Ill. Senate Votes to Remove Blagojevich From Office Over Corruption Charges
The Illinois Senate, which voted 59-0 to oust the two-term Democrat, also voted to ban Blagojevich from holding future public office in Illinois.
After refusing for three days to appear at his own impeachment trial, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich addressed the state Senate Thursday to repeat his assertion that he has done “absolutely nothing wrong.”
Blagojevich is facing corruption charges after being accused of trying to profit from his authority to name a replacement for the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by President Barack Obama. Last Friday, the state’s House of Representatives voted strongly in favor of impeachment.
In his closing argument to state senators, Blagojevich charged there has been a “rush to judgment and an evisceration of the presumption of innocence” throughout the trial process, according to CNN.
“How can you throw a governor out of office who is clamoring and begging and pleading with you to give him a chance to bring witnesses in, to prove his innocence, to do more than just ask for a presumption of innocence?” Blagojevich asked.
The governor also said the controversial conversations that were captured in FBI wiretaps reflected something that every politician does “in order to run campaigns and win elections.”
The governor skipped the first three days of his trial, being held in the state’s capital of Springfield, to appear on several morning talk shows and news programs in defense of his innocence.
Blagojevich told CNN’s Larry King that showing up at the trial would “dignify an impeachment process that’s wrong and contrary to every fundamental civil liberty that we as Americans enjoy.”
“If they can remove a governor elected twice by the people, and a legislative branch can do it without being requires to prove any wrongdoing, and, conversely, not allowing the governor to prove he didn’t do anything wrong, if they can do it to me, they can do it to you and any other citizen and they can do it to other governors in other states,” he told King.
Thursday’s hearing began with the prosecution’s closing argument and ended with Blagojevich’s closing testimony. State senators then began debating the matter and a vote was expected later in the day.
House prosecutor David Ellis said that throughout the trial, the prosecution has “laid out a pattern of abuse of power by Gov. Blagojevich that culminated in his arrest on Dec. 9, 2008,” according to the New York Times.
The governor had 90 minutes to deliver his closing address, and he took about 47 minutes to outline his views. Now that the closing arguments have been heard, Blagojevich will not be cross-examined or further questioned by the state senate. He did not give sworn testimony.
Should the Illinois senate vote to impeach the governor, which will require a vote of at least two-thirds, the state’s lieutenant governor Pat Quinn will be tasked with filling his replacement.
Despite Blagojevich’s complaints, state senators told reporters they’re eager to make sure the governor’s trial is given due process and is not biased by considerable media attention.
“We’re going overboard to make sure everything is done fair,” said Republican State Senator Dave Syverson, according to the Times.
Speaking to reporters before his closing statement, Blagojevich expressed optimism.
“I feel confident. I know the truth of things. I hope I get a fair shot today,” he said. “Of course there is (sadness). That’s life. There’s moments of triumph and moments of disappointment. I’m not giving up hope.”