The law may have finally caught up with longtime Obama friend and basketball buddy Eric Whitaker, who is close to being labeled a “hostile witness” in a Chicago corruption case.
Taking a page out of his powerful friend’s playbook, Whitaker has been stonewalling the investigation according to prosecutors.
Whitaker, who served as director of the Illinois Department of Public Health from 2003 until 2007, has “not been charged with wrongdoing,” but it appears that taxpayer money from programs he oversaw keeps finding its way into the wrong hands.
Chicago Magazine reporter Carol Felsenthal noticed last year that the sentence, “Whitaker hasn’t been charged with wrongdoing,” has managed to find it’s way into nearly every news story about the numerous scandals swirling around him for years, but so far, Whitaker has somehow remained untainted.
In 2003, while still a state senator, Obama worked his connections to get Whitaker his job at the Department of Health. Using the now incarcerated Tony Rezko as a go-between, then State Senator Obama recommended Whitaker to (also now incarcerated) Gov. Blagojevich with a “glowing recommendation.”
The Department of Public Health under Whitaker, according to Chicago Sun Times’ Lynn Sweet, “also got caught up in scandal. He oversaw the budget of the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board, which approves medical construction projects. Rezko and his associates controlled that board, which they used to solicit kickbacks and payoffs, according to testimony at Rezko’s trial. Rezko was convicted. Whitaker, who said he wasn’t involved in the board’s day-to-day operations, was never accused of any wrongdoing.”
Like Obama, Whitaker never seems to know what his underlings are up to.
In late 2007, he left the Illinois Department of Public Health to work at the University of Chicago Medical Center with none other than Michelle Obama.
Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, one of President Barack Obama’s closest friends, has refused to answer federal prosecutors’ questions about whether he had a “sexual relationship” with a former aide who pleaded guilty to stealing $400,000 in taxpayers’ money in a scheme that began when Whitaker was her boss at the Illinois Department of Public Health, court records show.
Prosecutors announced the bribery and theft charges against Quinshaunta R. Golden, who’d been Whitaker’s chief of staff at the state agency, on Aug. 7, 2013. The following day, Whitaker told reporters he was “fully cooperating” in the federal investigation.
In fact, prosecutors say, Whitaker already had stopped cooperating by then, has refused to speak with investigators ever since and now faces the prospect of being called as a “hostile witness” in a related case against two other defendants charged with defrauding taxpayers, according to a court transcript obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.
Keith Koffler of White House Dossier notes that “Obama has not stepped back from Whitaker amid the probes of his former aides and the apparent stonewalling.”
It could also be said that Whitaker has not stepped back from Obama amid probes of his administration and his “apparent stonewalling.”
The two were seen together as recently as last August, when they golfed on Martha’s Vineyard.