Obama Staffers Subpoenaed in Blagojevich Trial

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According to a senior Obama administration official, two White House staffers have been subpoenaed in the federal corruption trial of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.

Blagojevich, a two-term Democrat, is facing allegations of racketeering and fraud, as well as other charges. He is most widely known for having allegedly sought a quid pro quo benefit in exchange for awarding the Senate seat vacated by then-Senator Barack Obama after the 2008 presidential elections.

State governors are responsible for naming the successor to a vacated senate seat. Blagojevich, 53, is accused of having told his former chief of staff, John Harris, that he would like “a good gig” either in Washington or with a private foundation in return for the senatorial appointment.

Additionally, say prosecutors, he diverted lucrative contracts to both firms and individuals who made campaign contributions, and appointed contributors or their associates to key positions within the state as reward for their support. He is also alleged to have wrongfully diverted tens of thousands of dollars in commissions and fees to his wife after learning that he was being investigated.

These actions, say prosecutors, contributed to a culture of extortion and kickbacks that was in place from the time of his election as governor in 2002, to his impeachment and removal from office in January 2009.

After leaving office, Blagojevich has remained in the public spotlight by authoring a book, landing a radio show and competing on the NBC reality television show “Celebrity Apprentice.”

Now, two senior members of Obama’s administration, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett have been subpoenaed to testify in the trial against Blagojevich. The outsted governor’s attorneys have also filed a motion to subpoena the President himself.

Obama has stated that he has not been involved in talks regarding his Senate seat, but according to the 10-page motion filed by lawyers for Blagojevich, another witness in the case has evidence to the contrary.

“The defense understands that the President of the United States of America is not a routine witness and would not request his appearance if it did not think he was critical to the liberty of Rod Blagojevitch,” said the motion.

Blagojevich faces 24 criminal counts of bribery, extortion and racketeering. The most serious charges against him each carry a maximum prison sentence of 20 years and a fine of $250,000. Blagojevich has consistently and vehemently said that he is not guilty of any wrongdoing.

 

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