Ill. High Court Rejects Attempt To Remove Governor

The Illinois Supreme Court has denied an effort to remove Gov. Rod Blagojevich, rejecting what could have been the quickest way to force the Democrat from office. The court, without comment, refused to hear state Attorney General Lisa Madigan's legal challenge to the governor's fitness to serve.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is Morning Edition from NPR News. Good morning, I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. Anybody who thought the governor of Illinois would have quit by now has another thing coming. Rod Blagojevich is fighting to keep his job. That was the message as the governor met with reporters yesterday. It was also the message as his attorney attacked lawmakers who are considering if the governor should be impeached. NPR's David Schaper reports.

DAVID SCHAPER: From the very beginning of the hearing of the Illinois House special committee of inquiry into impeachment, Blagojevich attorney Ed Genson made clear his client wouldn't be removed from office without a fight and that it will probably be a long, drawn-out fight at that.

Mr. ED GENSON (Defense Attorney): The issue in this case is the evidence that you have. The evidence that you have is nil, zero, nothing.

Assemblyman JACK FRANKS (Democrat, Woodstock, Illinois): We haven't tried the case. We are getting evidence now. And...

Mr. GENSON: This isn't evidence, and that's my argument. If you'll let me finish, I'll bet you - I'll finish, and then you can go and talk among yourselves and maybe even decide that I'm wrong.

SCHAPER: This exchange between lawyer Genson and Democratic state Representative Jack Franks was typical as lawmakers try to move quickly in their inquiry into whether the governor should be impeached and Genson challenges them every step of the way. In this next exchange, Franks argues that if Genson wants to quarrel with the U.S. attorney's criminal complaint charging Blagojevich with corruption, then lawmakers should be able to question the governor.

Mr. GENSON: So, I'm not allowed to question the lack of confrontation?

Assemblyman FRANKS: No. I'm just saying if we want to get to the facts, we should have your client here...

Mr. GENSON: I'm not allowed to - I might have...

Assemblyman FRANKS: If you want to get to the facts, let's bring him here, let's ask the questions. There are a lot of things we'd like to know.

Mr. GENSON: This is "Alice in Wonderland."

Assemblyman FRANKS: I don't believe so at all.

Mr. GENSON: They talk about...

SCHAPER: Genson questioned the fairness of the lawmakers themselves. He asked that a few be removed from the committee because Genson says they've made comments that suggest they already believe Blagojevich is guilty. After the hearing, Genson elaborated.

Mr. GENSON: If you know of another case coming out of the state of Illinois where there were so many people that wanted to chop somebody's head off, you'd tell me it. But I don't - this is a real witch hunt.

Assemblywoman BARBARA FLYNN CURRIE (Democrat, Chicago, Illinois): I don't think that it's a witch hunt.

SCHAPER: Chicago Democrat Barbara Flynn Currie is chairing the impeachment committee.

Assemblywoman CURRIE: I think we've got plenty of evidence out there of questionable activities on the part of the governor. Remember that we are not sitting as a criminal jury.

SCHAPER: Currie says the impeachment committee is not a court of law and not bound to a trial's rules of evidence. Lawmakers don't have to prove Blagojevich committed a crime in office to impeach him. In fact, the Illinois Constitution says lawmakers only need cause, which Currie says could be that the governor betrayed the public trust or abused his authority.

While this effort to remove Illinois' embattled Democratic governor from office heated up, another effort was stopped cold. The Illinois Supreme Court rejected a request that Blagojevich be declared unfit for office, ruling without comment. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan argued the pay-to-play criminal charges against Blagojevich call into question virtually every action he takes as governor.

The attorney general says in a statement she's disappointed with the court's decision which she says leaves Illinois in an unsustainable situation with a governor who cannot do the job. But Blagojevich is out to prove otherwise. He's been to work every day since his arrest, signing bills, among other duties. And yesterday he spoke briefly with reporters for the first time since his arrest, outside of his northwest side Chicago home.

Governor ROD BLAGOJEVICH (Democrat, Illinois): I can't wait to begin to tell my side of the story and to address you guys and, most importantly, the people of Illinois. That's who I'm dying to talk to.

SCHAPER: But Blagojevich wouldn't say when that would be.

Governor BLAGOJEVICH: Just hang loose. Hold on, just hang loose. Now can I get a run in, do you think?

SHAPER: The fit governor then tried to take a run through his neighborhood. His attorney will take another run at state lawmakers today as the impeachment committee calls its first witnesses. David Schaper, NPR News, in Springfield, Illinois.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Ill. High Court Declines Hearing On Blagojevich

NPR Political Editor Ken Rudin On Blagojevich

The Illinois Supreme Court has refused to hear a challenge to Gov. Rod Blagojevich's fitness to hold office.

A spokesman said Wednesday that the court rejected the challenge without comment.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan had argued Blagojevich's legal and political troubles are keeping him from performing his duties.

She had argued they amount to a disability, so Blagojevich should have his authority removed temporarily.

Meanwhile, an attorney for Blagojevich challenged a state legislative panel considering the governor's impeachment on Wednesday, arguing that some members should be removed because he feels they've already made up their minds.

Lawyer Ed Genson argued it would be illegal for the committee to use material from government wiretaps, and he objected to the panel's rules, saying they don't provide a clear standard for deciding whether to recommend impeachment.

Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, committee chairwoman, said the panel has wide latitude on how to handle evidence.

"We're not a court of law. We're not quite a grand jury," Currie said. "We're not bound by specific rules of evidence."

The committee will recommend to the full House whether to move forward with impeachment.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: