SCOTT SIMON, host:
This is Weekend Edition from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. More on the Blagojevich case now. Governor Blagojevich is fighting back against the state lawmakers who impeached him. The Illinois House voted, as we said, almost unanimously Friday to impeach him, to impeach the governor who was arrested last month and charged with various pay-to-play political corruption schemes. In one, prosecutors insist the governor was looking for payoffs in exchange for the appointment to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama. Governor Blagojevich insists that he is innocent. NPR's David Schaper reports.
DAVID SCHAPER: There's nothing like babies to give a politician a chance to show a softer side.
(Soundbite of crying baby)
SCHAPER: After weeks of being pummeled over corruption allegations and being the butt of jokes over his prolific use of four-letter words in conversations secretly recorded by the FBI, Rod Blagojevich surrounded himself with moms, dads, seniors, and kids to try to turn the tables on the Illinois House lawmakers who voted yesterday to impeach him.
Governor ROD BLAGOJEVICH (Democrat, Illinois): The House's action today and the causes of the impeachment are because I've done things to fight for families who are with me here today.
SCHAPER: Blagojevich then listed several health care insurance and prescription drug programs that he says he created without legislative approval because the House tried to block them.
Governor BLAGOJEVICH: I took actions with the advice of lawyers and experts to find ways, creative ways, to use the executive authority of a governor to get real things done for people who rely on us. And in many cases, the things we did for people have literally saved lives. I don't believe those are impeachable offenses.
SCHAPER: Governor Blagojevich reasserted that he is not guilty of any criminal wrongdoing, and he says he will continue to fight both the charges and efforts to remove him from office.
Governor BLAGOJEVICH: And I'm confident that at the end of the day I will be properly exonerated.
SCHAPER: The Democratic governor says he expected the Illinois House to impeach him. Blagojevich has feuded bitterly with lawmakers in his own party for years, and he calls the impeachment proceedings flawed and biased.
Assemblywoman BARBARA FLYNN CURRIE (Democrat, Chicago, Illinois): The governor is dead wrong. We did a deliberative approach to this issue, bipartisan totally. If you look at the committee report, it's thoughtful, it's thorough, it's comprehensive.
SCHAPER: Chicago Democrat Barbara Flynn Currie chaired the committee that made the case for impeachment. She says its report includes page after page of evidence beyond the federal criminal charges. Lawmakers say the governor has betrayed the public trust, abused his authority, and violated his oath of office to the point he is no longer fit to govern. State Representative Jack Franks says his vote to impeach was a vote to stop what he calls the freak show that has become Illinois government.
Assemblyman JACK FRANKS (Democrat, Marengo, Illinois): It's just bizarre. No one could script anything this crazy or this bizarre or making so little sense. And it's embarrassing. It's demeaning. Somebody's got to be the adult and pull this back in, and that's what we're doing today.
SCHAPER: The impeachment case now goes to the Illinois state Senate for a trial, which is scheduled to begin January 26. Since this has never happened before in Illinois, a Senate committee is still working out rules for the trial. The presiding judge will be the chief justice of the Illinois Supreme Court. Illinois' 59 state senators will serve as the jury, and two-thirds of them would have to vote to convict for Blagojevich to be forced out of office.
In other developments, Illinois' U.S. Senator Dick Durbin says Roland Burris won't be seated in the chamber unless his appointment is certified by Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White. White refuses to sign official documents to certify Blagojevich's appointment of Burris because he says the governor was arrested in part for trying to sell the very same Senate seat. The Illinois Supreme Court ruled Friday White's signature is not necessary to make Burris' appointment legal. But Durbin, the Senate majority whip, says the Senate must insist on its rule requiring the signature. David Schaper, NPR News, in Springfield, Illinois.
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