Illinois Senate Ousts Governor The Illinois state Senate voted unanimously Thursday to convict and oust Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Earlier in the day, Blagojevich ended his boycott of the impeachment trial, insisting to lawmakers he had nothing wrong. He becomes the first U.S. governor to be removed by impeachment in more than two decades.
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Illinois Senate Ousts Governor

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Illinois Senate Ousts Governor

Illinois Senate Ousts Governor

Illinois Senate Ousts Governor

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The Illinois state Senate voted unanimously Thursday to convict and oust Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Earlier in the day, Blagojevich ended his boycott of the impeachment trial, insisting to lawmakers he had nothing wrong. He becomes the first U.S. governor to be removed by impeachment in more than two decades.

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Michele Norris.

ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

And I'm Robert Siegel. It's official. Rod Blagojevich has been removed from office.

THOMAS FITZGERALD: The article of impeachment having been sustained by the required constitutional majority, I now pronounce the judgment of conviction against Rod R. Blagojevich, thereby removing him from the office of governor, effective immediately.

SIEGEL: The Illinois governor made a final dramatic pitch to the state Senate today to try to keep his job. He delivered a defiant closing argument in his impeachment trial, but the Senate still voted 59 to nothing to remove him from office. NPR's David Schaper reports from the state Capitol in Springfield, Illinois.

(SOUNDBITE OF GAVEL)

FITZGERALD: The Senate is back in session. We're informed that the governor will be here momentarily. We'll see.

DAVID SCHAPER: Illinois Supreme Court Justice Thomas Fitzgerald slyly noted how Governor Blagojevich has thumbed his nose at this historic impeachment trial all week long and that he has refused to put up a defense before today. Blagojevich has been trashing the proceedings on TV talk shows as biased and unfair. And when he finally stood before the 59 silent, stoic, and solemn members of the Illinois state Senate, he picked up on that theme again telling them he wanted to present the unadulterated truth.

ROD BLAGOJEVICH: And have a chance to be able to show you here in the Senate, show the people of Illinois, and show anybody else who's listening that I have done absolutely nothing wrong, that I followed every law, that I never ever intended to violate any law.

SCHAPER: In a fast-pace statement that lasted close to an hour, Blagojevich went through the 13 articles of impeachment brought against him by the Illinois House. Those articles charge the governor with abusing the power of his office, breaking state and federal laws, and betraying the public trust. Blagojevich says none of those allegations is proven.

BLAGOJEVICH: You haven't proved a crime, and you can't because it hadn't happened. How can you throw a governor out of office with insufficient and incomplete evidence?

SCHAPER: Blagojevich criticized audio recordings played during the impeachment trial. Those tapes recorded from FBI wiretaps are of conversations in which the governor is talking about a $100,000 campaign contribution he allegedly tried to extort from a horse race track owner. Prosecutors say Blagojevich was withholding his signature on a bill the horse racing industry wanted until he got that hefty contribution. Here is how Blagojevich tried to refute those allegations.

BLAGOJEVICH: You guys are in politics. You know what we have to do to go out and run - and run elections. There was no criminal activity on those four tapes.

SCHAPER: He did not address at all what some senators consider the most damaging evidence against him - the federal corruption charges that alleged Blagojevich tried to sell or trade the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Obama to the highest bidder. His silence on that issue is a point hammered home by special prosecutor David Ellis in his rebuttal to Blagojevich.

DAVID ELLIS: He doesn't think for one minute about the people. He just thinks about himself.

SCHAPER: Ellis says Blagojevich can make a good speech when the cameras are on and he knows people are listening. But it's a different story when the lights and cameras are off, that he thinks no one is listening. Then the governor focuses on what he can get for himself, Ellis said. And it happened 60 times in 60 conversations recorded by FBI wiretaps.

ELLIS: He has abused the power of his office. He has traded it for personal gain time and time again. I think the people of this state have had enough.

SCHAPER: Most Illinois senators seem to agree and were unmoved by Blagojevich's speech, including Republican Matt Murphy.

MATT MURPHY: The governor is a very able speaker, and he gave a very good presentation. But the truth of the matter is the man lies exceedingly well, and he did it repeatedly in his remarks.

SCHAPER: After deliberating for close to three hours, senators voted unanimously to convict Blagojevich and remove him from office. Blagojevich had already returned to his Chicago home while he still had use of the state plane. After the vote, he told reporters he's disappointed but not surprised.

