Blagojevich Trial: Obama’s Election Eve Conversation with Labor Leader

ABC News' Sunlen Miller reports:

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs refused to comment on revelations made in the trial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich that reveal the most direct involvement between then-Senator Obama and the posturing for filling his vacant Senate seat.

According to the testimony of Chicago labor leader Tom Balanoff, he received a phone call the night before the 2008 presidential election from then-Sen. Obama saying that he thought his advisor Valerie Jarrett fit the criteria for United States Senator.

Balanoff recalled Obama saying in the phone call that he preferred Jarrett working for him at the White House but expressing that Jarrett "does want to be a senator."

While Obama had said he would not endorse anyone outright for his soon-to-be vacant Senate seat, Balanoff testified today he told Obama that he would reach out to Gov. Blagojevich with that message.

When asked by ABC’s Ann Compton during today's press briefing, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs declined to comment on the ongoing trial.

“You're telling me about this testimony; I'm not going to get into commenting on, obviously, an ongoing -- an ongoing trial. And I -- I've -- have not had an opportunity to see that,” Gibbs said.

In December 2008 President-elect Obama said he was “appalled and disappointed” by the revelations that the Blagojevich was involved in a “pay-to-play” scheme to fill his Senate seat.

“I have never spoken to the governor on this subject,” Obama said then in remarks from Chicago, “I'm confident that no representatives of mine would have any part of any deals related to this seat.”

Obama then ordered a gathering of the facts surrounding any staff contacts that took place between the Presidential Transition office and the governor’s office.

“I'm absolutely certain...that our office had no involvement in any deal-making around my Senate seat. That I'm absolutely certain of. And the -- that is -- that would be a violation of everything that this campaign has been about. And that's not how we do business,” then President-elect Obama said.

The report, compiled by Greg Craig, released on December 23, 2008 concluded that Obama did not have connection the governor’s office.

“In addition, the accounts contain no indication of inappropriate discussions with the Governor or anyone from his office about a “deal” or a quid pro quo arrangement in which he would receive a personal benefit in return for any specific appointment to fill the vacancy.”

-Sunlen Miller

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