CHICAGO - In a move intended to force public testimony from President-elect Barack Obama's inner circle, a lawyer for Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich has asked the legislative panel considering impeachment of the governor to subpoena more than a dozen witnesses, including Obama's incoming chief of staff.
State Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie said yesterday that the House committee had received a letter from Blagojevich's attorney, Ed Genson, asking that it subpoena the incoming chief of staff, Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D., Ill.); Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett; and more than a dozen others, including Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D., Ill.).
Currie, who heads the committee, said she did not know what its response to Genson's request would be.
But she noted that the U.S. Attorney's Office had already denied the panel's request to interview a list of people named in the criminal complaint against Blagojevich.
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said earlier this week that lawmakers' interviews of current or former members of Blagojevich's staff might jeopardize his criminal investigation.
Currie said the House panel would meet next on Monday.
Fitzgerald spokesman Randall Samborn declined to comment yesterday. Messages left for Genson, Jackson, and attorneys for Jarrett and Emanuel were not immediately returned. The Obama transition team would not comment.
Blagojevich was arrested Dec. 9, accused of trying to sell Obama's vacated Senate seat to the highest bidder. He has denied wrongdoing and has ignored scores of calls to step down, including one from Obama.
None of the possible candidates for the Senate seat - who were said to have included Jarrett and Jackson - are identified by name in the complaint, but Jackson has said he is the person dubbed "Senate Candidate 5."
He has said that federal prosecutors told him he is not a target of their investigation.
Genson told the Chicago Sun-Times that testimony from Emanuel, Jarrett and Jackson would help prove Blagojevich's assertion that he did nothing wrong in his handling of the Senate seat, the newspaper said yesterday.
On Tuesday, Obama said he, Emanuel and Jarrett had met with federal investigators last week about Blagojevich. He released an internal review that found no inappropriate contact with the governor's office by him or his staff.
Emanuel was the only Obama transition-team member who discussed the Senate appointment with Blagojevich, and those conversations were "totally appropriate and acceptable," according to incoming White House attorney Greg Craig.