Blagojevich Seeks to Make Last Stand at Ill. Impeachment Trial
Wednesday, January 28, 2009; 5:41 PM
CHICAGO, Jan. 28 -- Ending a well-publicized boycott of his impeachment trial, Gov. Rod Blagojevich informed the Illinois Senate that he intends to travel to Springfield in the hopes of delivering his own closing argument on Thursday before senators vote.
Blagojevich (D), who refused to take part in the trial that could cost him his job, would not testify and would not answer questions about the allegations of abuse of power, John Cullerton, the Senate president, told his colleagues Wednesday.
Cullerton urged his colleagues to allow the governor to defend himself. He said Blagojevich is requesting to speak after House prosecutor David Ellis has completed his argument to the 59 senators. When the rules for the impeachment trial were established, the defense was allotted 90 minutes following the prosecution's closing argument.
It takes 40 votes to convict and remove a sitting governor.
The governor's sudden change of heart came on the third day of a trial he had skipped in favor of a busy round of television interviews in New York. He told interviewers that the impeachment prosecution was unfair and that he was boycotting the proceedings on principal.
"The fix is in," Blagojevich said over and over.
He maintained that Senate rules prevented him from staging a defense against charges that he sought to profit from his official actions, including one alleged scheme to sell President Obama's former U.S. Senate seat and another to extort campaign contributions from Illinois businessmen.
Members of the Senate became increasingly exasperated by Blagojevich's comments, arguing that the governor should bear the responsibility for opting out of the impeachment process.
They noted that he missed deadlines to call witnesses and introduce evidence, and they pointed out that Blagojevich, who is awaiting trial on federal corruption charges, was welcome to testify in his own defense and explain his actions.
Cullerton (D) told reporters Wednesday that Blagojevich should "come down here, instead of hiding out in New York and having Larry King asking questions."
"He should come down here and answer the questions and provide the context that he claims these statements are being taken out of," Cullerton said. "Before, I suggested that . . . perhaps the governor had just been misreading the rules. Now I'm pretty sure he's lying about the rules."
"I saw him on television last night," Cullerton went on. "He flat-out misrepresented what these rules said."