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WILL HE BE OBAMA’S ACHILLES’ HEEL?
by Kathleen Gotto
(Apr. 26, 2010) — Attorneys for former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich submitted a motion to the court on April 22, 2010 to issue a subpoena (ad testificandum) to obtain Barack Obama’s testimony at his corruption trial scheduled to begin in June. Parts of the document have been redacted, presumably with the information that has been leaked. Not only is Blagojevich pressing for Obama to testify at the trial, but he also wants to force the release of “any and all reports generated during any and all interviews [prosecutors] had with…Barack Obama.”
In early December 2008, Blagojevich was arrested on criminal charges which included the attempted sale of the Senate seat vacated by Obama as well as conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud and bribery. The federal indictment against Blagojevich and his former chief of staff, John Harris, can be found here.
A footnote at the bottom of the first page of the subpoena of April 22, 2010 indicates that Blagojevich’s defense team preferred to have all “sealed” information made available to the public but acknowledges that “portions that contain sealed information provided by the government have been redacted.”
However, James B. Zagel, the presiding judge, scheduled an emergency evening meeting in his chambers on April 22, 2010 to ask attorneys to explain how redacted information showed up in a released defense filing. According to the judge, that information was to have remained sealed.
Blagojevich’s attorneys are requesting that Obama provide testimony “because he is a witness necessary to Rod Blagojevich’s Constitutional right to a fair trial” (p. 10).
An unredacted version of the subpoena can be found here which shows a total of 15 redactions.
The redacted information covered several issues and begs answers to many questions, among them:
1. Did Obama lie about his conversations and dealings with Tony Rezko, his former friend and fundraiser?
Blagojevich’s lawyers allege that the public official to whom Rezko admitted giving a large amount of money was Barack Obama. Obama claimed that Rezko never passed on a lobbyist’s request to hold a fundraiser in exchange for favorable legislative action. Blagojevich’s attorneys say Obama refused the request.
The redacted portion reads:
However, the defense has a good faith belief that Mr. Rezko, President Obama’s former friend, fund-raiser, and neighbor told the FBI and the United States Attorneys a different story about President Obama. In a recent in camera proceeding, the government tendered a three paragraph letter indicating that Rezko “has stated in interviews with the government that he engaged in election law violations by personally contributing a large sum of cash to the campaign of a public official who is not Rod Blagojevich. … Further, the public official denies being aware of cash contributions to his campaign by Rezko or others and denies having conversations with Rezko related to cash contributions. … Rezko has also stated in interviews with the government that he believed he transmitted a quid pro quo offer from a lobbyist to the public official, whereby the lobbyist would hold a fundraiser for the official in exchange for favorable official action, but that the public official rejected the offer. The public official denies any such conversation. In addition, Rezko has stated to the government that he and the public official had certain conversations about gaming legislation and administration, which the public official denies having had.”10
2. Did Obama lie about his involvement in trying to make a “deal” for his old Senate seat?
The defense for Blagojevich alleges that Obama told a labor union official that he would support the candidacy of Valerie Jarrett (Senate Candidate B) for his vacated Senate seat.
Redacted portions read:
18. President-elect Obama also suggested Senate Candidate A to Governor Blagojevich. John Harris told the FBI and the United States Attorneys that he spoke to President’s Chief of Staff on November 12, 2008. Harris took notes of the conversation and wrote that President’s Chief had previously worked as Blagojevich’s press secretary. Obama agreed of Staff told Harris that Senate Candidate A was acceptable to Obama as a senate pick. (Harris handwritten notes, OOG1004463) President’s Chief of Staff told the FBI that “he could not say where but somewhere it was communicated to him that” Senate Candidate A was a suggested candidate viewed as one of the four “right” candidates “by the Obama transition team.” (Rahm Emanuel 302, p. 5, December 20, 2008). Harris told Blagojevich Obama’s suggestion on November 12, 2008 (Blagojevich Home Phone Call # 539).
Yet, despite President Obama stating that no representatives of his had any part of any deals, labor union president told the FBI and the United States Attorneys that he spoke to labor union official on November 3, 2008 who received a phone message from Obama that evening. After labor union official listened to the message labor union official told labor union president “I’m the one”. Labor union president took that to mean that labor union official was to be the one to deliver the message on behalf of Obama that Senate Candidate B was his pick. (Labor union president 302, February 2, 2009, p. 7).
Labor union official told the FBI and the United States Attorneys “Obama expressed his belief that [Senate Candidate B] would be a good Senator for the people of Illinois and would be a candidate who could win re-election. [Labor union official] advised Obama that [labor union official] would reach out to Governor Blagojevich and advocate for [Senate Candidate B].. . . [Labor union official] called [labor union president] and told [labor union president] that Obama was aware that [labor union official] would be reaching out to Blagojevich.” (Labor union official 302, February 3, 2009 p. 3).
3. Did a supporter of Obama offer a quid pro quo on a Valerie Jarrett senate appointment?
The redacted portion reads:
A supporter of Presidential Candidate Obama suggested that she talk to the wife of Governor Blagojevich about Senate Candidate B for Senator. (Valerie Jarrett 302, December 19, 2008). Supporter of Presidential Candidate Obama is mentioned in a phone call on November 3, 2008, having offered “fundraising” in exchange for Senate Candidate B for senator (Blagojevich Home Phone Call # 149).
4. Did Obama have a secret phone call with Rod Blagojevich?
The redacted portion reads:
President-elect Obama also spoke to Governor Blagojevich on December 1, 2008 in Philadelphia. On Harris Cell Phone Call # 139, John Harris and Governor’s legal counsel discuss a conversation Blagojevich had with President-elect Obama. The government claims a conspiracy existed from October 22, 2008 continuing through December 9, 2008.6 That conversation is relevant to the defense of the government’s theory of an ongoing conspiracy. Only Rod Blagojevich and President Obama can testify to the contents of that conversation. The defense is allowed to present evidence that corroborates the defendant’s testimony.7
On page 2 of the subpoena, Blagojevich’s lawyers assert that they have requested documentation from the government on an interview between FBI agents and Obama in December 2008 but have received nothing. Defense lawyers also claim that “… Obama has direct knowledge to allegations made in the indictment. In addition, …Obama’s public statements contradict other witness statements…”
A report from December 2009 states that Obama, Valerie Jarrett and Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s Chief of Staff, were interviewed by the FBI.
The judge has set a trial date for June 3, 2010.