Blagojevich Lawyer Calls Impeachment Proceedings Illegal

An attorney for Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is challenging a legislative committee considering the governor's impeachment. Video by AP
By Peter Slevin and Kari Lydersen
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, December 18, 2008

CHICAGO. Dec. 17 -- Gov. Rod Blagojevich's attorney attacked impeachment proceedings as "unfair and quite frankly illegal," in a clear signal that the Illinois governor, charged by federal prosecutors with public corruption, will not leave office without a fight.

"This is 'Alice in Wonderland,' " lawyer Ed Genson protested to 21 members of a special Illinois House impeachment committee in Springfield, the state capital. "The issue in this case is the evidence you have. The evidence you have is nil, zero, nothing."

After the hearing, Genson said he does not expect Blagojevich (D) to name anyone to President-elect Barack Obama's former U.S. Senate seat, because the Senate is "not going to accept anybody he appoints."

In Chicago, the Illinois Supreme Court rejected without comment an effort by Attorney General Lisa Madigan to have Blagojevich declared unfit to hold office.

The court's decision and Genson's combative stance appear to leave Blagojevich's critics -- including Obama and the 50 members of the Senate Democratic caucus -- with no quick avenue to his ouster.

Blagojevich, heading out for a jog on Chicago's snow-covered streets, told reporters that he is "dying" to tell his side of a story that has fascinated residents since his Dec. 9 arrest.

"To quote Elvis, 'Hang loose,' " said Blagojevich, 52, a longtime Elvis Presley fan.

The 21-member impeachment committee aims to make a recommendation by Jan. 14, drawing on information accumulated by federal prosecutors and the lawmakers themselves. On Thursday, the committee is expected to discuss allegations unrelated to the criminal complaint, including that Blagojevich conducted state business without required administrative authority.

On Wednesday, the group's substantive meeting quickly grew contentious as Genson questioned the new committee's procedures, the quality of its evidence and its standard of proof.

Genson asked for a delay to prepare the governor's defense and requested an advance look at evidence. He also asked lawmakers to bar the use of any Blagojevich conversations secretly recorded by the FBI.

"We object to using that dog and pony show -- the complaint -- to determine whether a man should stay in office or not," Genson said.

He argued that three members of the committee have already decided that Blagojevich should be impeached, and said they should step down. And he said FBI accounts that show Blagojevich discussing influence peddling and extortion may have taken the governor's words out of context.

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