Blagojevich Ousted: Ill. Senate Votes to Remove Him

State Senate votes 59-0 to remove him, and also to prevent him from returning.

January 29, 2009, 11:06 AM

Jan. 29, 2009— -- Hours after he was convicted unanimously this evening of abuse of power and ousted from office by the state Senate, a defiant former Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich said he knew that he would be impeached.

"I'm obviously saddened and disappointed, but not at all surprised," he told reporters outside his Chicago house.

"The fix was in from the very beginning," Blagojevich added, again arguing that lawmakers in Springfield had set "a dangerous precedent."

Not only did lawmakers boot Blagojevich from power by a vote of 59-0, they also voted to prevent him from holding office in the state in the future, also by a vote of 59-0.

Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn will take over the office of governor, effective immediately.

After the vote, Blagojevich quoted Martin Luther King Jr., broke into Spanish, fielded a few questions and greeted some supporters before eventually leaving the media horde to return back inside his residence.

At one point, he even bragged to a young boy that he could spin a basketball on all five fingers.

Blagojevich said he learned of the "foreordained result" of his conviction via a phone call.

The former governor said he had crusaded against a "phony kind of politics" and that he was "grateful" to have been able to serve the people of Illinois. He touted his accomplishments as "real things for real people."

"I love the people of Illinois today now more than I ever have before," he said, his eyes welling with tears. "I want you to know I haven't done anything wrong."

Blagojevich said that even though he's lost his job, his fight will continue.

"I'm gonna keep fighting to clear my name," he said.

"I'm not looking for any pity ... because I'll be just fine," he added.

Before the state Senate vote, Blagojevich delivered a last-gasp, combative and unapologetic address at the impeachment trial.

"There hasn't been a single piece of information that proves any wrongdoing," Blagojevich said. "You haven't proved a crime. And you can't, because it hadn't happened. You haven't given me a chance to disprove a crime because, so far, a crime has not been proven here in this impeachment proceeding. How can you throw a governor out of office with insufficient and incomplete evidence?

"There is no evidence before your body here that shows -- no evidence, zero! -- that shows there was any wrongdoing by me as governor," he told the Senate.

Until Thursday's last-ditch attempt to convince lawmakers not to remove him, Blagojevich had boycotted the Senate trial, denouncing it as unfair and unconstitutional because he could not call witnesses, which federal prosecutors said might jeopardize the criminal corruption case.

But Blagojevich decided to go to Springfield to make one final bid to keep his job, telling lawmakers that he wanted to "appeal to your sense of fairness."

"I'm asking you to acquit me and give me a chance to show my innocence," Blagojevich pleaded. He warned them, "Don't set a dangerous precedent by removing the governor, who was elected by the people, on these grounds."

Blagojevich, arrested Dec. 9 on corruption charges, including allegedly attempting to sell President Obama's former Senate seat, has steadfastly maintained his innocence and refused to step down.

"If I felt I had done something wrong, I would have resigned in December," he said. "I didn't resign then and I'm not resigning now, because I've done nothing wrong."

Blagojevich Has No Apologies

The now-former governor also refused to apologize.

"I want to apologize to you for what happened, but I can't because I didn't do anything wrong," he said, moments later adding, "I'm sorry that we're all in this. I'll apologize for that."

Blagojevich recalled that the night before his arrest, he had gone to sleep feeling "comfortable."

"The next morning your whole world changes, unexpected, unanticipated," he said.

He said that since his arrest, he has been the victim of a "rush to judgment" and an "evisceration of the presumption of innocence."

"The whole world's outside your house," he said, "and before you can even catch your breath, everyone has convicted you."

He said that he was now left in a "painful" position.

"I stand before you in a unique and lonely place. Imagine yourself walking in my shoes," he told the lawmakers.

In a rambling speech, clocking in at just under an hour, Blagojevich argued that if lawmakers impeached him for the reimportation of prescription drugs from Canada, then they should also impeach Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., and the governors of Kansas, Wisconsin and Vermont, because they also supported the idea at the time.

Blagojevich said White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel gave him the idea, so lawmakers should demand that President Barack Obama fire Emanuel.

Before Blagojevich addressed the state Senate, prosecutor David Ellis made his closing argument, saying that "the governor has abused the power of the office and put his own interests above the interest of the people."

Ellis concluded, "The people of this state deserve so much better. The governor should be removed from office."

Ellis also played secretly recorded conversations that included Blagojevich.

Blagojevich responded in his closing remarks by noting that "there was never a conversation when I intended to break any law."

Lawmakers were not convinced.

"We must lift this heavy, dark cloud over our state," said state Sen. Dan Rutherford.

Illinois Leaders Pleased With Impeachment

Following Blagojevich's ouster, both Illinois members of the U.S. Senate, including one just appointed by Blagojevich, applauded the impeachment.

"I stand behind the Illinois State Senate's decision today to remove Gov. Blagojevich from office," said Sen. Roland Burris, D-Ill., whom Blagojevich appointed amid controversy to replace Obama on Capitol Hill. "As I've repeatedly stated, the governor must be held accountable for his actions to the legislature, in a court of law and to the people of the state of Illinois.

"Impeachment is about whether our state's best interests are being served having the governor remain in office," Burris added. "Today's conviction speaks loud and clear that there are serious issues preventing him from fulfilling his responsibilities, and I support putting new leadership in place."

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., also supported the governor's departure.

"Today, the Illinois Senate came to the only reasonable conclusion: Blagojevich cannot continue to serve as our governor," Durbin said. "It is now time to close this chapter in Illinois history. The state of Illinois is in need of a fresh start."

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said, "With the Senate's vote today, the destructive tenure of Rod Blagojevich has ended. We can now move forward with the work of the people of the state of Illinois."

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