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The Case against Impeaching Rod Blagojevich:

Over at Legal Insurrection, Cornell's William A. Jacobson is making some excellent arguments against an Illinois Senate conviction of Governor Blagojevich. To wit: the evidence against Blagojevich consists almost exclusively of an FBI agent affirming the authenticity of highly selective excerpts from surveillance tapes which he provided via an affidavit. Notably, Agent "Cain refused to answer whether the excerpts in the affidavit put events in 'the proper context' (Tr. 293) or whether he has learned anything in the seven weeks since he signed the affidavit which 'would make any of the statements in your affidavit untrue?' (Tr. 299)."

Put me in the camp that is reluctant to ruin someone's life just because Patrick Fitzgerald says so. I thought the Scooter Libby prosecution was wrong. And it seems clear that Fitzgerald's press conference against Blagojevich was an extreme violation of Illinois Rule of Professional Conduct 3.8(e). (For a discussion of the prosecutor's ethical duty not to make unnecessary statements against the accused, see my 2002 NRO article on Attorney General Ashcroft's remarks about John Walker Lindh. Compared to Fitzgerald's remarks, General Ashcroft's comments were relatively mild.)

Do I think that Blagojevich could well be guilty? Yes. Do I think that Blagojevich has any merits as a public servant? No. How well do I know Blagojevich? Only slightly, having debated him on ABC Nightline (about gun shows) when he was a U.S. Representative in 1998.

So if I were in the Illinois Senate, I might well, with great personal regret, vote against the conviction of Governor Blagojevich on the articles of impeachment.

Joe Kowalski (mail):
It should be noted, that while a gravely serious matter, impeachment has nothing to do with whether or not the subject is criminally guilty. Impeachment is ultimately an inherently political matter, one which the legislature will have to answer for politically one way or another. Whether Mr. Blagojevich has committed any crimes or misdemeanors worthy of impeachment is entirely at the discretion of the Illinois legislature, and if they make a bad call, they will have to answer for that to the voters.
1.28.2009 2:32pm
OrinKerr:
David,

Could you explain this in more depth? You say Professor Jacobsen is making "some excellent arguments," and you excerpt a few lines from his posts, but I went over to his blog and I couldn't make heads or tails of what he was saying. In particular, the part you excerpt is a conclusion by Jacobsen that has only a link for support, rather than argument, and the link is dead.
1.28.2009 2:36pm
Steve:
I'm not familiar with Prof. Jacobsen, but I reckon this post might give others like myself some idea of where he's coming from.

As for this post, it had me in the first paragraph and then completely lost me with the comment about Scooter Libby. Say what you will about the process afforded to Blagojevich, but Libby was tried before a jury of his peers and received every ounce of due process that our system recognizes. So don't try to tell me that Scooter Libby's life was ruined (in fact, he seems to be doing just fine) "just because Patrick Fitzgerald says so."
1.28.2009 2:42pm
ObeliskToucher:
What do the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct have to do with the actions of a Federal prosecutor?
1.28.2009 3:03pm
Thales (mail) (www):
For the record, Rule 3.8(e) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct reads:

(e) The prosecutor in a criminal case shall refrain from making extrajudicial comments that would pose a serious and imminent threat of heightening public condemnation of the accused, except for statements that are necessary to inform the public of the nature and extent of the prosecutor’s action and that serve a legitimate law enforcement purpose.

I am not sure that most reasonable observers would take this rule to mean Fitzgerald's press conference was not "necessary to inform the public" or that he committed an "extreme" (or any) violation of the rule. Indeed, I think it a reasonable argument that Fitzgerald's press conference was necessary to explain "the nature and extent of the prosecutor’s action" to a public that may have been puzzled about why the governor was arrested in a pre-dawn raid. Of course, he could have said nothing at all, but that would seem to me an action that would look more like a political or tyrannical law enforcement action.
1.28.2009 3:03pm
Muskrat:
Kowalski is right. Blago is not being impeached because of the criminal charges. They were just the impetus (the departure of IL Senate President Jones helped, as well). Impeachment has been in the air in Illinois for at least a year. He's being impeached because he is a disastrous governor, a serial liar, totally incapable of working with the legislature, and has repeatedly bollixed up state operations. Illinois cannot have an effective government while he remains in office, even if Fitzgerald dismissed all charges and apologized tomorrow. The criminal charges are entirely separate. Just because Blago likes to link the two doesn't mean anyone else should.
1.28.2009 3:04pm
AKS:
ObeliskToucher,

