Gov. Rod Blagojevich's attorney will not get to call key aides of President-elect Barack Obama to testify at impeachment hearings after U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald told an Illinois House panel doing so would "significantly compromise" his ongoing criminal investigation of the governor.
The chairman of the House impeachment committee, state Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago), will respect Fitzgerald's request and not issue the subpoenas for incoming White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and close Obama friend and adviser Valerie Jarrett, panel spokesman Steve Brown said Saturday. Ed Genson, Blagojevich's attorney, sought their testimony before the impeachment panel.
Jesse Jackson Jr., whose emissaries allegedly offered to raise cash for the governor in exchange for the seat, according to federal prosecutors, and Nils Larsen, a Tribune Co. executive vice president who helped engineer Sam Zell's purchase of the company.
Genson requested the testimony of the two Obama advisers after the president-elect's transition team issued an internal report Tuesday that noted Emanuel had one or two telephone calls with Blagojevich and about four calls with Blagojevich's then chief of staff, John Harris, about filling Obama's vacant U.S. Senate seat. The report said Emanuel recommended Jarrett to Blagojevich for the seat.
The report also said there was no indication that Blagojevich was seeking to enrich himself with a Cabinet appointment, ambassadorship or high paying job as alleged by federal prosecutors on secret recordings filed with the criminal complaint that resulted in the arrest of the governor and Harris on Dec. 9. Blagojevich has denied any wrongdoing. Harris resigned Dec. 12.
In a Friday letter to the impeachment panel, Fitzgerald said his request was in keeping with an earlier request asking the committee not to subpoena as witnesses people who are listed in the criminal complaint and affidavit of secretly recorded tapes of Blagojevich allegedly discussing the sale of Obama's former Senate seat.
"The impact of such testimony on the criminal investigation would be the same regardless of whether a witness is called by the committee or by Governor Blagojevich," Fitzgerald wrote. "Accordingly, we ask that the committee refrain from issuing subpoenas for testimony by those four individuals [or others] which would overlap with the subject matter of the pending criminal investigation."
Some Democrats on the panel speculated that Genson was seeking the testimony of the four in an effort to get a head start on defending Blagojevich in the governor's pending criminal prosecution.
Genson could not be reached Saturday, but told the Tribune on Friday that the panel was using Fitzgerald's request as cover to deny Blagojevich a fair impeachment hearing. Genson had suggested he was considering a potential challenge to the impeachment in federal court.