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(Chicago Tribune)

Gov. Rod Blagojevich's lawyer criticized by lawmakers
Legislators say Ed Genson is trying to play impeachment committee, criminal case against each other with subpoena requests
By Monique Garcia | Tribune reporter
December 27, 2008

Gov. Rod Blagojevich's attorney hasn't had his day in federal court yet, but critics say he's trying to use a House impeachment committee to launch a criminal defense of the governor against political corruption charges.

The criticism stems from a letter attorney Ed Genson sent to the House panel asking it to subpoena more than a dozen witnesses to testify, including top aides of President-elect Barack Obama.

Lawmakers started impeachment hearings against Blagojevich after he was arrested Dec. 9 on federal charges that included allegations he tried to sell Obama's former U.S. Senate seat for his own benefit.

Genson wants the committee to hear from Rahm Emanuel, Obama's incoming chief of staff, as well as longtime adviser Valerie Jarrett. He also wants testimony from U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., whom the Tribune has identified as one of the potential U.S. Senate replacements mentioned in the criminal complaint against Blagojevich.

The requests, however, came a day after U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald asked the impeachment panel not to pursue witnesses connected to the ongoing Blagojevich investigation because it could "significantly compromise" his case. As a result, some panel members said Genson is setting them up by purposely asking for something he knows they can't provide.

"This is a smoke screen," said Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie), who added the panel has plenty of material to review beyond the criminal complaint. "He's asking for subpoenas of witnesses he knows the U.S. Attorney does not want us to have, and I, for one, am not going to allow him to turn this into a circus or sideshow. . . . We have said all along we won't do anything to step on the toes of investigators."

Genson said the panel was using Fitzgerald's request as cover to deny Blagojevich a fair impeachment hearing. Genson suggested last week he was considering a potential challenge to the impeachment in federal court.

"They are railroading him," Genson said Friday. "If a person is telling the truth, what difference does it make if he tells it twice? How does that hurt their case? That's just the legislature and Mr. Fitzgerald trying to put a reality on something that doesn't make sense."

Committee Chairwoman Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago), who has the sole power to issue subpoenas, said Friday she wasn't sure whether Genson's request would be granted. Panel members have said the impeachment process is a political exercise, not a legal one, when denying previous Genson requests.

The panel is expected to reconvene Monday. Lang said Genson is scheduled to provide a defense as to why Blagojevich should not be removed from office.

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