Did the Chicago Tribune act to protect Jesse Jackson, Jr?

[HT: Paterrico’s Pontifications]

This is a big story, but I had not seen it until today.  Given the shocking nature of the allegations against Hot Rod Blagojevich, attempting to sell Barack Obama’s vacated Senate seat, I missed what should have been very obvious.  Why would the US Attorney and the FBI stop that main crime before it happened?  Given that they had the governor wiretapped and were hearing (and potentially seeing) everything he was doing in attempting to sell that Senate seat appointment, why would they act so early when they could have waited to catch both sides:  the seller and the buyer.  I will admit that I naively thought that they were trying to preserve some feel-good sense of democracy, that they did not want to let a Senate seat get bought and acted to stop that from happening.  How simple of me.

Apparently their hand was forced by the Chicago Tribune who, after agreeing to not publish the fact that a Blagojevich confidante was cooperating with the FBI (holding that story since October), published that story on the Friday before the governor’s Tuesday morning arrest.  The WSJ reports that Blagojevich’s brother was setting up a meeting with representatives for Senate Candidate Number 5, now known to be none other than Jesse Jackson, Jr.  It seems to me that the Chicago Tribune did not want to let “Triple J”, as he is known in Chicago, go through with purchasing that Senate seat.  Unbelievable, even by Chicago corruption standards.

The WSJ reports:

On Dec. 4, with the feds listening in, Blagojevich was allegedly putting this deal back into play.

The conversation resumed later that same day, as Blagojevich allegedly told his brother, a man identified in the affidavit as “Fundraiser A,” that he was “elevating” Mr. Jackson on the list of candidates, because the governor might be able to get something “tangible up front” for the pick.

He told his brother to meet with someone (unidentified by the feds) whom the pair believed to be close to Jackson. He urged his brother to tell this alleged supporter of Jackson that “some of this stuffs gotta start happening now… right now…and we gotta see it. You understand?” He was talking about campaign cash, the feds allege.

The next morning, on Friday, Dec. 5, it all came crashing down for the FBI agents underneath the headphones.

The Tribune’s front page screamed: “Feds taped Blagojevich; TRIBUNE EXCLUSIVE: Adviser cooperated with corruption probe, sources say.”

Blagojevich read the same headline. “Undo” that “thing,” the governor allegedly told his brother, according to the FBI. And just like that, the meeting was off, only one day after it had been put back into play.


One question that comes to mind is: why is it legal for a newspaper to publish a story that will screw up such an important federal investigation?  Perhaps more importantly, did the Chicago Tribune, the same newspaper that forced Republican Senate candidate Jack Ryan to open his court records from his nasty divorce which resulted in his withdrawing from the race against Obama in 2004, publish that story in order to keep Triple J from purchasing Obama’s vacant Senate seat?  Inquiring minds want to know.

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