land transaction?
Howard Wolfson asked top Obama strategist David Axelrod this question on ABC’s This Week and the campaign has yet to respond. [ABC’s This Week, 3/2/08]
2. When, specifically, did Sen. Obama become aware of Mr. Rezko’s legal problems?
On national television this January, Sen. Obama said “no one had an inkling” of Rezko’s legal troubles during the course of their relationship. Actually, it was already widely reported that Mr. Rezko was under investigation for participating in a kickback scheme prior to their controversial land transaction. [CBS, 1/23/08; Chicago Sun-Times, 9/16/05]
3. Sen. Obama has returned money from several individuals who are publicly associated with Mr. Rezko. How much money did Mr. Rezko bundle for Sen. Obama’s campaigns in total, including people who are not business associates of Mr. Rezko? How many fundraisers did Mr. Rezko hold for Sen. Obama? Has there been an internal investigation to determine how many straw donors Mr. Rezko used to funnel money to Sen. Obama?
The Obama campaign has returned money from people who are publicly associate with Mr. Rezko. But they have not revealed who much Mr. Rezko bundled for Sen. Obama in total. The Chicago Sun Times reported that the Obama campaign “declined to say” whether they maintained a list of the money that Mr. Rezko raised for Mr. Obama over the course of his career. [Chicago Sun Times, 1/23/08]
4. Much of the upcoming trial involves Mr. Rezko’s efforts to control state boards as a means to defraud the state government. Have Sen. Obama and Mr. Rezko ever communicated about potential appointments to Illinois boards and commissions? It’s been publicly reported that Sen. Obama lobbied these same state boards to secure contracts for campaign donors. Did Sen. Obama ever confer with Mr. Rezko concerning how to successfully lobby state boards?
The indictment alleges that Mr. Rezko manipulated state government boards to defraud the people of Illinois. At the same time, “Mr. Obama met with three state pension boards,” urging them to give contracts to specific firms. Later, employees of these companies “donated more than $300,000 to help Mr. Obama win his seat in the United States Senate in 2004 and set fund-raising records early in the 2008 presidential race.” [New York Times, 10/01/07]
5. The New York Times reported that Sen. Obama attended a business meeting on behalf of Mr. Rezko to impress potential investors for his business schemes. How many events did Sen. Obama attend on behalf of Mr. Rezko to impress investors? What was his role? Why did Sen. Obama agree to attend?
The New York Times reported in June that “Former Rezko associates said that Governor Blagojevich attended one of the dinners, and that at Mr. Rezko’s request, Mr. Obama dropped in at one for Middle Eastern bankers in early 2004, just as he was starting to pull ahead in the Senate primary. The visits, Mr. Rezko’s partners said, helped impress foreign guests.” [New York Times, 6/14/07]
6. How many times did Senator Obama visit Tony Rezko’s house? What was the purpose of these visits?
The Times of London reports that “The court is also expected to hear from John Thomas, an FBI mole, who reportedly witnessed Mr Obama and Mr Blagojevich making frequent visits to Mr Rezko.” [The Times, 3/3/08]
7. Did Sen. Obama intercede on behalf of Mr. Rezko in any governmental capacity?
The Chicago Sun Times reported that “As a state senator, Barack Obama wrote letters to city and state officials supporting his political patron Tony Rezko’s successful bid to get more than $14 million from taxpayers to build apartments for senior citizens.” They have not said whether there were any other actions that Obama took for the benefit of Rezko. [Chicago Sun Times, 6/13/07]