Weighing His Options, Illinois Governor Meets With Criminal Lawyer

By Carla K. Johnson
Associated Press
Sunday, December 14, 2008

CHICAGO, Dec. 13 -- Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) met with a renowned Chicago criminal lawyer Saturday as he weighed his legal options on how to fight a scandal that has left his career in tatters and disrupted President-elect Barack Obama's White House transition.

The Democratic governor held a four-hour meeting with Ed Genson in the lawyer's downtown office. Genson has defended newspaper baron Conrad Black, R&B singer R. Kelly and numerous public figures on corruption charges, earning a reputation as the lawyer that celebrities call when they get in a bind in Chicago.

Genson confirmed the two met but would not discuss details of their dialogue. When asked whether he would take the case, Genson said: "We'll make our mutual decision on Monday."

Blagojevich had brushed back calls for his resignation after he was charged with trying to sell Obama's Senate seat. He sought to project a business-as-usual image amid the turmoil, going to work every day.

As the legal maneuvering intensified, some observers speculated that he might be trying to leverage the governorship to his advantage in his criminal case.

"I would be saying, 'Let me see what I can get in exchange for you resigning. Don't just give it up for nothing. Let me see if I can get you a better deal,' " said Steve Cron, a defense lawyer from Santa Monica, Calif.

Others suggested his lingering refusal to resign is more rooted in his ego than anything else. The governor has been known to love the spotlight, whether the attention is good or bad.

"You would think he would see his life collapsing around him," said Chicago defense lawyer John Beal, who was in the courtroom with Blagojevich last week and noted how carefree he seemed. "But he was the center of attention and seemed to love it."

The scandal continued to hound Reps. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D) and Rahm Emanuel, Obama's choice for chief of staff. About a dozen protesters stood outside Jackson's office Saturday demanding his resignation, and Republicans called for more information from Obama about Emanuel's role in the Senate selection process.

The Chicago Tribune reported that Emanuel had conversations, captured on wiretaps, before the election with the Blagojevich administration about who would replace Obama in the Senate. The report did not suggest any deal-making in the conversations, and Obama has strongly denied that anyone on his team committed any wrongdoing.

Jackson was identified as one of the candidates Blagojevich was considering to replace Obama, and a criminal complaint said his supporters were willing to raise $1.5 million for the governor to make the appointment happen.

Blagojevich's political future remains in limbo. The Legislature could start impeachment proceedings as soon as Monday, and the Illinois Supreme Court could act on a request by Attorney General Lisa Madigan to strip him of his powers.

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