Blagojevich Pleads His Case; Outlook Is Grim

BLA-GOYA-VICH for governor campaign button.

Governor, but not for long. hide caption

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Rod Blagojevich (D), in a last-ditch attempt to stave off a vote that would end his governorship, spent 48 minutes in an impassioned speech before the Illinois state Senate arguing that removing him from office without proof of wrongdoing would be a "dangerous and chilling precedent."

Blagojevich had been boycotting the state Senate trial, which was convened following the 114-1 vote to impeach him in the state House on Jan. 9. His "closing argument" today was not the same as testifying; had he done the latter, he would have been subjected to questions from lawmakers.

The governor was arrested on Dec. 9, with prosecutors alleging he had, among other things, attempted to sell Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat to the highest bidder. They had been tapping his phone. From the outset, he has insisted on his own innocence, saying he had done nothing wrong and certainly that there was no proof he had.

He begged the lawmakers to let him prove his innocence by calling witnesses who he said would back up his case — such as White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel (his successor in Congress), Obama aide Valerie Jarrett, and Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL), all of whom either spoke with the governor or were presumably taped in phone calls with the governor in conversations about the Senate seat.

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. 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?

He finished at about 12:53 p.m. Eastern time. Right now a prosecutorial rebuttal is being heard by Illinois lawmakers. A vote — two-thirds of the 59 senators (40) is required to convict — is expected later today.

Assuming the votes are there — and there is no reason to suspect they are not — Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn (D) will soon become the next governor of Illinois.

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