Blago Boycotts Impeachment Trial; Lawyer Boycotts Him

The Ill. governor will appear on ABC television Monday morning.

January 23, 2009, 11:56 AM

Jan. 23, 2009— -- Embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich says he will boycott his upcoming impeachment trial, not as an act of defiance but rather to protest what he believes is an unfair process.

At a news conference this afternoon in Chicago, an animated Blagojevich said he would not attend the trial, set to start Monday in Springfield, because under state Senate rules he would not be able to call certain witnesses or sufficiently challenge the charges, making the proceedings a "trampling of the Constitution."

"It's a scary thing if they get away with doing this," Blagojevich said of state legislators. "Whatever happened to the presumption of innocence?" he asked.

Instead, the governor will appear in live ABC appearances on Monday morning, first on "Good Morning America" and then again live on "The View" where he'll be joined by his wife.

Watch the Blagojevich interviews LIVE on "Good Morning America" at 7 a.m. ET and on "The View" at 11 a.m. ET on ABC.

The governor said the real reason his impeachment trial is being pushed is because state leaders are tired of fighting his efforts to thwart tax increases. Today he accused the state's lawmakers of "just waiting to get me out of the way to raise the income tax."

Meanwhile, Blagojevich's attorney Ed Genson announced late today that he would resign from the governor's defense team.

"I have practiced law for 44 years. I never require a client to do what I say, but I do require clients to listen to what I say," Ed Genson told reporters. "I intend to withdraw as counsel in this case."

This comes after Blagojevich backpedaled during today's press conference saying a lawsuit to delay the start of the impeachment trial was still an option, a day after Genson told the Chicago Tribune that a such a lawsuit off the table.

Genson told the AP on Thursday afternoon that he was not being included in decisions regarding the impeachment and he did not know whether Blagojevich would file a lawsuit to block the trial.

"His action, what he's doing, isn't controlled by me," Genson said. "I'm not privy to it. I should be, but I'm not."

As he has done since his Dec. 9 arrest on corruption charges, including allegedly attempting to sell President Barack Obama's former U.S. Senate seat, Blagojevich today again maintained his innocence.

"Notwithstanding mistakes and errors in judgment from time to time," Blagojevich said, "most of the decisions I've done as governor have been the right thing."

Continuing to ignore repeated calls for his resignation, he cautioned that removing a governor from office without allowing witnesses to testify on his behalf sets a dangerous precedent.

"If you can throw a governor out with mere allegations … then no governor will be able to take on the General Assembly," he said.

Noting that he was a fan of old Western Cowboy movies, Blagojevich said, "under these rules, I'm not even getting a fair trial -- they're just hanging me."

At the Senate trial, neither the governor nor the prosecution would be allowed to call witnesses that federal prosecutors say could jeopardize the criminal corruption trial against the governor.

'Theater of the Absurd'

Blagojevich named White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett as potential witnesses that he would like to call to testify on his behalf.

"They're perfectly fair rules," responded state Sen. Matt Murphy, calling Blagojevich's contentions "a cynical effort on the part of this governor that is perfectly consistent with his actions of the last six years."

Denouncing Blagojevich's behavior as "the theater of the absurd," Murphy said that, barring the governor's resignation, the trial would go ahead as planned, starting at noon CT on Monday.

Murphy wasn't the only Illinois politician frustrated by Blagojevich's latest round of comments. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, when asked what he though about the governor's charge that his impeachment was about his opposition to tax increases, imitated a cuckoo clock.

The governor called on the press to help him, imploring Chicago newspapers, including the Tribune and its editorial board, to come to his aid. Federal prosecutors have alleged that Blagojevich attempted to use financial incentives to get the Tribune's owner, Sam Zell, to fire editorial staff that he found objectionable.

Not only will Blagojevich not be at Monday's trial, but neither will his attorneys, Ed Genson and Sam Adam, who have also said they don't want to participate in an "unfair" trial. A deadline passed earlier this week for the governor to request documents, witnesses or other materials in his defense.

Genson, according to media reports, has said he expects the senate to impeach the governor. He did not return messages left today by

Blagojevich also gave an interview this morning on WLS 890 AM, in which he lobbed similar charges against Senate leaders.

He likened his impending impeachment trial to a to the "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" movie plot, saying he's the good guy who's fighting for the people.

"This is a 21st century Frank Capra movie," Blagojevich said. "How the good guy was up against the establishment and yet they tried to make him look like he had violated rules."

Blagojevich told WLS that he couldn't say if he'd still be governor in two weeks, but that his mental state was "solid" and he's grateful for the support he's received from his family and ordinary citizens.

"Out of bad things," he said, "good things come."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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