Gov. Rod Blagojevich called upon us Friday afternoon to help him get the Illinois Senate to change the rules for his impeachment trial, which begins Monday. Sorry, governor. We won’t oblige.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich called upon us Friday afternoon to help him get the Illinois Senate to change the rules for his impeachment trial, which begins Monday.
“The current rules … they’re not allowing me to participate in that process,” Blagojevich told reporters in Chicago. “It is trampling the constitution. If they can do this to a governor, they can do it to any citizen of Illinois.”
Sorry, governor. We won’t oblige. We will, however, point out the factual inaccuracies and philosophical problems with your argument.
You said that you do not have the ability to defend yourself. You want to call witnesses, such as White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, who you say will testify that you did not try to sell President Obama’s Senate seat, as alleged by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.
Yet, you’ve missed every deadline to file a response to the charges against you by the Illinois House. You’ve failed to file a request to subpoena witnesses. Yes, you’re probably not going to get to subpoena people, such as Emanuel, because their testimony could interfere with your right to a fair criminal trial. But you could have tried. Instead, as you have done throughout your two terms, you ignored Illinois’ laws and procedure.
You have not acted in good faith. Your appearance on television Friday was, as usual, a sham filled with distortions and outright lies, designed to dupe a national audience not familiar with the details of the careful process crafted here in Springfield.
The Illinois Senate should not be fazed by your refusal to participate in the trial. Illinois’ constitution says nothing about the governor having to be represented at the proceedings or to even file a response. All it says is that the votes of 40 senators are required to convict and remove you. The Illinois Senate has afforded you reasonable ways to participate. The rules are similar to the 1998 impeachment trial of then-President Bill Clinton.
Your lawyer Sam Adam Jr. has echoed your comments, recently arguing that the rules for impeachment should be the same as a criminal trial.
“It should be just as difficult to take away someone’s freedom as it is their representative in government, because government has a tendency to be over-zealous. And we need our representatives there, and the people of Illinois should know you can’t have a kangaroo court to take away our elected officials,” Adam Jr. told WBBM-TV in Chicago.
That’s a remarkable but meritless statement. Is there a state in which the standard of guilt for impeachment is as high as in a criminal court? It’s certainly not that way in the U.S. Constitution, which only requires that presidents and federal judges be guilty of undefined “high crimes and misdemeanors.”
Impeaching and removing an elected official is akin to firing a rogue employee charged with a crime, a not-infrequent occurrence in the private sector and government. Doing so is a serious process that should only be undertaken in the most extraordinary of circumstances and must be supported by both evidence of misconduct and public opinion.
In the case of Clinton, there was some evidence of misconduct, but the public did not view it as being serious enough to remove him from office. Public opinion was so against Clinton’s removal that Democrats won seats in the 1998 midterm election that preceded his impeachment, a rarity for the president’s party. The U.S. Senate handily acquitted him.
In the case of Rod Blagojevich, the people of Illinois see clear evidence of gross misconduct and are happy to have him taken away.
Governor, you have played these types of games with the legislature for six years. We hope you won’t be able to play them anymore in a few weeks.