Blagojevich lawyers want Obama subpoena

/ Source: The Associated Press

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich asked a federal judge on Thursday to issue a subpoena for President Barack Obama to testify as a witness at his corruption trial.

Blagojevich said in court papers filed by defense attorney Sam Adam that Obama would be able to resolve questions surrounding the government's allegation that the former governor sought to sell or trade the seat left vacant following the president's November 2008 election.

"President Barack Obama has direct knowledge of the Senate seat allegation," Blagojevich's 11-page motion filed with U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel said.

There was no allegation in the court papers of any wrongdoing on Obama's part.

It would be extraordinary if a sitting president were subpoenaed to take the witness stand in a Chicago political corruption trial or any criminal trial. Zagel has not indicated how he might respond to the unusual request.

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office, Randall Samborn, had no comment. Messages seeking comment were left at the offices of Adam and two other defense attorneys, Samuel E. Adam and Sheldon Sorosky.

Defense attorney Michael E. Ettinger, who represents the former governor's brother, businessman Robert Blagojevich, said he was not surprised by the unusual motion. Adam, a fixture among Chicago defense attorneys for decades, is known for his flamboyant rhetoric.

"This is what he does," Ettinger said. "I've been working with him for 40 years, and he's sharp as a tack."

Blagojevich has been charged with scheming to sell the Senate seat and using the powers of the governor's office illegally to pressure potential campaign donors for contributions. Robert Blagojevich has been charged with helping him. Both have pleaded not guilty.

Zagel has scheduled the trial to get under way June 3.

The motion seeking Obama's testimony contained several paragraphs that had been blacked out. This action is usually taken when the court has put information under seal.

The defense attorney said there was a conflict between comments made by Obama at a news conference and statements to federal prosecutors made by a labor union president and a candidate for the seat.

The specifics of the statements from the union president and the candidate were blacked out in the version of the motion that was filed publicly on the court docket.

"There are two conflicting stories and the defense has the right to admit evidence that contradicts the government's claims," the motion said.