Gov. Blagojevich's lawyer asks panel to subpoena Obama staff

Friday, December 26, 2008

CHICAGO -- In a move intended to force public testimony from president-elect Barack Obama's inner circle, an attorney for Gov. Rod Blagojevich has asked the Illinois House committee considering whether to impeach the governor to subpoena more than a dozen witnesses, including Obama's incoming chief of staff and a senior adviser.

State Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, the committee's head, said Thursday the panel received a letter from Blagojevich attorney Ed Genson asking members to subpoena Rep. Rahm Emanuel, Valerie Jarrett and more than a dozen others, including Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.

Currie said she didn't yet know what the committee's response to Genson's request would be. But she noted that legislators had already sought permission to interview people mentioned in the criminal complaint against Blagojevich, and the prosecutor's office said no.

In a letter released earlier this week, federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald asked the impeachment committee not to delve into the criminal charges against Blagojevich, saying interviewing current or former members of Blagojevich's staff might jeopardize his criminal investigation.

It was not immediately clear Thursday how the request would apply to members of Obama's incoming administration.

Messages left Thursday for Genson, Jackson and attorneys for Jarrett and Emanuel were not returned Thursday. The Obama transition team and the prosecutor's office in Chicago declined to comment.

Blagojevich was arrested Dec. 9 on charges that he tried to sell Obama's vacant Senate seat to the highest bidder. He has denied any wrongdoing and is ignoring scores of calls to step down, including Obama's.

None of the possible candidates for Obama's Senate seat -- said to include Jarrett and Jackson -- are identified by name in the complaint, but Jackson has come forward to say he is the individual dubbed "Senate Candidate 5."

The congressman has said federal prosecutors told him he is not a target of their investigation.

Genson told the Chicago Sun-Times for a story published Thursday that testimony from Emanuel, Jarrett and Jackson would help prove the governor's claim that he didn't do anything wrong in his handling of Obama's Senate seat.

Currie said the House panel is next set to meet Monday but that phone conversations among members were likely to occur in the meantime.

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