December 12th, 2008
09:50 AM ET
14 years ago

Illinois Democratic lawmakers begin impeachment effort for gov

[cnn-photo-caption image="" caption="Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was arrested Tuesday on federal corruption charges."]CHICAGO, Illinois (CNN) - Key Illinois Democratic legislators are circulating a letter urging support for the impeachment of Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was arrested this week on federal corruption charges relating in part to the selection of President-elect Barack Obama's successor as a U.S. senator.

State Rep. John Fritchey, head of the House Civil Judiciary Committee, sent out the letter Thursday asking Democratic colleagues to say by Friday whether they support a move for impeachment and would like to be added as a co-sponsor of legislation.

"Faced with a significant budget shortfall, a national recession, and a vacant United States Senate seat, we cannot afford to allow Illinois to operate without effective leadership in the (Illinois) executive branch," said the
letter, also signed by Reps. Thomas Holbrook, David Miller and James Brosnahan.

"Simply put, it is imperative to replace Governor Blagojevich as soon as is practicable."

The letter said the impeachment filing was being prepared, and the lawmakers said they expected the process - the state House would bring charges against Blagojevich and he would be tried by the state Senate - would take "a matter of weeks rather than months."

The lawmakers' move coincided with increasing calls for Blagojevich's resignation.

President-elect Barack Obama called again Thursday for Blagojevich to step down, saying the embattled governor can no longer effectively serve the people of Illinois.

"I hope that the governor himself comes to the conclusion that he can no longer effectively serve and that he does resign," Obama said, speaking ahead of announcing his pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle.

Obama said he was as "appalled and disappointed as anyone" by the allegations against the Democratic governor, and said he was confident none of his staff members were involved in the alleged scandal.

Federal officials said Blagojevich was looking to sell or trade Obama's now open seat in the U.S. Senate.

Obama said he had never spoken to the governor on the subject, adding he was confident that "no representatives of mine would have any part of any deals related to this seat."

He had asked his staff to gather the facts of any contacts with the governor's office about the vacancy, he said.

"This Senate seat does not belong to any politician to trade. It belongs to the people of Illinois, and they deserve the best possible representation," he said. "They also deserve to know that any vacancy will be filled in an appropriate way so that whoever is sent to Washington is going to be fighting for the people of Illinois."

Earlier Thursday, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said she is prepared to go to the Illinois Supreme Court to have Blagojevich declared unfit to serve if he does not resign.

"Obviously the easiest way for us to move on in the state of Illinois is for Gov. Blagojevich to do the right thing for the people and to resign," she told CNN's "American Morning."

She added, "If he fails to, the two other options are obviously the legislature moving forward on impeachment, or I have the opportunity to actually go to our Illinois Supreme Court and ask them to declare, basically, that our governor is unable to serve," she said.

In that case, Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn would become acting governor, she said.

Madigan said she won't wait "terribly long" to take action.

"We would like a signal from the legislature if they're going to move forward on impeachment proceedings. ... I think there are obviously numerous members of the legislature calling for impeachment proceedings," she said, noting that the legislature, which is currently adjourned, will meet Monday to discuss the possibility of holding special election for Obama's successor.

Fritchey, in the letter to Democratic lawmakers, commended Madigan's willingness to initiate that procedure, but said "both the duration as well as the outcome of such a proceeding are inherently uncertain and speculative."

"We would also note the comments of the Attorney General indicating her support of impeachment proceedings as an appropriate course of action at this time," the letter said.

Filed under: Illinois • Rod Blagojevich
soundoff (224 Responses)
  1. Rose

    The people of Illinois must feel strange now: from great joy and pride to some of the deepest shame!

    December 12, 2008 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  2. Jackie in Dallas


    Wikipedia's definition of impeachment:

    "Impeachment does not necessarily result in removal from office, but rather is only a legal statement of charges, parallel to an indictment in criminal law. An official who is impeached faces a second legislative vote (whether by the same body or another), which determines conviction, or failure to convict, on the charges embodied by the impeachment. Most constitutions require a supermajority to convict. Although the subject of the charge is criminal action, it does not constitute a criminal trial; the only question under consideration is the removal of the individual from office."

