Gov. Blagojevich Skips His Impeachment Trial The Illinois Senate began the impeachment trial of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich Monday morning, but Blagojevich had other plans. He was making the rounds of television talk shows, taking his message to the court of public opinion.
NPR logo

Gov. Blagojevich Skips His Impeachment Trial

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/99871311/99871302" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Gov. Blagojevich Skips His Impeachment Trial

Gov. Blagojevich Skips His Impeachment Trial

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/99871311/99871302" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

From the studios of NPR West, this is Day to Day. I'm Madeleine Brand.

ALEX COHEN, host:

And I'm Alex Cohen. Coming up, President Obama calls for tougher fuel emission standards. Many environmentalists are thrilled, but what does the auto industry have to say? We'll hear from Detroit in just a few minutes.

BRAND: But first, the impeachment trial of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich begins today and the governor is MIA. He is skipping the trial in Springfield for a round of television interviews in New York. Joining us now is NPR's David Schaper. And I guess you're in Springfield. So at least someone's there, right?

DAVID SCHAPER: (Laughing) Yes, I am and the Illinois Senate is here as well, ready to the start the impeachment trial of the governor. The governor won't be here though, as you said, and neither will his attorneys. They're going to put on no defense whatsoever.

BRAND: So meanwhile he is down in New York City. And what's he been saying on these TV shows?

SCHAPER: Well, he's making the rounds to "Good Morning America," "The View," "The Today Show," "Larry King Live" apparently later today. And he's basically trying to make the case that he can't get a fair hearing in Illinois, that there is nothing about this process that is fair whatsoever to him. Here is what he said to Diane Sawyer on ABC's "Good Morning America" this morning.

(Soundbite of TV show "Good Morning America")

Governor ROD BLAGOJEVICH (Democrat, Illinois): If they can do this to a sitting governor, denying me the right to bring witnesses in to prove my innocence. And witnesses I'd like to call - the president's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, top staffer Valerie Jarrett, Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., and a host of others. They won't allow me to bring them in to show my innocence. And with that, that's a scary thing. And if they can do that to a governor, they can do that to you.

SCHAPER: What the governor is referring to there is that he contends that the rules that the Senate has set up for this impeachment trial don't allow him to call any witnesses in his defense, which is actually not true. He can call really anybody he wants, and anybody who wants to appear voluntarily on his behalf can do so. The issue that he's talking about - the federal prosecutor in Chicago has asked the Senate to not allow for the subpoena of any witnesses who might be pertinent to the criminal case against the governor. And some senators here are really thinking he's really misrepresenting the rules and going out of bounds with this.

BRAND: So these are two separate trials we're talking about - the impeachment trial and then the later criminal trial on these allegations that he was trying to sell Barack Obama's Senate seat.

SCHAPER: Absolutely. And I should be clear that the impeachment trial, it's not a court of law in the least. It is a political forum. It's really never going to be 100 percent completely fair like a criminal trial should be. But that said, there are things that the governor could do to challenge the evidence, to try to call certain witnesses and to call witnesses. And the governor has chosen to not even engage in that forum and to go to the airwaves instead.

BRAND: And meanwhile, this impeachment trial goes on and it looks likely that they'll vote to impeach, right?

SCHAPER: It does look likely that they will impeach. And, you know, that's another one of those things, and if it was really truly fair, we wouldn't be able to say that because the Senate is the jury and they would wait to hear all of the evidence. But it looks clear that there are a lot of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, if not all of them, who really want the state to be able to move forward. This has been hanging over the state and paralyzing state government for the last couple of months since the governor was arrested. They have a huge budget deficit that they've got to grapple with and a host of other issues. So, I would suspect by the end of the week, there could be a vote to convict the governor and remove him from office.

BRAND: And then what happens?

SCHAPER: Well, then the lieutenant governor, Pat Quinn, would be sworn in as the governor. And he is a fellow Democrat. And the lieutenant governor and the governor have never been close. In fact, they've been at odds over many issues over the last six years, seven years, like most of the Democrats in the state of Illinois, as in the Legislature where Rod Blagojevich has not done much to endear himself to any of those within his own party.

BRAND: NPR's David Schaper, covering the impeachment trial of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich in Springfield, Illinois. David, thank you.

SCHAPER: Thank you.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

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.