Friday, January 30, 2009

Clean Sweep: Illinois Senate Votes 59-0 To Remove Blagojevich

It isn't the end of the Blagojevich affair by any stretch, contrary to CBS News headlines, but it is the end the road for disgraced former Governor Rod Blagojevich, who was removed as Illinois Governor by the Illinois Senate 59-0.

Blagojevich spoke before the Senate yesterday and rambled on about how he had done so much good for the state and that if he had committed a crime, others should go down as well, including President Obama's Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and various members of the Illinois political establishment.

I'm sure that sat well with all those folks.

In the end, it didn't affect the outcome, especially since Blagojevich hinted at his culpability when he stated that he had not knowingly committed criminal acts.
Once the State House impeached him earlier this month for abuse of power, the Senate did what was expected and voted to throw Blagojevich out of office. And on an identical 59-0 roll call, it barred the two-term Democrat from ever again holding public office in the state.

"He failed the test of character. He is beneath the dignity of the state of Illinois. He is no longer worthy to be our governor," said Sen. Matt Murphy, a Republican from suburban Chicago.

The state's Democratic Lieutenant Governor (and one of Blagojevich's strongest critics), 60-year-old Quinn, was promptly sworn in as governor.

Blagojevich, 52, had boycotted the first three days of the impeachment trial, calling the proceedings a kangaroo court. But on Thursday, he went before the Senate to fight for his job, delivering a 47-minute plea that was, by turns, defiant, humble and sentimental.

He offered familiar lines: He was innocent. The trial rules were unfair. His goal always was to help people.

"You haven't proved a crime, and you can't because it didn't happen," Blagojevich told lawmakers. "How can you throw a governor out of office with insufficient and incomplete evidence?"

"I think what's been very disappointing and very frustrating to everyone involved in the process … is that the governor could have brought forward information and evidence and witnesses, and he refused at every turn to do so," Illinois State Attorney General Lisa Madigan said on CBS' The Early Show. "He didn't participate when the House was considering impeachment. He obviously refused to participate in the actual trial in front of the Senate.
Blagojevich had gone on a media blitz this week, appearing on major network morning programs and taking the plea to the people, claiming that he had never intended to carry out criminal acts and that he had done much good for the people of Illinois.

Still, Blagojevich does have a point about the impeachment process; it wasn't exactly about due process and the ability to rebut charges with the presentation of evidence. That was due, in part, to the criminal charges and the case pending in federal court on corruption charges. The prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, didn't want to undermine his criminal case and so limited the amount of evidence provided for impeachment purposes.

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