    In other words, impeachment parallels the criminal process where charges are filed, an indictment is made (the initial vote on impeachment), a trial occurs (the testamony before the second legislative vote), and a vote occurs (the jury deliberations) that removes the official from office.

    The important thing to remember is that it doesn't affect the criminal case or whether the official is found innocent or guilty of the CRIMINAL charges, and therefore does not constitute double jeapardy.

    December 12, 2008 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  3. Mike Ryan

    This is just an observation but why doesn’t anyone in the media talk to or about the good Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr? It is fairly public that he likes to play in the gutter. He knows all about extortion. He lies. He exploits every opportunity for gain. He knows the governor. He has access to big money through his non-profit (Ha! Ha!). He has shown a willingness to use extorted money for personal use (girls, apartments, kids, God knows what else.). He’s rich and last but not least, he loves little Jesse Jr.

    Every blog you read mentions Jesse Jackson but not a peep from the media. Why are you avoiding the obvious?

    Mike Ryan

    December 12, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  4. John from LA

    Karen-boy oh boy are you missing the boat-it has NOTHING to do with where BO was born or grew up-idiot. IT HAS EVERYTHING to do with where he cut his baby teeth in politics...and that my dear is CHICAGO!!!!! and for some of us who have followed politics a little longer than 1 year(when your "Messiah" came on the scene)-can see and KNOW that "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark"

    By the way-where is BO's cheif of staff-Rham????-visibly absent at yesterday's newsconference.

    December 12, 2008 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  5. Ana B

    Tina, grow up and get a life. Better yet, go to Faux News and spread your hate there.

    December 12, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  6. Ken

    I believe that he should tell ALL and work out some deal to spill the beans on the rest of the corrupt politicians. I am tired of seeing our politicians working for themselves instead of for us the American people. It is way past the time to put ALL of the CORRUPT politicians in jail and throw the key away.

    I am sure that the Governor is only one piece of the pie.

    December 12, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  7. sg

    Karen – If Obama never liked Blago and his politics why didn't Obama set his sights on cleaning up Chicago and Ill politics??? I would have applauded him for this. The way I see it, Obama didn't bother because in a way he agreed with the current policies. Going along with the status quo is just as bad as committing the deed himself. Period!

    December 12, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  8. EW

    Obama and Blago met on November 5th in Chicago to discuss the Senate vacancy. How else would Blago know who Obama's prefered choice was?

    Suspiciously enough, all of the articles related to that fact have disappeared from the internet in the last 48 hours.

    December 12, 2008 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  9. VCC

    Why was JJJr the only candidate named by the media? Can it be that there is some sort of discredit conspiracy to keep him from getting the appointment? The people who offered the governor the million to appointment JJJr, all raised money for Blago in his campaigns. hmmmmmm.

    December 12, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  10. EW

    Obama backed Blago in the 2002 governor's campaign. Obama actually did some 'fundraising' and they are pretty close.

    December 12, 2008 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  11. markymark22

    Mike siad: "I have a question about technicalities…. what is the legal reason being cited in the articles of impeachment? Since he is presumed innocent until found guilty, they cannot yet cite a proven crime. Can they just impeach on the basis of lost confidence in his leadership? On the view that he is "unfit to serve"?

    This question is not being asked out of any support for Blagojevich, I think he needs to go ASAP. I was just wondering about the legal aspects of this"

    Good questions Mike. Maybe someone will answer...

    December 12, 2008 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  12. mike

    I think more important than the apparent overt corruption is that which lies behind. e.g. Why would someone pay $1M to have Jesse Jackson appointed, unless there were material benefit to be thereby gained after he were in office? The greater potential coruption (and probable past actions) are with Mr Jackson.

    This entire issue should not be seen as an isolated case of one politician who happened to have been caught, but what it signifies about the American political system. Candidate #5 (Jackson), no matter his protestations, was/is not just a buyer, but also a down-market seller of influence.

