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Fattah Buttonholed Obama Directly, According to Indictment

Fattah, third from the right, attending an Oval Office signing ceremony in 2012. (Official White House photo/Pete Souza)
Fattah, third from the right, attending an Oval Office signing ceremony in 2012. (Official White House photo/Pete Souza)

The Department of Justice’s indictment of Rep. Chaka Fattah alleges the Pennsylvania Democrat’s quid-pro-quo scheme included an in-person effort to get President Barack Obama to give a lobbyist an ambassadorship.  

Fattah, a powerful Pennsylvania Democrat, is a longtime ally of the president’s and a frequent visitor to the White House. But according to the indictment, Fattah abused his relationship with the president and his staff and tried to get the lobbyist a nomination, first as an ambassador and later as a member of “a federal trade commission.”  

Those efforts by Fattah included meetings, emails, telephone calls and letters with another unnamed elected official and various members of the executive branch, including then-U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, Obama’s deputy chief of staff and the president himself.  

According to the indictment, Herb Vederman “dearly coveted” an ambassadorship, and Fattah began a long campaign around November 2008, starting with a letter seeking support from “Elected Official B” for a nomination “almost as soon as the ballots were counted” in the presidential election won by Obama.  

Around February 2010, a Fattah staffer tried to arrange a meeting with Obama’s chief of staff at the time, former Fattah House colleague Rahm Emanuel, (currently the mayor of Chicago) to discuss the ambassadorship. Fattah then participated in a phone call with “Elected Official D” and the White House deputy chief of staff during which Fattah pressed for an appointment for Vederman.  

It’s not clear from the indictment whether the deputy chief of staff refers to Jim Messina, who was one of two deputy chiefs of staff at the time and later helmed Obama’s re-election campaign.  

The lobbying continued with a Fattah staffer pressing the White House “on numerous occasions” about the appointment.  

Months later, Fattah took the issue directly to the president.  

“In late October or early November 2010, Fattah signed and hand-delivered to the President of the United States at an official event” a letter advocating Vederman’s appointment as an ambassador, the indictment states.  

But the request went nowhere, so Fattah then tried to get Vederman an appointment “to a federal trade commission.”  

That led to a meeting between Vederman and Kirk around June 6, 2011.  

Vederman, again, appears to have gotten nothing from the administration. But the following year, according to the indictment, Fattah hired Vederman’s girlfriend in his congressional office.  

The “quo” in this quid pro quo in the indictment included sponsorship and funding for Fattah’s live-in au pair, checks to Fattah’s son, an $18,000 wire transfer and other considerations.  

Fattah has denied the charges and plans to run for reelection .  

The White House has declined to comment on the case.

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