Illinois legislature sees Blagojevich impeached, removed from office
Lt. Governor Patrick Quinn takes oath of office.
The saga of Rod Blagojevich as the Governor of Illinois has ended.
State senators of both parties voted unanimously Thursday afternoon to remove the governor. The roll stood at 59-0.
The senators found Blagojevich guilty of engaging in a lengthy pattern of pay-to-play politics in which he traded campaign donations for political favors and tried to swap his ability to pick Obama's replacement for a cabinet post, ambassadorship or high-paying job for himself or his spouse.
"He repeatedly abused his power and we need to extinguish it and extinguish it today," Senator Kirk Dillard said prior to the vote.
The bulk of the charges in the articles of impeachment stem from a 76-page FBI affidavit released in the wake of his December 9 arrest amid what prosecutors called a "political corruption crime spree."
Blagojevich has not yet been indicted on the fraud and extortion charges and his criminal trial is months or possibly years away.
This is the first time Illinois has impeached and convicted a governor.
"One of the best quotes came for Sen. James Meeks, who hearkened back to Blagojevich's own words," reports MSNBC.
"'We have this thing called impeachment, and it's bleepin' golden, and we've used it the right way,' Meeks said, to laughs in the Senate gallery."
Illinois's new governor, Democrat Patrick Quinn, was sworn in quickly thereafter.
"I want to say to the people of Illinois, the ordeal is over," Quinn said in an AP report. "In this moment, our hearts are hurt. And it's very important to know that we have a duty, a mission to restore the faith of the people of Illinois in the integrity of their government."
"[By] his own admission, he hasn't been close to the governor," reports NPR. "At the time of Blagojevich's arrest on Dec. 9, Quinn said the two hadn't spoken in a year. But he certainly didn't hesitate to talk about him, saying that the governor should resign his office"
"One of the interesting aftermaths of all this is the looming presence of 2010. Lisa Madigan, the state attorney general and a longtime Blago foe, had been preparing to run for governor next year, taking on Blagojevich in the primary if she had to. Now, with Quinn as governor, that dynamic has changed. Stay tuned."
Update: Governor begs legislature for chance to prove his innocence.
Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has left the state Capitol, perhaps for the last time.
In a speech the National Post characterized as begging, he pleaded with the state's legislature for a chance to prove his innocence.
He stands accused of attempting to sell President Obama's vacated seat in the US Senate.
"For much of today's speech he talked about how he fought for seniors on the importation of cheaper drugs from Canada and what he accomplished in his six years as governor," reports NPR. At other times, he rambled. But all the while his argument was the same: How can you throw a governor out of office with no proof of wrongdoing? Why won't you allow me to call witnesses who will attest to my innocence?
"Before Mr. Blagojevich spoke, David Ellis, acting as prosecutor for the state house of Representatives which impeached the governor on 13 charges earlier this month, said he was guilty of widespread abuse of power, including those involving the Senate seat," reported the National Post.
"'The governor's own words demonstrated, time and time again, that he saw his ability to appoint a U.S. senator as a golden goose, as a bargaining chip to be leveraged for his own personal and political well-being,' he said."
A vote to impeach is expected in the coming hours.
Blagojevich calls for Kennedy, McCain, Emanuel to be fired if he is getting impeached
During a speech at his impeachment trial in which he claimed that he had been "begging and pleading" to defend himself, the defiant Illinois governor indicted for allegedly attempting to sell President Obama's former Senate seat to the highest bigger, argued that others were acting hypocritically.
If he's impeached, then Senators Ted Kennedy (Dem-Mass) and John McCain (Rep-Ariz) and Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel also deserve to be fired, said the Democratic governor who ended his "boycott" to give the speech Thursday at his hearing.
Blagojevich referred to McCain and Kennedy during an interview with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow on Tuesday.
"They want to impeach me ‘cause I went to Canada in defiance of the FDA, in my first term, to get cheaper prescription medicines for our senior citizens so they can afford both their groceries and their medicine," Blagojevich told Maddow. "That’s an impeachable offense, the people reelected me on that. They were also impeach the governor of Wisconsin, the governor of Kansas, the governor of Vermont, and why not expel John McCain and Ted Kennedy too because they worked with me on the issue of re-importation of prescription drugs."
Emanuel held conversations with Blagojevich staffers about the open seat, and has said that nothing "inappropriate" was discussed, and US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald hasn't indicated that any laws were broken by any Obama administration members. Blagojevich had wanted to call Emanuel to testify at his hearing, even if there was some "inconvenience" on display.
Blagojevich said, according to the Chicago Tribune's report, "'If you're impeaching me, then we need to impeach to governors of Wisconsin, of Kansas, of Vermont,' because all of them also were interested in his Canadian drug plan. While we're at it, Blagojevich said, they should 'reach into the United States Senate and remove John McCain and Ted Kennedy' because they supported the idea at the time."
The paper adds, "Blagojevich also said the Senate should demand that President Obama fire his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, because Emanuel 'gave me the idea' when he was a congressman from Illinois' 5th District."
Blagojevich asked, "If you're going to get rid of me, why do they get to stay in office?"
"You haven't proved a crime, and you can't because it didn't happen," Blagojevich told senators, who were prepared to vote within hours on whether to remove him. "How can you throw a governor out of office with insufficient and incomplete evidence?"
Blagojevich added, "I am not resigning now because I have done nothing wrong."
"If Blagojevich is convicted, he will immediately be removed from office and replaced by Lt. Gov. Patrick Quinn, a fellow Democrat," The AP reports. "No other Illinois governor has been impeached, let alone convicted in a Senate trial."
From the AP report:
In a last-ditch effort to save his job, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich told senators at his impeachment trial that he's done nothing wrong and the evidence doesn't support kicking him out of office.
The Democratic governor repeated his frequent complaint that he wasn't allowed to call witnesses who would have defended him against the criminal charges at the heart of the impeachment case.
Blagojevich did acknowledge that the truth of his actions might not be flattering in some cases. He referred to taped conversations played earlier in the Senate trial. The tapes appeared to show Blagojevich linking legislation to campaign contributions.
He said that's something "all of us in politics do."
This video is from CNN.com, broadcast Jan. 29, 2009.
Download video via RawReplay.com