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 are 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 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.
Genson told the committee that the quotes from the federal complaint reveal talk but no action. They include the governor talking — sometimes using foul language — about how to benefit from appointing a senator, withholding state money from a children's hospital unless he got a political donation and pressuring the Chicago Tribune to fire editorial writers.
"It's just talk. That's what it is. Unfortunate talk, talk that shouldn't have been made, perhaps. But not actions," Genson said.
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.
If he is impeached, the state Senate will hold a trial to decide whether he's thrown out of office.