Invoking his wartime commander-in-chief authority, NEWSWEEK Editor Jon Meacham has granted yours truly, a lowly investigative correspondent, sweeping subpoena power to demand that President-elect Barack Obama and his transition team answer all my questions about their dealings with Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who stands accused of putting Obama's vacant U.S. Senate up for sale to the highest bidder. (He vowed on Dec. 19 to fight the charges "until I take my last breath.") It remains unclear whether Obama's assorted spinmeisters and lawyers will honor these subpoenas—or even return my phone calls. But in the meantime, the public at least deserves to know the most crucial questions. Exercising my newly acquired powers, here are the first five:
1. Define " inappropriate, " make good on your pledge of transparency and show us the internal report. All of it.
Mr. President-elect, you have said that nobody on your staff was "involved in inappropriate discussions" with the governor or his aides about his apparent plans for your Senate seat. Please define "inappropriate." And, in light of your pledge for greater transparency in government, will you also turn over a full, unedited copy of the internal report conducted by transition lawyers into this matter, including the notes of all interviews they conducted with your staff members, as well as all phone records and e-mails documenting the contacts between your staff, Blagojevich and his team?
2 Explain what happened with Senate " Candidate 1. "
In the criminal complaint released by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, Blagojevich is quoted in a Nov. 11 tape recording as saying that you wanted him to name Senate Candidate 1 (since identified as your close adviser Valerie Jarrett), but that you and your aides were "not willing to give me anything except appreciation. [Expletive] them." How would Blagojevich have gotten the idea that this was your view? Were you or any of your aides aware, at any point, that Blagojevich wanted more than "appreciation"—such as contributions to his campaign fund or a seat in your cabinet—in exchange for appointing Jarrett? And why did she withdraw from consideration right after this conversation?
3 What did you know about Blago ' s exit strategy?
In other parts of the complaint, Blagojevich is quoted as saying that he wanted you to tap wealthy "Warren Buffet types" and put up "10, 15 million" for a political advocacy group that the governor could then head up, and draw a salary from, after he leaves office. Were you ever told of Blagojevich's interest in creating such an organization?
4 Have you shared everything you have on Rezko?
The criminal complaint makes a number of references to Tony Rezko, a convicted Blagojevich fundraiser who also raised money for your campaigns and who, on the same day that you bought your South Side Chicago home in June 2005, purchased property from the same owner right next door. Are there any records in your possession relating to your contacts with Rezko that you have not publicly released?
5. Will you promise to leave Fitzgerald alone?
Will you pledge to keep Patrick Fitzgerald as your U.S. attorney in Chicago and guarantee that he will face no impediments to completing his investigation by your Justice Department—wherever it might lead?