Blagojevich: I 'Followed Every Law'
Updated at 5:52 p.m. Jan 29
After an all-day affair that saw embattled former Gov. Rod Blagojevich give an impassioned speech in his own defense, the Illinois Senate voted unanimously 59-0 to immediately remove the two-term governor from office. Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn assumes the governorship.
Senators will now likely bar Blagojevich from holding any future statewide office.
Updated at 2:15 p.m. Jan. 29
In a final argument before lawmakers, Illinois House Prosecutor David Ellis said Blagojevich could have offered up a defense but instead "spent more time talking to Barbara Walters at 'The View.'"
Still, Ellis noted that the "governor can give a pretty good speech" but said he couldn't reconcile the public Blagojevich with the governor portrayed on the FBI wiretaps.
"When the cameras are off, what does he say?" Ellis asked, reading through an oftentimes expletive-laden transcript of the federal affidavit against the governor.
"That's Rod Blagojevich when he's not on camera," he said. (Roughly 82 percent of readers on the Chicago Sun-Times' live blog of the impeachment trial thought Ellis gave a better argument than Blagojevich)
Senators will return to vote on Blagojevich's impeachment at 3:15 p.m. Eastern Time. All 59 senators will be allowed five minutes to make public comments about the vote.
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Offering up his last-ditch defense on why he should stay in office, embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich told lawmakers today before an impeachment vote that he "never, ever intended to violate the law."
The Democratic, two-term governor was charged in a federal corruption case in December, accused of offering to sell President Barack Obama's Senate seat for political favors, among other things. During the speech today at the Illinois Senate, Blagojevich said he had "done absolutely nothing wrong. I've followed every law."
Any thought that Blagojevich, 52, would announce his resignation at the impromptu speech went out the window as he began his sometimes-dramatic appearance. The speech, clocked in at 47 minutes, may come too late. Blagojevich had boycotted the impeachment trial for days, instead embarking on an East Coast media tour to state his case. That move angered some lawmakers who felt the governor was skirting the political process.
Blagojevich said throwing him out of office would set a "dangerous and chilling precedent for the future" of impeaching someone who has not yet been convicted of a crime.
A roll call vote to impeach Blagojevich, and possibly bar him from ever holding statewide office in Illinois, was slated for 2 p.m. Eastern Time.
Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass told WGN-TV in Chicago that Blagojevich's speech would be seen as a "weird, surreal thing" a la the 1976 satirical film, "Network," in which a news anchor gives one last public hurrah on air before being canned.
But CBS News legal analyst Andrew Cohen said Blagojevich was "organized and he was a lot less feisty and argumentative than he had been earlier in the week on all those talk shows."
And the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Kevin McDermott said Blagojevich sounded like he was "running for something. "The senators' faces are frozen," he noted. "Some look like they can't believe he's up there doing a stump speech. It's a pretty good one, I have to say."
The Illinois State House voted earlier this month by a margin of 114-1 for impeachment. A vote for removal by 40 of the state's 59 senators would result in Blagojevich's immediate ouster from office.
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