January 26th, 2009
01:20 PM ET
7 years ago

Impeachment trial begins against Illinois governor

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich decided not to be present Monday for the start of his impeachment trial in the state senate.

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich decided not to be present Monday for the start of his impeachment trial in the state senate.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CNN) - The Illinois state Senate began its impeachment trial on Monday against Gov. Rod Blagojevich, without the governor present.

Blagojevich said he expects lawmakers to vote to convict him. He is facing federal corruption charges for several allegations, including trying to trade or sell the Senate seat that became vacant after Barack Obama was elected president.

He has boycotted the trial, instead scheduling appearances on several news programs Monday, including CNN's "Larry King Live."

Speaking on ABC's "Good Morning America," Blagojevich restated his complaints about the "unconstitutional" impeachment trial, which he said "denies me the right to call witnesses to defend myself and prove my innocence."

He said he is certain that the Senate will vote to remove him from office, and he expects they will demand he step down "relatively soon."

According to the federal complaint, Blagojevich and his chief of staff, John Harris - who also was arrested on federal corruption charges - were "conspiring to obtain personal financial benefits" for Blagojevich by leveraging his sole authority to appoint a U.S. senator to replace Obama.

"I've got this thing and it's [expletive] golden," Blagojevich allegedly said in one recorded conversation, referring to his authority to appoint, according to the complaint. "I'm just not giving it up for [expletive] nothing."

Asked about those alleged quotes, Blagojevich told ABC that federal prosecutors "took snippets of conversations completely out of context."

"When the whole story comes out, you'll see that the effort was to work
to have a senator who can best represent Illinois," he said.

He told ABC that he had been considering many candidates for the position, including TV talk show host Oprah Winfrey.

"She seemed to be someone who had helped Barack Obama in a significant way become president," Blagojevich said. "She was obviously someone with a much broader bully pulpit than other senators."

He eventually appointed former state Attorney General Roland Burris.

In an interview with NBC's "Today Show," he said his arrest on the morning of December 9 took him by surprise, but he is drawing inspiration from people such as Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., and Mahatma Gandhi.

"I thought it was actually a friend of mine who was playing a practical joke," he said of his arrest. "Unfortunately it wasn't. And then the day unfolded and I had a whole bunch of thoughts - of course my children, and my wife - and then I thought about Mandela, Dr. King, Gandhi and tried to put some perspective in all of this and that's what I'm doing now."

Earlier this month, Blagojevich, a second-term Democratic governor, was impeached by an overwhelming vote in the Illinois House of Representatives. He has denied wrongdoing and said the House impeachment vote was politically motivated.

Under Illinois' constitution, the state House of Representatives can vote to impeach an executive or judicial officer, but it is the state Senate that conducts the trial. A two-thirds majority vote in the Senate is required to convict an officer of an impeachable offense.

Blagojevich is specifically asking for a change in a Senate trial rule that prevents him from calling witnesses such as Valerie Jarrett, a confidant of President Obama; Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.; and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.

Emanuel, claimed Blagojevich, agrees that he did not break any laws.

Blagojevich also contested a rule that he claims does not allow him to challenge the basic assertions in the state House impeachment report.

State Sen. Matt Murphy, part of the nine-member committee that put the Senate trial rules together, called Blagojevich's complaints "the theater of the absurd."

He said the House prosecution team responsible for presenting the impeachment case to the Senate is operating under the same restrictions as Blagojevich with regard to calling witnesses. Murphy said on "Good Morning America" that U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald has asked both sides to "defer to the criminal prosecution" of Blagojevich, and "limit witnesses."

He noted that the governor has every right to submit "positive statements that the governor says exonerate him" - such as those from Jarrett, Jackson, and Emanuel - as evidence in the Senate trial.

"We have lowered the standard for the admission of evidence for the governor to bend over backwards to make this fair," Murphy said. "The suggestion that this is somehow unfair to the governor is the most self-serving, ludicrous statement I have ever heard in my life. It couldn't be fairer for this guy."

Murphy dismissed Blagojevich's complaint that the governor's basic rights were being violated because he cannot challenge the basic assertions in the House impeachment report.

A similar rule was in place during President Bill Clinton's 1999 U.S. Senate impeachment trial, Murphy noted, and Clinton was ultimately acquitted.

"What you've seen here ... is a cynical effort on the part of this governor that's perfectly consistent with his actions over the last six years, to try and further undermine the faith in this process that the people already have," Murphy said.

Blagojevich missed deadlines this month for answering the impeachment charge and for filing a motion to dismiss, a spokesman for Illinois Senate President John Cullerton has said.

Filed under: Rod Blagojevich
soundoff (45 Responses)
  1. Serra

    How do these dumb, dumb people get into politics? Its astounding.

    January 26, 2009 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  2. Nick

    He's comparing himself to those people? This guy is an idiot.

    January 26, 2009 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  3. Franky

    You guys wanna know what an ego is, there you go, hopefully some of you can learn something for a lifetime...not CNN, they're cool, LOL!!

