Troubled Illinois governor fights for his job

Rod Blagojevich, the governor accused of having tried to sell Obama's senate seat, appeared to give a closing argument at the senate hearing his impeachment where he stated that "he had done nothing wrong".


AFP - The corruption-tainted governor accused of trying to sell President Barack Obama's senate seat made an impassioned plea Thursday to keep his job at an impeachment trial in the Illinois state senate.

"I have done absolutely nothing wrong," Rod Blagojevich said in closing arguments.

"I followed every law ... and when the whole truth is heard, and the whole story is told, that ultimately is what will be shown."

Blagojevich was arrested December 9 amid what prosecutors called a "political corruption crime spree."

The Illinois House voted 117 to 1 to impeach him a month later and it is up to the state senate to determine if there is sufficient evidence that Blagojevich abused his power to remove him from office.

A vote could be taken as early as Thursday afternoon.

Blagojevich, who boycotted the first three days of the trial and refused to answer questions from state lawmakers, chastised the senate for refusing to allow him to call witnesses to defend himself against charges laid out in a 76-page FBI affidavit.

"Just give me a chance to be able to let the truth come out," Blagojevich asked the senate, adding that allegations are not evidence.

Blagojevich said he wanted all of the FBI wiretaps to be played to prove that the damning quotations used in the affidavit were taken out of context, including an expletive-filled description of his chance to name a senator as a "golden" opportunity he would not give away for "nothin'."

Four of the secretly taped conversations were played during the impeachment trial but federal prosecutors asked lawmakers not to dig into the criminal charges against Blagojevich out of concern that it could interfere with the criminal trial.

Prosecutors say those tapes show Blagojevich pressuring a racetrack owner for a hefty campaign donation in exchange for help passing favorable legislation.

But Blagojevich said they are simply "conversations relating to the things all of us in politics do in order to run campaigns and try to win elections."

While it would involve some "political embarrassment," Blagojevich said he could be exonerated if those he discussed the senate seat with were required to testify: including Obama's chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and senate majority leader Harry Reid.

Obama, who has not been accused of any wrongdoing, so far has managed to emerge essentially unsullied by the scandal that shone a national spotlight on the culture of corruption in Illinois.

Five of the past nine Illinois governors have been indicted or arrested for fraud or bribery and Blagojevich's predecessor, Republican George Ryan, is serving a six-and-a-half year sentence for fraud and racketeering.

Blagojevich, a Democrat, is the first Illinois governor to be impeached.

Obama, who was born in Hawaii and moved to Chicago to work as a lawyer and community organizer, managed to advance in the state without much help from Democratic "machine" politics.

And he has remained incredibly distant from Blagojevich, who has been surrounded by allegations of corruption since shortly after his 2002 election.

Blagojevic also attacked the five articles of impeachment not related to his December 9 arrest, including allegations of widespread hiring abuses, acting without legislative approval to expand health care and violating federal law with an expensive program aimed at importing cheap Canadian pharmaceuticals.

"How can you impeach me for legal means with moral ends?" Blagojevich said, adding that while he may have done things the legislature did not like he did so within the bounds of his executive power.

Impeachment prosecutor David Ellis disputed those assertions as he rehashed his case.

"The evidence showed that throughout his tenure as governor, the governor has abused the power of his office and put his own interest above the interest of the people," Ellis said shortly before Blagojevich spoke.

"The people of this state deserve so much better. The governor should be removed from office."

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