- The Washington Times - Friday, January 9, 2009

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. | The Illinois House should impeach Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich for abusing his power, mismanaging Illinois government and committing possible criminal acts, a special committee concluded Thursday.

The House could vote Friday to make Mr. Blagojevich the first governor impeached in the long, sordid history of Illinois politics. Impeachment in the House would trigger a Senate trial to decide whether the second-term Democrat should be removed from office.

The 21-member committee voted unanimously to recommend impeachment. Many called it “a sad day” for Illinois, but Rep. Bill Black disagreed.

“I think this is a good, glad, happy day for Illinois because it points out that nobody is above the law,” the Danville Republican said.

Mr. Blagojevich has denied any wrongdoing. Spokesman Lucio Guerrero didn’t immediately comment on the committee’s action but said there was no chance the governor would resign before the full House vote expected Friday. Mr. Blagojevich’s attorneys left the hearing before the committee voted.

“The citizens of this state must have confidence that their governor will faithfully serve the people and put their interests before his own,” the committee’s report said. “It is with profound regret that the committee finds that our current governor has not done so.”

Mr. Blagojevich was arrested Dec. 9 on federal charges that include allegations he schemed to profit from his power to name President-elect Barack Obama’s replacement in the Senate.

The man Mr. Blagojevich appointed to the seat just three weeks later, Roland Burris, appeared before the committee shortly before it voted. “There was nothing … legal, personal, or political exchanged for my appointment to this seat,” Mr. Burris testified under oath.

While the governor maintains his innocence, the report notes he did not appear before the committee to explain himself. “The committee is entitled to balance his complete silence against sworn testimony from a federal agent,” it says.

The committee’s report recounts the federal charges, relying on a sworn affidavit from an FBI agent describing tape-recorded conversations in which Blagojevich discussed using the seat to land a job for himself or his wife. The second-term governor also is quoted on the need to hide any evidence of a trade-off.

“The committee believes that this information is sufficiently credible to demonstrate an abuse of office of the highest magnitude,” the report says.

It also lays out allegations separate from the criminal charges - that Mr. Blagojevich expanded a health care program without proper authority, that he circumvented hiring laws to give jobs to political allies, that he spent millions of dollars on foreign flu vaccine that he knew wasn’t needed and couldn’t be brought into the country.

The committee finished its work as chances grew dimmer that lawmakers will get transcripts of the FBI’s secret recordings of private Blagojevich conversations that purportedly include scheming to trade government action for campaign contributions.

U.S. District Chief Judge James F. Holderman on Thursday set a schedule for legal skirmishing on the issue that could run into early February.

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