    December 12, 2008 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  13. Alysandra

    Why is no one mentioning that the governor is a Democrat? All we hear is how the moral/upstanding Democrats are ousting this corrupt politician. Oh, yay for those good 'ol democrats! What is in fact happening is that another corrupt democrat was discovered. Hmmm. I thought only Republicans were corrupt...? Print the whole truth people.

    December 12, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  14. christopher Johnson

    what is wrong with this nation all politics in chicago are courpt just like obama another chicago thug. guess they all need 2 b in jail. i can't wait we need obama an all dems throwin in jail. rember obama said we need 2 b more like china. well if we where more like china the media an the libs would all b shot or in work camps dam wish obama was in one . impeach obama he is a black hitler

    December 12, 2008 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  15. Hall for Obama

    As always Obama will say …oh I did not know or I did not hear that guy like he did to Rev Wright, Tony Rezko, and Bill Ayer …..LOL!

    Tina, How come it took 3 years of wire tapping to get something on Blagojevich? How much money did he get? Who did he have killed? Why was his phone tapped any way?

    December 12, 2008 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  16. Vic

    This man belongs in jail.
    BTW – is Ted Stevens in jail yet?????? OR, will he be pardoned by Bush?

    December 12, 2008 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  17. Beverly in NC

    Bush and Cheney committed far worse crimes against this nation and against the people of Iraq. They should have been impeached as soon as the 9/11 Commission Report came out and proved them to be liars and how they corrupted and deceived with the fake information they told to the the UN and to Congress and to the American people. Hundreds of thousands of people have died and our own soliders were sent to their deaths for a lie and for greed by Cheney and Rumsfeld and by total stupidity by Bush.

    Yes, all criminals in all positions of power should be removed and prosecuted. No one is above the law – not even the moron Bush and the evil Cheney who have totally destroyed this nation economically to enrich their friends and have totally destroyed the reputation of the US on the world stage. They need to be held accountable.

    Thank goodness we finally will have a intelligent President in the White House who despite the overwhelming mess he has been handed remains positive they our nation can be restored to greatness and prosperity. Reoublicans need to lay down their mantra of hatred and division and work with Democrats to save this nation. This is not a political issue – this is about saving the basic needs of the American people.

    December 12, 2008 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  18. FreeNLovIt

    WASHINGTON (CNN) - If anyone knows how Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich feels right now, I do.

    On Tuesday, the governor was arrested in a glare of publicity and charged with going on "a corruption crime spree," as U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald described it - including alleged attempts to sell President-elect Barack Obama's Senate seat.

    Some 35 years ago that ugly glare of publicity was focused on me as I was charged with a Watergate-related crime, subsequently convicted and sent to prison. The governor hasn't been convicted and is entitled to the presumption of innocence.

    In the wake of Blagojevich's arrest, many Americans are left wondering once again how intelligent people can do such stupid things - especially when they've achieved the pinnacle of power.

    The answer comes down to pride.

    At the height of Watergate, a dear friend of mine, Tom Phillips, then CEO of Raytheon, invited me to his home. As we sat in his kitchen, Tom read to me a chapter on pride from a little book by C.S. Lewis titled "Mere Christianity."

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    Lewis wrote, "There is one vice of which no man in the world is free. ... The vice I am talking about is Pride or Self-conceit. .... Pride leads to every other vice. ... A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you. ... Pride is a spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense."

    Tom - who told me about Jesus Christ that night - didn't know I was in utter despair over Watergate, watching the president I'd worked for flounder in office. I'd learned I might become a target of the investigation. In short, my world was collapsing.

    That night I sat in a darkened driveway and in a flood of tears called out to God. I didn't know what to say; I just knew I needed Christ. At that moment God took the White House "hatchet man" and turned me into a new creation.

    I went on to serve seven months in prison. As lonely and demeaning as that experience was, I have never regretted it. I can honestly agree with Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who wrote from the gulag, "Bless you, prison, bless you for being in my life, for there, lying on the rotting prison straw, I came to realize that the object of life is not prosperity, as we are made to believe, but the maturing of the human soul."

    Which brings me to a second reason for Blagojevich's fall: the culture of self.

