Blagojevich Lawyer Says Threshold for Impeachment Has Not Been Met

The attorney for Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich urged the House panel investigating the governor to vote against impeachment, declaring that the threshold for such action has not been met.

As hearings got underway Monday, attorney Ed Genson said federal wiretaps may have caught the governor making some "unfortunate" remarks but they don't show him taking illegal actions.

Blagojevich is accused of plotting to sell off Barack Obama's vacant U.S. Senate seat and engaging in other "pay-to-play" schemes. The FBI complaint against him cited a number of wiretapped conversations.

But Genson said there's no evidence the governor ever took illegal action to auction off a U.S. Senate seat or pressure the Chicago Tribune to fire its editorial writers. He said the conversations amount to "unfortunate talk, talk that shouldn't have been made perhaps. But not actions."

Genson appealed to the committee after the panel denied his request to subpoena two top aides to Obama. The governor's attorney continued to complain about the manner in which the hearing was being conducted, accusing the committee of denying his client due process.

"It does not do the state of Illinois any credit to conduct a hearing that in fact denies due process to Rod Blagojevich," Genson said.

State lawmakers have said the rules and standards for impeachment proceedings are not as strict as those for a trial.

But Genson complained that the panel was admitting as evidence un-sworn statements, news articles and uncertified transcripts, which he said amounts to "hearsay."

"I understand this is not a trial. I understand this is not a courtroom, but the fact of the matter is due process is due process," he said.

"We're fighting shadows here," Genson said.

Genson was also planning to submit the internal report released last week by Obama's transition team detailing contact between Obama aides and the office of the Illinois governor.

Obama aides said the report showed no inappropriate discussions with the governor regarding the filling of Obama's Senate seat. Genson says the document supports the governor's claims that he did nothing wrong.

State Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, who chairs the committee, said Sunday that Genson's request to submit the report would probably be approved. But she expressed skepticism that the report would prove the governor's innocence.

"Maybe in this particular instance someone didn't run a stop sign, but it doesn't say they didn't run a different stop sign," she said.

The House panel rejected Genson's subpoena request after U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said the testimony would interfere with his investigation. Genson wanted incoming White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett to testify.

Fitzgerald, however, filed paperwork Monday to release conversations caught on wiretaps to the Illinois House committee. Fitzgerald says disclosing four calls wouldn't interfere with the ongoing criminal investigation.

Federal prosecutors had asked a judge for permission to disclose a limited number of the intercepted conversations in a redacted form.

Blagojevich continues to hold on to office, defending his innocence and rejecting suggestions that he should resign. Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, however, said Sunday that the governor will be out of office by President Lincoln's bicentennial birthday celebration on Feb. 12.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.