Blagojevich’s Defense Team Ready to Go on Offense

Posted July 19, 2010 at 6:29pm

While former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) could take the witness stand as early as today in his public corruption trial, it remains to be seen whether several Members of Congress subpoenaed by the defense will actually be called to testify.

Blagojevich is accused of orchestrating a pay-to-play scheme to sell President Barack Obama’s former Senate seat in 2008. His attorneys issued subpoenas in May to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.).

A Durbin aide said Monday that as of late last week, the Senator had not been contacted about testifying in the case. Sources indicated Reid is likewise not expected to testify in the trial.

A Jackson spokeswoman did not return a telephone or e-mail request for comment about whether Jackson has been scheduled to testify.

The House Member, who has denied any wrongdoing related to the case, is also a subject in the Justice Department’s investigation of the alleged pay-to-play scheme.

An Illinois Democratic fundraiser is alleged to have offered to raise $1 million for Blagojevich if the governor named Jackson to the vacant Senate seat.

The House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct announced in September that it would hold off its investigation of Jackson in deference to the ongoing Justice Department probe.

In the meantime, the Associated Press reported Monday that Blagojevich lawyer Sam Adam Jr. confirmed that the defense intends to call White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel to testify but will not call White House adviser Valerie Jarrett, also a one-time candidate for the Senate vacancy.

The federal government rested its nearly six-week case on July 13. The defense began calling its first witnesses, Robert Blagojevich, the former governor’s chief fundraiser and brother, and Robert Blagojevich’s wife, Julie, on Monday.

In an account from the courthouse Monday, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that Robert Blagojevich, also charged in the corruption case, claimed that a Jackson emissary offered to raise $6 million for the then-governor if the House lawmaker was appointed to the seat, significantly more than the figures the government has used. But Robert Blagojevich also testified that he did not take the offer seriously.