Blago impeached by Ill. House – PLUS: Is Burris in the hot seat?
The big story of the day, as has already been mentioned in the comments section of another post, is Blago’s impeachment, which was made official this morning by the Illinois House:
SPRINGFIELD—In a historic vote, the Illinois House has impeached Gov. Rod Blagojevich, directing the Senate to put the state’s 40th chief executive on trial with the goal of removing him from office.
The vote by the House was 114-1 and marks the first time in the state’s 190-year history that a governor has been impeached, despite Illinois’ longstanding reputation for political corruption.
Rep. Milt Patterson (D-Chicago) was the lone vote against impeaching the governor. Patterson, from Chicago’s Southwest Side, said after the roll call that he didn’t feel it was his job to vote to impeach the governor. He declined comment on whether he approved of the job Blagojevich is doing.
A Blagojevich spokesman said the governor will not resign. A 2 p.m. news conference with the governor is scheduled for the James R. Thompson Center in downtown Chicago.
The actions of the House–approving an article of impeachment maintaining Blagojevich had committed abuses of power–represents the equivalent of an indictment.
The impeachment resolution covering Blagojevich’s actions “show a public servant who has betrayed his oath of office, who has betrayed the public trust, who is not fit to govern the state of Illinois” said Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, the Chicago Democrat who headed a special panel that recommended Blagojevich’s impeachment a day earlier.
Next week, when the Senate convenes, it will begin the process of setting up a trial of the governor in which each of the 59 state senators act as judge and jurors.
A total of 40 senators are needed to convict Blagojevich which would remove the governor from office and make Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn the state’s new chief executive. A trial is expected to take at least three weeks.
Blago’s response to the House’s actions?
Hours after he was impeached by the Illinois House, Gov. Blagojevich vowed at a news conference this afternoon: “I will fight every step of the way.”
“I’m confident that at the end of the day, I will be properly exonerated,” he said. “In the meantime, I have a job to do for the people.”
Blagojevich said he wasn’t surprised by the impeachment vote, which he blamed on a Legislature that has blocked his attempts to pass, among other things, health care reform.
“It happened kinda fast, again, kinda expected,” Blagojevich said, noting the Legislature first brought up impeachment in 2007.
The governor spoke to reporters in the Thompson Center in the Loop just hours after members of the House voted 114-1 to impeach him. He touted his accomplishments on issues such as health care, and he reiterated that he’s “not guilty of any criminal wrongdoing.”
He ended the news conference by quoting a poem from “Ulysses” by Lord Alfred Tennyson, ending with: “To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”
A photo of the human shields he used today while speaking to the media can be seen here. A full transcript of the presser can be read here.
Ahem. Would someone pass me the gag bag please?
Meanwhile, Blago appointee Roland Burris, whose week included being rejected by the Sec. of the Senate one day and being told the next day that something would get worked out soon in order for him to be seated (thanks to “Chicago Way”-esque pressure by none other than PEBO himself), lost a court battle today with the Illinois Supreme Court … but it wasn’t really a loss in the literal sense because what he was arguing for was to force Ill. Sec. of State Jessie White to certify him as the official appointed junior Senator of Ill. The Ill SC ruled White’s signature wasn’t required, so now it’s been kicked back to …
… the US Senate, where Illinois’ senior Senator Dick Durbin responded by saying:
CHICAGO, Jan 9 (Reuters) – No one can occupy the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama until the governor of Illinois is removed and a new appointment can be certified, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois said on Friday.
Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, was reacting to the Illinois Supreme Court’s ruling denying a motion by Roland Burris that the state’s secretary of state certify his appointment to the seat.
“At this point we’ve clearly reached an impasse,” Durbin told reporters at his Chicago office.
He said the Senate seat could remain vacant until Blagojevich is removed from office and the lieutenant governor takes over, making a fresh appointment.
He said the Senate cannot waive a 125-year-old rule requiring the signatures of both the governor and the secretary of state on any election or appointment.
