Gov to speak at impeachment trial Thursday

Impeachment trial enters 3rd day
January 28, 2009 8:20:09 PM PST
After accusing the governor of lying on national TV, Senate President John Cullerton announced that Gov. Rod Blagojevich plans to address the Senate during his impeachment trial Thursday. Blagojevich changes his tune

The governor's surprise announcement comes after he had said repeatedly that he would not be in Springfield for the impeachment hearings, which he called "fixed." He also said the rules of the impeachment process were "unfair."

According to Sen. Cullerton, the governor wants to make a closing statement on Thursday. Blagojevich is not asking to testify, which would involve answering questions from senators.

"It's my understanding that the governor wishes to file an appearance to give a closing argument, not to testify or to submit himself to cross-examination. Just to give a closing argument. Just to clarify that," said Senator Cullerton.

No formal motion has been filed yet but if he wants to come, the senate won't turn him away. Cullerton recommended he be allowed to speak, as did Republican Sen. Christine Radogno.

"We would welcome that," said Senator Radogno.

Blagojevich will stand in the Senate chamber on Thursday and deliver a closing argument in the trial he has boycotted and called a kangaroo court. He will take no questions, only deliver a closing statement. He will get an hour and a half to do that.

"He is a coward. It's very cowardly what he's doing. He hasn't participated in the substance, hasn't answered questions, hasn't engage in this at all but he'll swoop down here and deliver his speech for the cameras and it's just the way he's approached business for the last six years," said Sen. Dan Cronin, (R) Elmhurst.

"He's not giving a fair characterization of the rules of this trial and then he blows it off and goes off on a media circus. I find it utterly disrespectful," said Sen. Matt Murphy, (R) Palatine.

"He has every day come up with something that's been shock and awe and I think tomorrow will be somewhat the same," said Sen. Susan Garrett, (D) North Suburbs.

There had been speculation that the governor might parachute in and make an appearance before the end of his impeachment trial. Most said that probably wouldn't happen. They were wrong.

Now the question is whether the governor will take to the well of the Senate and announce he's resigning.

Expected schedule of events on Thursday

The House prosecutor begins his closing argument at 10:00 a.m. and will go until 11:00 a.m. Then the governor has an hour and a half. Then each and every senator, 59 in total, will be allowed five minutes to speak. Not all will claim their five minutes but if most do and if some of them run over there will be the stage set for a vote late Thursday afternoon, most probably. They will vote first on whether to convict and if that's done, they will vote whether to disqualify Rod Blagojevich from ever holding public office again. The drama of the trial will play out late Thursday afternoon.

FBI secret tapes

On Tuesday, as the senate heard testimony and secret recordings made by the FBI of phone conversations by the governor, Gov. Blagojevich was in New York City conducting interviews with national media outlets. The media blitz did not sit well with the senators. State Senator John Cullerton, (D) Illinois Senate President, who had yet to comment on the case, called the governor a liar Wednesday morning.

"Before, I suggested that perhaps the governor had been misreading the rules. Now I'm pretty sure he's lying about the rules. He's had plenty of time to read the rules. I saw him on television last night. He flat out misrepresented what these rules say," said Sen. Cullerton. "He's been lying about the rules and I want people to know."

Sen. Cullerton and others are furious that the governor has said he can't present witnesses when, according to Cullerton, he can.

"Every single witness who might testify at a criminal case, bring them all in now because I'd like the whole truth to come out sooner rather than later," said Gov. Blagojevich during one of his national TV appearances.

Details of the governor's statement for Thursday have yet to be worked out. The senate tribunal operates under newly designed, rigid rules. The House prosecutor was scheduled to give his closing argument on Thursday. He was given an hour allotment, so it's expected the governor would get the same.

Allegations of abuse of Power

The article of impeachment against Blagojevich accuses him of abuse of power. Many of the allegations are based on the governor's decision to expand healthcare in the state without legislative approval and funding.

"Fortunately, the constitution gives the governor and the executive branch a certain amount of authority and discretion to be able to act without the legislature," said Governor Blagojevich during a past news conference.

For example, the governor contends he has the power to move forward on healthcare and the procurement of foreign flu vaccines, as he did four years ago. The General Assembly disagrees and believes he violated the state constitution.

The Proceedings

Much of the debate is old news to senators now deciding the governor's political fate. However, Freshman Senator Dan Duffy said it feels like he has been thrown into the fire.

"Walking into the capitol, I feel like I get goose bumps because it is a great honor to be here and it is an historic building. I want to make sure we're thorough with this trial, that we uncover every stone, and listen to every witness and take the time we need to make sure this is done completely," said Sen. Duffy.

Duffy's fellow Republicans are agitated with what they perceive to be a Democratic attempt to move the proceedings faster than necessary.

"What's the hurry? I will sit here on Super Bowl Sunday if I have to to make sure that the governor of this great state of Illinois gets a fair trial," said State Sen. Kirk Dillard, (R) Hinsdale.

Before the vote, which could come as early as Friday, the senators will be given 5 minutes to speak.

The Audio Records (played during the trial on Jan. 27, 2009):

  • Listen to the audio recording of intercepted communications
  • Transcript Tape 1
  • Transcript Tape 2
  • Transcript Tape 3
  • Transcript Tape 4

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