Odds are against Obama taking the stand

July 21, 2010 8:54:46 AM PDT
Former governor Rod Blagojevich's request to subpoena Barack Obama as a witness is not unexpected, but the odds are unlikely the president will take the witness stand.

But the former governor's defense team believes the government's case on the alleged sale of Obama's senate seat is riddled with contradiction, and only the president holds the key.

"Our office had no involvement around the senate seat and that would be a violation of everything that this campaign has been about. And that's not how we do business," said President-elect Barack Obama on December 11, 2008.

Notwithstanding those remarks, Blagojevich's defense team wants to swear in the president for testimony in the former governor's corruption trial.

In their request to subpoena the president, Blagojevich's lawyers don't allege the president did anything wrong, but do contend that he has direct knowledge of the alleged sale of his U.S. Senate seat, and that his public statements are contradicted by likely testimony from some expected government witnesses -- a labor leader and one of the would-be senate appointees.

Their versions of events - as told to prosecutors - are blacked out because their remarks remain under seal. But Blagojevich argues that the defense has the right to admit evidence that contradicts the government's claim -- and only the president can do this.

What are the odds that Barack Obama will enter that courtroom to testify?

"They're about five million to one. There's no way he'll be testifying in person at this trial," said Prof. Harold Krent, Kent College of Law dean.

Four modern day Presidents have testified in court matters - Ford, Carter, Regan and Clinton-- but none did it in person. Each provided testimony on videotape.

The Blagojevich team acknowledges precedent, schedule, and security concerns surrounding the President Obama will come into play-- and said a videotape deposition would remedy their wishes.

But none of what's blacked out has been entered into evidence yet, and the judge would have to find any of the so-called "presumed conflict in testimony" relevant to Rod Blagojevich's defense.

"If it does introduce evidence and there's a conflict and President Obama may be able to resolve the conflict, then Judge Zagel may ask for video taped testimony," said Prof. Krent.

The defense in its motion also contends that the president may have pertinent information about former Blagojevich friend and fundraiser Tony Rezko, and that Obama could testify about Rezko's reputation for truthfulness.


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