- The Washington Times - Monday, January 26, 2009

SPRINGFIELD | If there’s such a thing as a “normal” impeachment trial, the one that starts Monday in Illinois doesn’t qualify.

The defendant, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich, won’t participate. He’ll be talking to Whoopi Goldberg and Larry King, rather than facing the state Senate. And while the Democrat acknowledges that his conviction is certain, he refuses to resign.

Mr. Blagojevich complains that the trial rules are unfair, but he and his lawyers didn’t try to influence the rules as they were being written or afterward.

After weeks of near-silence, Mr. Blagojevich has begun an energetic public relations campaign, likening himself to the hero of a Frank Capra movie and to a cowboy being lynched for a crime he didn’t commit.

He told NBC’s “Today” that when he was arrested on federal corruption charges, he took solace from thinking of other jailed leaders — Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi.

He also said his 5-year-old daughter, Annie, has asked whether he’ll still be governor on her birthday in April.

“If I were a betting man, I’d say I probably won’t be,” Mr. Blagojevich said, according to a transcript released Sunday. “I think the fix is in and … they’ve decided essentially to do a hanging without even a fair trial.”

The full interview will air Monday, the same day the impeachment trial starts, and Mr. Blagojevich also is scheduled to appear on “Good Morning, America,” “The View” and “Larry King Live.”

Legal experts see Mr. Blagojevich getting little benefit from boycotting the trial while refusing to resign. The decision means he’ll still be leaving office soon, but only after proceedings that are guaranteed to put him in a bad light.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois said Sunday that Mr. Blagojevich should be defending himself at the trial because the extra media attention wouldn’t impress the state senators who would be judging him.

“Barbara Walters is not on his jury,” he said, referring to the veteran newswoman who co-hosts “The View.”

Senators, and the public, will hear details of the criminal charges against Mr. Blagojevich. They’re likely to hear recordings that are said to reveal the governor talking about signing legislation in exchange for campaign contributions. And in addition to simply removing Mr. Blagojevich, the Senate could vote to bar him from ever again holding public office in Illinois.

“This man mystifies me,” said Ann Lousin, a professor at Chicago’s John Marshall Law School.

The governor’s decision to cling to office also surprises Dean Pagani, former chief of staff to then-Connecticut Gov. John Rowland, who resigned in 2004 rather than be impeached.

The stain of being convicted and removed from office would be far greater for Mr. Blagojevich than the stain of resigning, Mr. Pagani said. A resignation would allow Mr. Blagojevich to claim he stepped aside for the good of the state, not because he was judged unfit to hold office.

Mr. Blagojevich says resigning is not an option. “I’ve done absolutely nothing wrong,” he told the Associated Press.

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