SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s lawyer said Monday that a vague array of charges and evidence doesn’t merit removing the governor from office, and he urged a House committee not to recommend impeachment.
Attorney Ed Genson complained bitterly that lawmakers were considering snippets of tape-recorded conversations that are quoted in a criminal complaint against the Democratic governor. He said no one knows the full context of those remarks or whether they are quoted accurately.
“We are fighting shadows, and that’s not right,” Genson said.
Monday’s hearing was the first time Genson has comprehensively responded to the impeachment charges. Blagojevich was arrested by the FBI Dec. 9 on a variety of corruption charges, including scheming to benefit from naming President-elect Barack Obama’s replacement in the U.S. Senate.
The governor denies any wrongdoing and has vowed to fight both impeachment and the criminal charges.
It was clear from the lawmakers’ questions that they had little sympathy for Blagojevich or for Genson’s arguments.
At one point, Genson grew so frustrated that he pleaded for help.
“Isn’t anyone here going to stand up for the governor, or is it going to be one (critic) after the other?” he asked. “This is the impartial panel?”
Meanwhile, federal prosecutors filed a motion Monday asking for court permission to release four of the Blagojevich conversations caught by wiretaps.
A judge will hear the motion next week. Genson said he hadn’t seen the federal request and didn’t know whether he would support the release of the recordings.
The committee has also reviewed misconduct allegations including claims that Blagojevich unconstitutionally defied legislative decisions, spent money without proper authority and impeded audits of his administration’s activities.
Subpoenas released Monday by the Better Government Association show that federal investigators looking into possible hiring fraud in Blagojevich’s administration asked for the personnel files of more than a dozen people.
The 2006 subpoenas show investigators even sought documents and computer files that date from Jan. 1, 2003 – 12 days before Blagojevich was inaugurated.
“It appears the feds are looking at literally every aspect of how he exercised his authority, whether it was legitimate or not,” said association executive director Jay Stewart.