BLAGOJEVICH: I'm going to keep fighting to clear my name. I guess I'll just have to wait until I have my day in court.

SCHAPER: David Schaper, NPR News, in Springfield, Illinois.

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Illinois Senate Votes To Oust Blagojevich

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich addresses the state Senate during his impeachment trial Thursday in Springfield. Blagojevich has been accused by federal authorities of corruption, including offering to sell the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by President Obama. Scott Olson/Getty Images hide caption

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Scott Olson/Getty Images

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich addresses the state Senate during his impeachment trial Thursday in Springfield. Blagojevich has been accused by federal authorities of corruption, including offering to sell the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by President Obama.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Meet Pat Quinn

If Rod Blagojevich was vain and over the top, the new Illinois governor, Pat Quinn, 60, is a mostly humor-challenged pol. He is an outsider who spent many years, and many elections, trying to make it on the inside. He champions the little guy, the powerless, with his longtime support for citizen initiatives, and has spent a career battling special interests.

Read more about Pat Quinn.

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was removed from office Thursday after the state Senate voted 59-0 to find him guilty of abuse of power at his impeachment trial in Springfield.

Senators also voted unanimously to bar Blagojevich, a Democrat in his second term, from ever again holding public office in Illinois.

Lt. Gov. Patrick Quinn promptly took the oath of office to become the new governor.

"The ordeal is over," Quinn told lawmakers.

The vote came nearly two months after his arrest on corruption charges that included allegations that he tried to sell Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat. Following a political sideshow in Washington, D.C., his subsequent choice for the seat, Democrat Roland Burris, became the state's new U.S. senator.

Blagojevich made a last stand Thursday, appearing before state legislators for the first time to insist that they had no proof that he was involved in any illegal activity.

Blagojevich's statement represented his closing argument at a trial that he had boycotted until Thursday, saying the proceedings were biased against him.

"You haven't proved a crime and you haven't given me a chance to disprove a crime," Blagojevich said during a rambling speech that lasted nearly an hour.

Blagojevich, 52, has been under pressure to resign since he was arrested Dec. 9 on federal charges of solicitation of bribery and conspiracy, but he has repeatedly maintained that he did nothing wrong. The Illinois House impeached him on Jan. 9, setting the stage for the Senate trial.

The governor attacked the impeachment process throughout, saying it was "rigged."

Last month, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald asked state legislators not to call witnesses who might be involved in the criminal investigation, and they agreed to comply with his request. But Thursday, the governor asked state senators to further investigate the allegations against him or else allow him to call witnesses to address the alleged criminal activity.

"How can you throw a governor out of office who is clamoring and begging and pleading with you to bring witnesses in and prove his innocence?" he said. "Let me show you that I'm innocent, and I didn't do anything wrong."

House-appointed prosecutor David Ellis has tried since Monday to show that Blagojevich abused his power as governor. Before resting his case on Wednesday, Ellis played recordings of government-intercepted conversations in which the governor allegedly demanded campaign contributions in exchange for signing legislation.

Ellis also called witnesses, including an FBI agent, who vouched for the accuracy of excerpts of some of Blagojevich's conversations, which were included in the federal criminal complaint.

The complaint and an accompanying affidavit, which were included in the articles of impeachment, allege Blagojevich was involved in a number of corrupt acts, including a scheme to trade an appointment to President Obama's vacant Senate seat for money, contributions or a lucrative job.

Blagojevich's Senate speech occasionally rambled far from the issue at hand.

At one point, he recounted his life story as the son of immigrants and told of his Serbian father's internment in a Nazi prison camp. In contrast, "I have been blessed to live the American dream," he said.

Before Blagojevich gave his closing arguments, Ellis said the governor was guilty of widespread abuse of power.

"The governor's own words demonstrated, time and time again, that he saw his ability to appoint a U.S. senator as a golden goose, as a bargaining chip to be leveraged for his own personal and political well-being," he said.

Blagojevich has been charged with conspiracy to commit fraud and solicitation of bribery in connection with a deal involving the Illinois Finance Authority. So far, a grand jury has not issued an indictment, and no trial date has been set.

Earlier this week, Blagojevich took his case to the public in a media blitz that had him appearing on numerous talk and news shows from Good Morning, America to Larry King Live.

NPR's David Schaper and The Associated Press contributed to this report.