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US federal prosecutor urges limit on Blagojevich impeachment inquiry

[JURIST] US federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald Tuesday asked the Illinois House of Representatives [official website] to limit its impeachment inquiry [JURIST report] into Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich [official website] and avoid looking into the criminal charges [complaint, PDF] against him. Fitzgerald warned that an inquiry into the criminal charges could hamper the investigation. The impeachment committee, which has agreed to follow instructions from federal prosecutors, may still consider the fact that Blagojevich is facing criminal charges and the evidence outlined in the complaint, but it cannot question aides and campaign donors about possible crimes. If the committee recommends impeachment, it will go to a vote before the entire House. If the House votes to impeach, the proceedings will go before the Senate, which will act as a jury with the Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court presiding.

Blagojevich and his chief of staff John Harris were arrested [JURIST report] earlier this month by federal agents on charges of corruption. Both Blagojevich and Harris have been charged [DOJ press release, PDF] with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and solicitation of bribery. They are accused of conspiring to sell or trade the senate seat left vacant by Obama and obtaining illegal campaign contributions. They are also accused of threatening to withhold assistance to the Chicago Tribune with the sale of Wrigley Field unless two editorial writers who had been critical of Blagojevich were fired. Harris resigned [JURIST report] his position after the arrest, while Blagojevich has continued to report to work. Last week, the Illinois Supreme Court [official website] rejected [JURIST report] a bid by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan [official profile] to have Blagojevich temporarily removed from office [JURIST report].

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