23 January 2009

Blagojevich Doomed

The Illinois House of Representatives overwhelmingly and bipartisanly impeached Democratic Governor of Illinois Rod Blagojevich.

The trial starts Monday in the Illinois Senate. The Senators must find that there is politically acceptable evidence that there is good cause to remove Blagojevich. They aren't required to follow court process, and aren't required to find proof that he committed a high crime or misdemeanor. The 5th Amendment right to be free not to testify against yourself and not have that held against you doesn't apply either.

This differs from the federal impeachment rules only in that in a federal impeachment trial, Senators must find that a high crime or misdemeanor was committed. Impeachment has always been the prototypical "political question" that the courts will not interfere with in a case like this one.

Blagojevich denied any wrongdoing but wouldn't discuss the federal corruption charges filed against him last month. . . . He has chosen not to mount any defense in the Senate impeachment trial that begins Monday and could remove him from office within days.

The near uninamous vote in the Illinois House of Representatives, combined with Blagojevich's refusal to delay the U.S. Senate appointment which is at the heart of the controversy, President Obama's unwillingness to support him, and the disrespect Blagojevich will show to the Illinois Senate by failing to even try to defend himself directly to them, makes it almost certain that he will be removed by the Illinois Senate at the conclusion of the impeachment trial.

As the news story linked above explains:

It's not clear what, if anything, Blagojevich hopes to gain from his strategy of boycotting the impeachment trial and defending himself through the media.

Several legal experts said they could see some benefit to participating in the trial or resigning office. But refusing to do either makes little sense, they said.

"There's no benefit at all, except to make himself look ridiculous. In addition, anything he says can be used against him later" in court," said Leonard Cavise, a law professor at DePaul University.

The FBI arrested Blagojevich on a variety of corruption charges, including the allegation he schemed to benefit from his power to name President Barack Obama's replacement in the U.S. Senate.

His arrest triggered impeachment proceedings, and the House voted almost unanimously to send his case to the Senate for trial. A Senate conviction would remove him from office but have no impact on the continuing criminal case.

The only way Blagojevich can stay in office is to find 20 of the Senate's 59 members willing to vote for his acquittal. It's possible he hopes defending himself in interviews will inspire the public to pressure senators to support him. . . .

Shortly after his arrest, an independent poll found his job-approval rating had dwindled to just 8 percent. More recently, a poll for the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform found that nearly 8 out of 10 Illinois residents believe the state is on the wrong track. . . .

The governor twisted facts or exaggerated to support his version of events.

He has repeatedly said he wouldn't be allowed to call witnesses in the Senate trial, but that's not correct. Trial rules prohibit witnesses that federal prosecutors feel would interfere with their criminal case, but Blagojevich could have called other people.

He has specifically mentioned wanting to call governors and senators to testify about all the good he's done. Nothing in Senate rules would have barred those witnesses. Blagojevich never asked to have them testify.

When the papers finally get the balls to call you out for lying, prior to a trial, you know you are doomed. I can't imagine a governor or senator who would be willing to put his reputation on the line to say anything positive about Blagojevich either.

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