    January 26, 2009 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  4. sensible Cape Coral FL

    Blog is just exercising his God-given right to be stupid.

    January 26, 2009 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  5. BB

    This man is a complete waste of people's time and money. Kick him out and move on with someone that will do an HONEST JOB.

    January 26, 2009 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  6. Democrat ashamed of Illinois

    I am ashamed to know that the State Legislature of Illinois operates under such archaic rules and denies ANY American the right to a fair trial.

    Who would of known that in this day in age if you the Illinois State Legislature decides it wants to convict you......you will be convicted without the ability to prove your innocence.

    No wonder all the crooks come from Illinois.

    January 26, 2009 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  7. JL

    Blagojevich seems very CRAZIE to me. WHAT dude where you not aware that GW Bush has told soooooooooooooooooo many bold-faced LIES to America that most of us are aware shortly after 1 tells a LIE. Leave the office and move on! Goossh!

    January 26, 2009 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  8. mayah

    Hand him a mirror please, he haven't looked at himself in quite a while....

    January 26, 2009 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  9. Is he kidding?

    Rod you gotta be kidding me...Boycott your CRIMINAL impeachment trial? This isn't a business with a stupid scheme you're boycotting such as TY's doll controversy, this is for your job! However I lost all respect for you 3 2 yrs ago when I and other fellow state employees of IL couldn't get paid for nearly the first month of the new year because YOU hadn't approved the budget yet and took your sweet time doing it as if people don't need their money! So burn in your hotseat for me please...

    January 26, 2009 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  10. Proud American

    He should be watching from Jail..

    January 26, 2009 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  11. WI Cheesehead

    This guy is delusional to even try to invoke the likes of Mandela, Dr. King, and Gandhi . Those remarks give a new meaning to one bearing their own cross for their own wrong doing.

    January 26, 2009 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  12. Elly

    Get rid of this guy NOW and do the people of chicago a bif favor
    this guy is the BIGGEST phony with the biggest EGO I have ever seen or heard
    hopefully he crawls back into the woodwork soon with the rest of the crooked political cockroaches!!!!

    January 26, 2009 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  13. Elly

    Get rid of this guy NOW and do the people of chicago a big favor
    this guy is the BIGGEST phony with the biggest EGO I have ever seen
    hopefully he crawls back into the woodwork soon with the rest of the crooked political cockroaches!!!!

    January 26, 2009 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  14. Pete

    Bozo, where are you?

    January 26, 2009 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  15. amt

    Blago deserves a fair trial. Impeachment will go down as planned, but the federal charges against him he's got the right to defend himself & call witnesses. I don't think he deserves jail, allot of politians have done, & probable still doing worse than Blagojevich & got by with it. What about Senator Stevens, Cheney, Bush, Rove & more ? Nothing happened to them. I hope he gets to prove his case in court & wins.

    January 26, 2009 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  16. cat

    well you can kinda feel sorry for him..But then remember the lanuagage he talks in.

    January 26, 2009 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  17. beachgirl

    Hey, if Blago would be a black Govenor, he will be in jail!!!!!

    January 26, 2009 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  18. J S Ragman

    It would be wonderful if he is gone by the end of this week!

    January 26, 2009 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  19. along

    I just LOVE this guy! NOT! He's either really stupid or really–heck let's just say it! The guy is a moron! I mean, maybe he didn't actually sell Obama's seat, but he DID talk about doing it. Plus he was TAPED talking about it. The man's career is toast no matter what he did or did not do because he has a giant sized mouth and doesn't know when to close it! Now he's ignoring the impeachment trial because he doesn't think it's fair. Blagojevich, wake up and smell the coffee! You have ruined your reputation to the point that anything you do looks suspect. By the way, YOUR PERSONAL OPINION DOESN'T MEAN ANYTHING IN THE IMPEACHMENT PROCESS!! They aren't going to stop it just because you cry about it on TV OK? Do the world a favor and let a SMART person lead Illinios for a change!

    January 26, 2009 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  20. Mari

    What took SO long?

    January 26, 2009 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  21. Frank

    "Ebedy, ebedy, ebedy, that's all folks!"

    January 26, 2009 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  22. Matt

    This guy is going to be a case study in narcissistic personality disorders for college psych students for ages to come.

    January 26, 2009 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  23. Greg

    Everytime i see this guy talk i die laughing why? i don't know everytime something comes out of his mouth your like what did he just say? now i hear skipping his trial man this guy has got problems and needs help right away so i end this comment by saying "I Will Fight I Will Fight and I Will Fight" right on Governor keep on Fighting!!!!!!!!!!!!

    January 26, 2009 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  24. Snake eyes

    What a buffoon.

    January 26, 2009 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  25. person

    this proves that the system does not work, Blago should be out of office by now if the system actually worked. The tape reveals the truth about his agenda and his wife's so there is no clearer evidence against him than this.

    January 26, 2009 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
1 2