- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 24, 2009

Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich, accused of trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Obama, said he’s boycotting his state Senate impeachment trial Monday because its members are trying to “hang” him and the people of Illinois without a fair trial.

The governor, who has been impeached by the state House of Representatives, said the state Senate is “trampling” the Constitution because the rules of the pending proceedings don’t allow him to call witnesses or challenge the House charges.

“If they want to throw me out of office, the least they can do for the people of Illinois who chose me twice is to give me a chance to prove that I did nothing wrong and most everything right,” he said Friday at a Chicago press conference.

In addition to trying to sell Mr. Obama’s former Senate seat, Mr. Blagojevich is charged with trying to bribe the Chicago Tribune and swindle a hospital for campaign donations, among other accusations.

The governor is hoping to rally public support for his case, asking newspaper editorial boards — including the newspaper he is accused of trying to bribe — to push for new Senate rules. He also warned the public that he thinks the Senate is trying to push him out of the way to pass a “huge tax increase” by the summer.

Mr. Blagojevich’s lead attorney, Ed Genson, has resigned from the governor’s political and criminal cases.

Mr. Blagojevich said his “presumption of innocence,” a guarantee in U.S. courts, was not being honored in the Senate’s political proceedings.

“If they can do this to a governor, they can do this to any citizen in Illinois,” he said.

Mr. Blagojevich, a fan of Western movies, compared the state Senate to Old West cowboys who, instead of just hanging a cowboy accused of stealing horses, said, “Let’s first give him a fair trial and then we’ll hang him.”

He said he wants to call as witnesses White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel; White House senior aide Valerie Jarrett; U.S. Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr., Illinois Democrat; Wisconsin Gov. James E. Doyle, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy Jr., all Democrats; as well as Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican.

He said they will prove to the people of Illinois that the governor has “always been on their side fighting for them.”

Senate rules in place for the trial say the Senate cannot hear testimony from anyone federal prosecutors say would jeopardize the criminal trial against the governor. There is no apparent conflict in calling the governors or senators.

Also Friday, Mr. Blagojevich told the Associated Press in Chicago that Dec. 9 — the day he awoke to FBI agents and handcuffs — was his family’s own Pearl Harbor.

“It was a complete surprise, completely unexpected,” he said. “And just like the United States prevailed in that, we’ll prevail in this.”

Mr. Blagojevich has denied any wrongdoing but refuses to speak of specifics until the criminal trial. U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald has until April 7 to file an indictment.

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