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Blagojevich Attorney Would Love to Have Obama Testify at Trial

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on December 17, 2009 11:45 AM

File this one under -- it's just not gonna happen. In partial order of importance, President Obama is currently coping with heathcare reform, global warming treaties, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and somewhere way down the list, former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Makes for a quite full day at the White House.

In a media world dominated by Tiger-mania, few might recall that former Gov. Rod Blagojevich was accused last fall of trying to sell the vacant Senate seat of the newly elected President Obama to the highest bidder. Now Blagojevich's legal team would like to call the leader of the free world to testify as a witness.

In preparation for the June trial, the defense team is now gathering notes, transcripts and reports from interviews between the FBI and members of the Obama team such as Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, White House adviser Valerie Jarrett and union chief Thomas Balanoff. Although no one on the Obama team has been accused of any wrongdoing, they were interviewed on the matter by the FBI.  Emanuel is on tape discussing the Senate seat opening with the ex-governor. Since Jarrett was interested in the seat at one point, Blagojevich is heard on tape talking about trying to get money or a job from her in exchange for the seat. Blagojevich attempted to use Balanoff as an intermediary.

It would be quite an asset to the defense to have President Obama testify and state, as a witness, that he was unaware of any pay for play connected with his former seat. In fact, as Blagojevich attorney Samuel E. Adam put it, it would be "awesome."

Awesome yes, likely no. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Loyola Law Professor Laurie Levenson says that Presidents can be called as a witness at trial. However, as in the case of former President Bill Clinton, they might be a bit more likely to testify if their own neck is on the line. For other's trials though, as Professor Levenson notes, the White House can cite everything from national security to schedule conflicts to avoid the witness chair. Further, to warrant a personal appearance by the President, Blagojevich's lawyers would have to persuade the judge that written or video testimony was no substitute. Looks like having Obama testify is another likely story in a case already pretty chock full of them.

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