Blagojevich asks for President Obama to testify
Rod Blagojevich’s attorneys have asked for President Barack Obama to testify at the former Illinois governor’s corruption trial, saying he would be “a critical witness.”
In an apparent mechanical error, blacked-out portions of the defense’s request were visible for some time online, and were subsequently published on the websites of Chicago’s daily newspapers.
Among the disclosures in the redacted portions of the defense motion were that Obama spoke to Blagojevich on December 1, 2008, eight days before Blagojevich was arrested by FBI agents.
Blagojevich has been charged with trying to sell Obama’s former Senate seat and trying to leverage official acts for money or jobs, including a position as a Cabinet Secretary in Obama’s administration.
“President Obama is a witness to the conduct alleged as well as an impeachment witness to at least two of the government’s critical witnesses,” defense lawyers said in a court filing in U.S. District Court in Chicago.
“The defense does not take lightly the overwhelming schedule the President has and the security constraints surrounding his testimony. A videotape deposition will remedy both of those legitimate concerns.”
Obama could shed light on potential witnesses Tony Rezko, the convicted fund-raiser for Obama and Blagojevich, and an unnamed union official who met with Blagojevich about the Senate seat.
In the viewable redacted portions of the defense motion, the union official informed an unnamed labor union president that Obama had left him a voicemail message saying he wanted to convey his preference for a candidate to replace him in the Senate.
That candidate — referred to as Senate candidate B — is widely believed to be presidential aide Valerie Jarrett, who later withdrew from consideration.
The union official told the union president he had been chosen as an emissary to Blagojevich, according to notes from FBI interviews summarized in the defense’s filing.
Blagojevich, in a recorded conversation with his own chief of staff, said the union official was “very explicit” with him about wanting to convey Obama’s recommendation.
The filing said that based on FBI interviews with Blagojevich’s chief of staff and Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, four candidates were considered “acceptable” to the Obama presidential transition team.
Emanuel has said he did talk to Blagojevich about the seat, but that no one ever offered anything to Blagojevich.
Defense attorneys also said they have yet to receive notes from FBI interviews with Obama, who at the time was president-elect.
“The defense understands that the President of the United States of America is not a routine witness and would not request his appearance if it did not think he was critical to the liberty of Rod Blagojevich.”
UPDATE: A White House spokesman said: “The White House is not going to comment on an ongoing criminal investigation.”
Photo credit: Reuters/Frank Polich (Blagojevich in 2009)