Tribune Blows Federal Case
Chicago, Chicago Tribune, Corruption, Illinois, Jesse Jackson Jr., Rod Bagojevich
Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.
The Wall Street Journal notes that the Chicago Tribune isn’t only financially bankrupt. It’s ethically bankrupt as well.
The Tribune’s selfish decision to break the Blagojevich corruption story early probably prevented the FBI from catching the actual sale of a Senate seat (to Jesse Jackson, Jr.) on tape, losing federal authorities half the bust.
Conventional wisdom holds that U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald ordered the FBI to arrest Rod Blagojevich before sunrise Tuesday in order to stop a crime from being committed. That would have been the sale of the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.
But the opposite is true: Members of Fitzgeraldâ€™s team are livid the scheme didnâ€™t advance, at least for a little longer, according to some people close to Fitzgeraldâ€™s office. Why? Because had the plot unfolded, they might have had an opportunity most feds can only dream of: A chance to catch the sale of a Senate seat on tape, including the sellers and the buyers.
The precise timing of Tuesdayâ€™s dramatic, pre-dawn arrest was not dictated by Fitzgerald, nor was it dictated by the pace of Blagojevichâ€™s alleged â€œcrime spree.â€ It was dictated by the Chicago Tribune, according to people close to the investigation and a careful reading of the FBIâ€™s affidavit in the case.
At Fitzgeraldâ€™s request, the paper had been holding back a story since October detailing how a confidante of Blagojevich was cooperating with his office.
Gerould Kern, the Tribuneâ€™s editor, said in a statement last week that these requests are granted in what he called isolated instances. â€œIn each case, we strive to make the right decision as reporters and as citizens,â€ he said.
But editors decided to publish the story on Friday, Dec. 5, ending the Tribuneâ€™s own cooperation deal with the prosecutor.
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