ABC News’ Matthew Jaffe Reports: A special investigative committee of the Illinois House of Representatives has started looking into the possibility of impeaching Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. After the committee met for the first time today in Springfield, its chairwoman, Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie of Chicago, told ABC News that she will ask permission from U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald to examine materials and speak to witnesses related to the case, but she expects some of their requests to be denied.
"We anticipate some will not be made available to us due to the criminal investigation," forecasted Currie, adding that the committee will take Fitzegerald’s response "pretty seriously."
Currie said the committee is now working on a letter to Fitzgerald, having already sent a letter Monday to Blagojevich offering him or one of his representatives the chance to participate in the panel’s discussions. As ABC News has reported, Ed Genson, the governor’s lawyer, will meet with the committee on Wednesday. Currie, who spoke with the high-profile Chicago defense attorney this morning, anticipates that he will meet with the committee on Thursday as well, providing him an opportunity to deliver a defense against any impeachment of Blagojevich.
When House Speaker Michael Madigan announced the formation of the 21-member bipartisan committee yesterday, he said he was not surprised by the charges against Blagojevich. But Currie said she was surprised — in fact, she was "shocked".
Meanwhile, state Democratic leaders have put off discussions about a special election, much to the dismay of Republicans, who are adamantly against Blagojevich or Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn appointing the state’s next U.S. senator.
"We agree with President-elect Barack Obama that his Senate seat belongs to the people of Illinois," said Republican National Committee chairman Mike Duncan in a statement. "It’s appalling that House Speaker Madigan and Senate President Jones are continuing this embarrassment for Illinois with their backroom politics and lack of leadership. The only way the people’s voice will be heard and Illinois can end the taint of the Blagojevich scandal is to have a special election."
Madigan’s spokesman Steve Brown told ABC News that "there was not unanimous support for the idea."
But the state’s GOP leaders were undeterred, vowing to ratchet up their efforts.
"Moving forward, we will redouble our efforts to allow the voice of all Illinoisans to be heard in a special election so that the potential taint of an appointment by Blagojevich or his lieutenant can be prevented," Illinois House Republican Leader Tom Cross and Illinois Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno said in a statement.