    Like me, Blagojevich grew up in a culture that taught the great goal of life was material success, power and influence. I grew up during the Great Depression; I thought if a smart guy like me earned a law degree and accumulated academic honors, they would enable me to find power, fulfillment and meaning in life.

    I made a lot of money in my law practice and accepted a White House job. But by then, I had became very self-righteous; I was absolutely certain that no one could corrupt me. All my investments went into a blind trust. Whenever someone gave me a gift, I immediately turned it over to my chauffeur. And yet I ended up going to prison.

    I now realize that every human being has an infinite capacity for self-rationalization and self-delusion. Those who serve in public life are faced with enormous peer pressure and don't always take time to stop and think carefully about what they're doing.

    Sometimes - absorbed in accumulating political power - they're not interested in stopping to think. But as I learned firsthand, self-obsession destroys character. It has to.

    Tragically, America is continuing to rear its young to become not only self-obsessed, but obsessed with personal power. Quaint-sounding virtues such as courage, honesty and prudence - historically considered the elements of character - are no match for a society in which the exaltation and gratification of self becomes the overriding goal of life.

    If Blagojevich is guilty, the best thing that could happen to him is to be tried and convicted. He's going to have to reach rock bottom - just as I did - before he will be able to escape his own prison of pride, self-delusion and self-righteousness. But that's a transformation we can never accomplish on our own. I can vouch for the fact that human pride is simply too strong.

    Lewis was right: Pride is a spiritual cancer. And the only cure, for any of us, is to stop looking down and to look up. The cure can only be brought about in someone who has come to realize that the will and power to do good and not evil comes from God alone.

    December 12, 2008 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  19. FreeNLovIt

    To all who complains about Obama, dont forget, the ELEPHANTS are not that innocent:

    This is just a partial list of Bush scandals. Halliburton's Corruption; Iraq's Decline; Abu Ghraib Prison Torture; CIA Pre-9/11 Intelligence; Failures; HHS Deceptive Ad Campaign; HHS Scully Scandal; Government-wide Accounting; Problems; Sex Education Misinformation; CAPPS II Failures; Real Costs of the Iraq War; US Attorney Firings; Walter Reed Army Hospital Neglect; Mishandling North Korea nuclear issue; Outing a CIA Agent; Lying to the American People; Hurrican Katrina; Warrantless wiretapping; Selling government to K Street lobbyists; Duke Cunningham, a corrupt politician steered money towards office supplies for Cheney; And there's much, much more.

    I'm sure to all of this you lying scandalous repugs would just say (in the words of your hero) "So"?

    December 12, 2008 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  20. Michael M. Noonan

    The attorney general will use an obscure law to oust him, there will be no impeachment, no trial and Obama and Rezni and Emmanuel and the whole sordid bunch will skate.

    December 12, 2008 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  21. Dave, Central Illinois

    I wish Cook county would split into it's own state. The rest of Illinois would be a lot better off. Get the Chicago thugs out of Springfield now!

    December 12, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  22. Chi Town


    So if Obama "refused to play his crooked game"... he had to know about it... which is what Axlerod said... before he was told to change his mind. I'm not saying... just saying... does beg the question... that and the Governors cronie Tony Rezko giving him a half million dollars in prime property for free... makes me wonder.

    December 12, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  23. Eleanor

    its downright ridiculous to link all chicago politicians with this crook
    Bc they are from chicago it only stands to reason they will cross paths
    and brush arms and speak but that doesnt mean the media or anyone else has the right to say bc some are crooks they all are!!
    that kind of thinking is like the network *F*X who are never fair
    what about Dick Durban and others like vice-president elect Obama
    Sorry but you have to have the brains and morality to realize you cant make a blanket statement that they are all crooks

    December 12, 2008 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  24. libbssuck1

    Get rid of all lib politicians!

    December 12, 2008 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  25. Meh

    Christopher Johnson> Off your meds again? Comparing Obama to Hitler? Really? Y'all are just a bunch of sore losers and will jump at *any*thing, regardless of its validity.

    OT> Impeach this doofus!

    December 12, 2008 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
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