Attorneys in federal court have to follow the Rules of Professional Conduct that the federal district court has adopted. In most cases, the district courts adopt the RPCs of the state they are in. Fitzgerald also has to follow the RPCs of the state in which he is licensed to practice law. Finally, the RPCs usually aren't that different from state to state, and although I haven't checked, I think the one mentioned here is pretty universal.

That said, I'm not giving any opinion on whether I think Fitzgerald violated the RPCs.
1.28.2009 3:22pm
Calderon:
Notably, Agent "Cain refused to answer whether the excerpts in the affidavit put events in 'the proper context' (Tr. 293) or whether he has learned anything in the seven weeks since he signed the affidavit which 'would make any of the statements in your affidavit untrue?' (Tr. 299)."

Well, let's place those statements in the proper context. From my reading, the agent did not answer any questions about anything outside of his affidavit. So the context of his testimony indicates he did not answer these questions because he basically didn't answer any questions, not because the answers to those particular questions were "bad."
1.28.2009 3:27pm
tvk:
David, I'm not sure your comparison with Ashcroft and John Walker Lindh is apt. There is a world of difference between "going public" on the suspected-but-unproven misconduct of a sitting governor who is still holding the reins of state power; and the suspected-but-unproven misconduct of someone who has been taken into custody. The former serves an important public purpose apart from trying to make the prosecutor look good in the court of public opinion; the latter does not.
1.28.2009 3:33pm
Nick056:
Thales,

Fitzgerald did say that the results of the investigation kept him up at night and described Blagojevich as on a "crime spree" which had been stopped. That seems like color commentary. But I'd be happy saying that due to Blago's own color commentary and the very acts alleged against him, Fitzgerald's statements don't pose a "serious and imminent threat of heightening public condemnation of the accused."

When you weigh what Fitzgerald said against what's captured on the tapes, I don't think Fitzgerald's comments are a "serious misstep, though he shouldn't have made them in the first place. When Blago is calling Obama's seat a "f*cking valuable thing" can we say that Fitzgerald's annotations of a transcript such as that threatened seriously to "heighten public condemnation." No: the nature of the allegations and Blago's own words own all the responsibility for heightened public condemnation.

Also, Scooter Libby wasn't obstructing justice. He was obstructing for justice!
1.28.2009 3:33pm
CDU (mail) (www):
Impeachment has been in the air in Illinois for at least a year. He's being impeached because he is a disastrous governor, a serial liar, totally incapable of working with the legislature, and has repeatedly bollixed up state operations.


Exactly. If Blagojevich were a popular governor, respected as a parter by the legislature, there wouldn't be any impeachment trial. Even with allegations as bad as these, the airwaves and editorial pages would be full of people saying how we shouldn't jump to any conclusions and how he deserved his day in court. Look at former Arizona governor Fife Symington. He was accused of extortion, bank fraud, and making false financial statements. He wasn't impeached and remained in office throughout his trial, only resigning when he was convicted.

Blagojevich's problem isn't Patrick Fitzgerald, it's that he used up his credibility and goodwill a long time ago. When you screw people over, don't be surprised if they stick a knife in you when they get the chance.
1.28.2009 3:39pm
Interlocutor (mail):
ObeliskToucher:

The McDade Act requires federal prosecutors to follow the PR rules of the locality in which they practice.
1.28.2009 3:44pm
Interlocutor (mail):
This link gives some context

http://www.naausa.org/initiatives/mcdade.htm
1.28.2009 3:46pm
ObeliskToucher:
Thx, Interlocutor &AKS..
1.28.2009 3:52pm
John (mail):
As a political matter it will be very hard for anyone to vote against impeachment under these circumstances. After the media coverage, truth, justice and the American way have nothing to do with it any more.
1.28.2009 3:52pm
Anderson (mail):
In the spirit of Prof. Kopel's post, I anticipate that Blago's defense will hinge upon the governor's assertion of the use-mention distinction.

