Illinois House of Representatives impeaches Blagojevich

The Illinois House of Representatives has voted to impeach Governor Rod Blagojevich, who was accused of attempting to sell the Senate seat vacated by US President-elect Barack Obama.


AFP - The Illinois House of Representatives on Friday impeached the state's corruption-tainted governor accused of trying to sell president-elect Barack Obama's senate seat for personal gain.

Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich's case will now head to the state senate which will conduct a trial to determine if he should be removed from office.

"With 114 people voting yes, one person no, the House does adopt House resolution 1671," said House Speaker Mike Madigan.

"Governor Blagojevich is hereby impeached."

Blagojevich has vehemently proclaimed his innocence and said he "can't wait" to clear his name in court. But he refused to defend himself in front of an impeachment inquiry which on Thursday recommended his impeachment.

His office did not immediately return a request for comment Friday. It issued a statement Thursday saying the impeachment proceedings "were flawed, biased and did not follow the rules of law."

"When the case moves to the Senate, an actual judge will preside over the hearings, and the governor believes the outcome will be much different," the statement concluded.

The scandal has proven an unwelcome distraction for Obama as he prepares to take office on January 20.

While Obama is not accused of any wrongdoing and an internal review found his team had no "inappropriate" contacts with the governor's office, his incoming chief of staff has come under fire for discussing the seat with Blagojevich.

Illinois legislators put forth a litany of alleged abuses in the report recommending Blagojevich's impeachment.

Prominent among them was a 76-page FBI affidavit accusing the governor of a pattern of corruption, including refusing to free up funds for a children's hospital until he received a 50,000-dollar campaign contribution and trying to get editors critical of his administration fired from the Chicago Tribune.

Blagojevich's lawyers have dismissed partial transcripts of taped conversations about how he might trade Obama's senate seat for a cabinet post, ambassadorship or high-paying job as a bunch of "jabbering" that didn't go anywhere.

The impeachment report also accused Blagojevich of widespread hiring abuses, acting without legislative approval to expand health care, wasting state money on useless flu vaccines to get good publicity and refusing to release information to the public.

It noted that "the federal government no longer trusts the governor with vital security information to which other governors routinely have access."

The state's financial problems have also been exacerbated after Blagojevich's arrest as its credit rating was downgraded making it more expensive to borrow money.

Lawmakers also blasted Blagojevich for appointing former Illinois attorney general Roland Burris to fill Obama's seat despite Democratic warnings that anyone he named would not be seated in the national Senate.

Burris testified Thursday that he made no deals to gain the appointment and US Senate leaders indicated they may soon allow him to be seated despite the controversy.

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