- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 29, 2009

UPDATED:

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich passionately defended himself for the first time at his Illinois Senate impeachment trial Thursday, arguing repeatedly that he has “done absolutely nothing wrong” and warning that ousting him would be “a dangerous precedent.” He urged the senators to acquit him.

Mr. Blagojevich, speaking without notes for about 50 minutes, appeared before the senators on the fourth day of his trial after spending three days in national media interviews declaring his innocence of the charges against him. The senate was to vote later Thursday, after prosecutor David Ellis presented his rebuttal.

Much of what Mr. Blagojevich told the senators was a repeat of his media appearances, but he complained repeatedly that the rules of the trial prohibited him from calling witnesses who could make statements in his defense to show his innocence. He questioned how the senators could impeach him without giving him what he called a fair trial.

The four articles of impeachment against Mr. Blagojevich deal with alleged wrongdoings involving the state of Illinois and do not include federal criminal charges against alleging that he tried to sell the vacant U.S. Senate seat of then-President-elect Barack Obama.

“I have done absolutely nothing wrong,” the governor said at the outset. “I followed every law. I never, ever intended to violate the law.”

“I did a lot of things that were mostly right,” Mr. Blagojevich said later.

“Is it the right precedent to set to take a governor twice elected and throw him out of office when you’re not able to prove criminal allegations?” he said. … “It’s a dangerous precedent for the future.”

“I’m asking you to acquit me and give me a chance to show I’m innocent” by being permitted to bring witnesses and present evidence in his defense, the governor said. “I’m appealing to you personally. Imagine being in my place. Walk a mile in my shoes.”

Mr. Blagojevich said that if he felt that he had done something wrong he would have resigned in December, when the charges against him came to light.

“But I didn’t resign then and I’m not resigning now because I’ve done nothing wrong,” he said.

One of the articles of impeachment deals with his having imported $2.5 million of flu vaccine from Canadian drug companies in 2005 that he said was the idea of Rahm Emanuel, who then was an Illinois congressman. He now is chief of staff to President Obama, a former U.S. and state senator from Chicago.

“Let’s demand that President Obama fire Rahm Emanuel because Rahm Emanuel gave me the idea,” the governor said.

Mr. Ellis, the prosecutor, opened Thursday’s proceedings with his closing argument in which he said the FBI had recorded 60 conversations of the governor between his home and his campaign office amid allegations that Mr. Blagojevich was abusing the power of his office.

“Sixty conversations, all in which the governor puts his own interests first,” Mr. Ellis said. “Is that not an abuse of power right there?”

Several conversations that were recorded by the FBI were ordered played by Mr. Ellis for the senators amid charges that Mr. Blagojevich was circumventing state and federal laws.

“We are a country of laws and everybody, including the governor, must obey them,” he said.


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