That is, he didn't say that Obama's seat was "a fucking valuable thing, you don't just give it away for nothing."

Rather, he said "'a fucking valuable thing, you don't just give it away for nothing.'" Very different!

Although early reports were that Blago's legal team intended to hire Prof. J.L. Austin as its star expert witness, those plans were apparently stymied by Prof. Austin's having been dead for several decades. Upon learning of Prof. Austin's unavailability, the governor said, "What, he's dead? Fuck him. I mean, 'Fuck him.'"
1.28.2009 3:57pm
Houston Lawyer:
I remember from the kick off of Scooter Libby's trial that Fitzgerald was on TV accusing him of violating the law against disclosure of the identity of CIA agents in the field. Libby was never charged with this crime, but it made much better headlines than "he lied to me during my investigation".

If this were a criminal trial, Blago would have a complaint that he wasn't allowed to confront his accuser. However, as is mentioned above, this ain't no criminal trial.
1.28.2009 4:05pm
Pete Guither (mail) (www):

As a political matter it will be very hard for anyone to vote against impeachment under these circumstances. After the media coverage, truth, justice and the American way have nothing to do with it any more.

I would hope so. Impeachment is a political process, not a judicial one. And no -- truth, justice and the American way have never had much to do with impeachment.

It boils down to this. The appearance is clear to the entire state of Illinois (and has been for some time) that the Governor is wholly incapable of doing his job. Whether it is instrinsically true or not is irrelevant. The appearance makes it so.

It's just like other jobs. You can get fired from a management job even though you did nothing wrong, but because the discord involved in your being in the job means that the work isn't getting done. We, the people of the State of Illinois, through our elected Representatives, are firing Rod. It doesn't matter if he committed a crime.

If the voters believed that impeachment was improper, then they'd take it out on the Representatives (as they did during Clinton's).
1.28.2009 4:09pm
Tritium (mail):
The reason Fitzgerald got involved was because if the arrest didn't happen then and there, he would have had to catch the people involved red handed. For a new administration coming from Illinois.. the last thing this country needs is to see corruption in the new administration.

It could have easily have been someone in Congress as well. Perhaps Dick Cheney approached him? or Oprah?
1.28.2009 4:12pm
Thales (mail) (www):
Anderson,

That was great. Also, he may call William Jefferson Clinton as an expert on the conjugation of "to be."
1.28.2009 4:17pm
Brian Garst (www):
Tritium,

So federal prosecutors should end investigations prematurely, cutting themselves off from evidence (catching someone red handed just so happens to be the easiest way to convict them) in order to prevent a corrupt administration from appearing corrupt before the public?
1.28.2009 4:25pm
JoeSixpack (mail):
The reason Fitzgerald went public the way he did is most likely because he felt things were getting too close to Obama himself being implicated in the negotiated sale of the Senate seat, so Blago had to take the fall to protect the Obama administration and protect the country from Watergate x 10.
1.28.2009 4:46pm
Sarcastro (www):
JoeSixpack is right. Fitzgerald is totally in the tank for Obama! You can tell because JoeSixpack says so.
1.28.2009 4:49pm
Anderson (mail):
Looking forward to the indictment's being filed, with its quotations from Blago's blog comments under the name of "Joe Sixpack."
1.28.2009 4:59pm
Franklyn (mail):
Can anyone
1.28.2009 5:09pm
RSwan (mail):
I thought the reason Fitz went public is because there was a newspaper (Chicago Tribune?) that was going to write about the investigation and events related to the newspaper. Basically they were going to let the target know he was being tapped.
1.28.2009 5:16pm
The Oversimplifier:
Can anyone

Possibly.
1.28.2009 5:17pm
ReaderY:

He's being impeached because he is a disastrous governor, a serial liar, totally incapable of working with the legislature, and has repeatedly bollixed up state operations.



