MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Michele Norris.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
And I'm Robert Siegel. Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich kicked off a media blitz today, a preemptive strike before his impeachment trial next week. The trial in the Illinois Senate stems from charges of corruption against the Democratic governor. Blagojevich held a news conference today and told his story on talk radio programs in Chicago. The governor continues to maintain that he's done nothing wrong, as NPR's David Schaper reports.
(Soundbite of radio broadcast)
Mr. DON WADE (Talk show host, WLS-AM Chicago): The governor has arrived and welcome, governor.
Governor ROD BLAGOJEVICH (Illinois): Good morning Don. Good morning, Roma.
Ms. ROMA WADE (Talk show host, WLS-AM Chicago): It's great to have you here.
DAVID SCHAPER: Governor Rod Blagojevich started his day on talk radio on the morning show hosted by the husband and wife team of Don Wade and Roma on WLS in Chicago. And he portrayed himself as the victim in this vast public-corruption scandal.
Governor ROD BLAGOJEVICH (Illinois): There are several elements to an experience like this that's painful and very unfortunate and sad, and the silence of some of your friends, the silence of political allies who the day before all this came down, which we call our personal Pearl Harbor Day.
SCHAPER: Blagojevich says for him and his family, what happened on December 9th, when the FBI arrested him at his home, is similar to what the entire country felt December 7th, 1941, the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He says just as the U.S. prevailed in World War II, he will prevail. In addition to seeking sympathy, the governor is launching a counterattack on the state senators who will put him on trial next week and could remove him from office. In his news conference, Blagojevich sharply criticized the rules lawmakers adopted for the impeachment trial as unfair, and he called the trial a sham. And in making that case, the governor invoked his fondness for old Western movies.
Gov. BLAGOJEVICH: There was an old saying in the Old West. There was a cowboy who was charged with stealing a horse in town, and some of the other cowboys, especially the guy whose horse was stolen, were very unhappy with that guy. One of the cowboys said, let's hang him. And the other cowboy said, hold on; before we hang him, let's first give him a fair trial, then we'll hang him. Under these rules, I'm not even getting a fair trial. They're just hanging me.
SCHAPER: Blagojevich contends the impeachment trial rules deny him his right to call certain witnesses, and he claims the rules allow the Senate to accept the Illinois House's impeachment charges against him as fact, and not as allegations. He says he and his lawyers will boycott the trial. Blagojevich says there is a reason both his fellow Democrats and Republicans in the Illinois legislature want him out of office.
Gov. BLAGOJEVICH: Political figures in Illinois are just waiting to get me out of the way to raise the income tax by either 66 percent or 33 percent during a time of economic depression.
SCHAPER: Republican State Senator Matt Murphy calls the governor's news conference theater of the absurd, and a cynical attempt to undermine the impeachment process. He says the governor is misrepresenting the rules, rules he says are fair and patterned after former President Bill Clinton's impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate, which Murphy notes resulted in an acquittal. A federal judge ruled late Friday, senators will be allowed to hear excerpts of some of Governor Blagojevich's conversations that were secretly recorded by the FBI, and allegedly include him discussing schemes to sell or trade his official duties for personal gain. And in another late-breaking development, Blagojevich's lead criminal defense attorney, Ed Genson, says he is now planning to withdraw from the governor's case.
Mr. ED GENSON (Defense Attorney): I never require a client to do what I say, but I do require them to at least listen to what I say.
SCHAPER: Genson says he's not been privy to recent discussions between Blagojevich and other defense lawyers about how to fight the impeachment trial. David Schaper, NPR News, Chicago.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.