From NBC's Pete Williams
Lawyers for former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich today asked a federal judge to subpoena President Obama, so they can ask him questions on videotape to be used at Blagojevich's trial.
"The defense does not take lightly the overwhelming schedule the president has and the security constraints surround his testimony. A videotape deposition will remedy both of those legitimate concerns," the lawyers said in court documents filed today.
They claim that Obama could give important testimony about two prosecution witnesses. The first is a person identified only as "a labor union official" who, the government has claimed, was in contact with Obama about the senate seat he vacated. The second is Tony Rezko, the Chicago real estate developer who the defense lawyers call "President Obama's former friend, fundraiser, and neighbor."
"President Obama has pertinent information as to the character of Mr. Rezko" and can "testify as to Mr. Rezko's reputation for truthfulness." The court documents note the favorable deal Rezko gave the future president for his Chicago house, a deal which Mr. Obama later called a mistake.
The lawyers also say they want to ask only about matters that arose before Obama became president. For that reason, they say, there would be no issue of executive privilege.
Presidents are not immune from having to give testimony in criminal cases: Jefferson, Monroe, Grant, Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Clinton have given evidence in criminal cases. Even so, the government can be expected to vigorously oppose this request to subpoena President Obama.