Published April 23, 2010
CHICAGO – CHICAGO (AP) — U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said Friday he has received a subpoena to testify at former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's corruption trial, while a White House spokesman deflected questions about whether President Barack Obama also might end up on the witness stand.
"Whether I'm going to be called, I don't know," Durbin said at a news conference. "But you know a subpoena is an order of the court to appear and if called to appear I'll appear."
Durbin's disclosure came a day after Blagojevich's lawyers asked a federal judge to issue a subpoena for Obama to testify and set off a media firestorm in the process when confidential information from the FBI's Blagojevich investigation became public.
In Washington, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs declined to say how Obama might respond to such a subpoena.
"I'm not going to comment on a pending criminal investigation," he said.
No court papers have suggested any wrongdoing on Obama's part.
Blagojevich is charged with scheming to sell or trade the Senate seat left vacant following the president's election in exchange for financial benefits for himself. He also is accused of illegally using his powers as governor to pressure potential campaign donors for contributions.
His brother, businessman Robert Blagojevich, is charged with helping him.
Both have pleaded not guilty. U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel has scheduled the trial to get under way June 3.
Durbin told reporters in Chicago that he received the subpoena about two weeks ago. One of Blagojevich's attorneys, Sheldon Sorosky, sounded uncertain when asked about the subpoena.
"If he says it, I guess we did," Sorosky said in a brief telephone interview.
Durbin had a well-publicized telephone conversation with Blagojevich shortly after the November 2008 election when politicians were starting to focus on who would get the Senate seat Obama was vacating.
By all accounts, they discussed a number of candidates.
"I had one conversation with this governor and I've reported it to you and everybody else over and over again," Durbin said at the news conference. "And if he or the government wants to call me in, I'll tell the same story."
Durbin spokesman Joe Shoemaker said: "Given the former governor's previous antics regarding this case, it's no surprise he is casting a wide net — apparently from the president down to dogcatcher."
It would be extraordinary if Obama were subpoenaed to take the witness stand in Blagojevich's trial, but experts say he might give a deposition. Zagel has scheduled a hearing for April 30 and the request could be resolved then.
Blagojevich attorney Sam Adam's 11-page motion contained a number of portions that were blacked out. That way the motion could be placed on the court docket for viewing by the public without compromising confidential or sealed material.
Reporters discovered Thursday afternoon that portions of the redacted material were accessable online. The U.S. attorney's office immediately had the entire motion put off-limits to the public. Within hours, Zagel summoned Sorosky and three federal prosecutors to his chambers for a 15-minute, closed-door emergency meeting.
None of the parties would say what was discussed at the meeting.
The unredacted court motion didn't reveal any shocking disclosures. The document said an unnamed labor union official had spoken with Obama on Nov. 3, 2008, and reported to various witnesses that the president-elect wanted his longtime friend, Valerie Jarrett, now a White House advisor, to get the Senate seat.
The union official said he was going to lobby Blagojvich to appoint her.