Round and round. That brings to mind a song. Time for a music break.
And now, back to our irregularly scheduled programming, already in progress.
The heat was turned up on Burris in the midst of all this when it was revealed that, contrary to his denials in a sworn affidavit, he made it clear earlier in the year last year to a Blago pal that he was interested in Obama’s seat should he be elected president:
SPRINGFIELD — A potentially troublesome new detail emerged about Roland Burris’ controversial U.S. Senate appointment Thursday after a state House panel voted unanimously to recommend Gov. Blagojevich be impeached.
For the first time, Burris indicated that he asked Blagojevich’s former chief of staff and college classmate, Lon Monk, to relay his interest in the Senate seat to the governor last July or September.
“If you’re close to the governor, you know, let him know I’m certainly interested in the seat,” Burris said he told Monk.
That testimony appears to differ from an affidavit Burris submitted to the impeachment panel this week in which he stated he spoke to no “representatives” of the governor about the Senate post prior to Dec. 26.
Federal prosecutors, who identified Monk as “Lobbyist 1” in their criminal complaint against Blagojevich, indicated they tapped Monk’s phone in November as Blagojevich moved to fill President-elect Barack Obama’s Senate seat.
Whether the new Monk detail poses any threat to Burris’ efforts to persuade Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to allow him to be seated isn’t clear, but Republicans on the state impeachment panel see a contradiction.
“There is an inconsistency between his testimony and the affidavit,” said state Rep. Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs). “I’ll leave it to Sen. Reid to determine what value that has to their process.”
Burris’ lawyer, Timothy Wright, said it was improper to consider Monk a “representative” of the governor — the language used in Burris’ affidavit — since Monk no longer was on the state payroll when he and Burris spoke last year.
Burris “was talking to him as a friend and expressing his interest,” Wright said. “He wasn’t talking to him as a representative of the governor.”
Hmmm. HuffPo thinks otherwise:
Moreover, Burris testified that the meeting with Monk was to drum up state business from the lobbyist — the image of back channel dealing that Burris has sought to avoid during his Senate roll-out.
In a sworn affidavit filed January 5, Burris stated that before he was asked by Blagojevich staff if he was interested in the Senate position, “there was not any contact between myself or any of my representatives with Governor Blagojevich or any of his representatives regarding my appointment to the United States Senate.”
During Thursday’s hearing, Burris insisted that the conversation with Monk was innocent, saying that he merely wanted to let the governor’s people know that he was interested in the post and believed he was qualified for it.
“He said, ‘I think you are too,'” Burris said of his conversation, emphasizing that he did not talk to Monk or anyone else on the governor’s staff after Blagojevich’s arrest.
Nevertheless, the revelation casts something of a shadow over the behind-the-scenes process by which Burris obtained Blagojevich’s favor. Burris, by his testimony, appears to consider Monk a representative of the governor, since he was confident that a message given to Monk would get to Blagojevich. That would contradict his sworn assertion in his previous affidavit.
On the surface, it doesn’t sound like any legal wrongdoing happened with Burris’ contact with Monk, but all the same it represents a pattern – just like we’ve seen from PEBO and Co. – related to contacts with Blago, Blago’s reps, and/or pals of Blago. First it was “no” contact, then it was “one time” and then it was “no inappropriate contact.”
Then-candidate-for-prez Obama promised to “end” Business As Usual (BAU) in Washington, DC and even though backdoor conversations between politicos over appointments is SOP, it represents a BAU aspect to the political game that gives the appearance of unseemliness even though it may end up in the end that nothing legally wrong happened outside of what Blago’s been charged with. Same same for Burris. It’s no wonder The One wants this swept under the rug and out of the media limelight before his big day in a couple of weeks, but the revelations just keep on comin’.
What a bumpy ride this has been for all the major players in this saga, as well as those of us watching keenly from the sidelines. Keep your seatbelts on. The ride promises to get bumpier.