This seems to be more or less what every incumbant governor gets accused of by every challenger at every gubernatorial election. If the electorate can't be trusted to evaluate these sorts of claims and their judgment isn't something worth adhering to, why bother having elections? Why not simply impeach the governor every time the opposite party gets the requisite majority in the legislature?
1.28.2009 5:33pm
Mikeyes (mail):
I thought h was already impeached and now is in the trial stage.
1.28.2009 5:41pm
wolfefan (mail):
Boy, I'm glad I don't live in ReaderY's state! FWIW, ReaderY, Blago is a Democrat as is the majority of the legislature, no?
1.28.2009 5:54pm
B.Kimball (mail):
Blago was also heard on tape getting advice from this guy.

http://www.welovetheiraqiinformationminister.com/
1.28.2009 5:55pm
MGoBlue (mail):
Libby for Blag... good trade
1.28.2009 6:25pm
zippypinhead:
Dave, you arguments here (and Jacobson's, to the extent I can parse what's behind them) sound like they're grounded more in incohate views of "fairness" rather than firmly established legal doctrine.

Indeed, the "McDade Amendment" (28 U.S.C. §530B) subjects DOJ attorneys to state bar ethics rules. Fascinating story behind that law, as it's widely viewed as Joe McDade's revenge for getting indicted for bribery and racketeering. Charges he ultimately beat at trial. Suggesting once again that if you're going to try to kill the king, you'd better not miss...

However, there's not a really great argument that Fitzgerald violated the Illinois ethics rules by commenting on Blago's arrest in a way that materially exceeded the explicit safe harbor in the rules for "statements that are necessary to inform the public of the nature and extent of the prosecutor’s action and that serve a legitimate law enforcement purpose." The one (probably entirely factual) comment he shouldn't have made is that the conduct Blago was arrested for "would make Lincoln roll over in his grave." But given the overall context of the charges and the shrieking from everybody from the mainstream media to David Letterman, you'd have a hard time arguing that this rather bland hyperbole posed the "serious and imminent threat of heightening public condemnation of the accused" necessary to violate the state ethics rule.

As for the evidentiary rules, due process protections, etc., that the Illinois legislature should follow in impeaching and trying a sitting Governor? I haven't a clue, but I'm reasonably certain (1) you're never going to find a statute or regulation that restricts the legislature from basically making it up on the fly, and (2) Blago isn't going to be able to successfully allege a Federal due process violation to challenge what really is the ultimate political question after they give his sorry tail a well-deserved heave-ho.
1.28.2009 7:08pm
Steven White (mail):
RSwan, you are correct, as the Tribune editors later stated in an editorial. They were about to go forward with publishing details concerning the case so Fitz had to move on his end.
1.28.2009 7:11pm
Glennrrr (mail):
It was pretty obvious what kind of governor he was and the people of Illinois re-elected him (by 11%). The people of Illinois would rather have an obvious crook as a governor rather than a Republican, and the people of Illinois deserve an obvious crook rather than a Republican. Impeaching him now would be subverting the will of the majority.
1.28.2009 7:21pm
Letalis Maximus, Esq. (mail):
And the unanswered, and as far as I know unasked, question:

"Who leaked to the Trib?"

And the follow up:

"Why?"

The answer to the first may indeed answer the second.

But you never know.
1.28.2009 7:25pm
CDR D (mail):
>>>Do I think that Blagojevich could well be guilty? Yes. Do I think that Blagojevich has any merits as a public servant? No.


<<<


That ought to be good enough for the legislature to dump him.

I'm sure each of the legislators will hear from their constituents, and they will be guided to some degree by what they hear from them.

As for me, I consider Blago to be the perfect poster boy for the arrogant politicians who blight our existence.

I hope he goes down in flames, and it wouldn't bother me if he went down with the brand of opprobrium which used to be reserved for disgraced officials of the Roman Empire.

Molten lead poured down his throat would be okay with.
1.28.2009 7:41pm
man from mars:
I'm as befuddled by anyone by the reaction to the Fitzgerald press conference and by the impeachment rules.

Why do people believe Fitzgerald's story that the Blagojevich conversations were nefarious, and not Blagojevich's, that they were innocuous? Doesn't the fact that Fitzgerald only permits access to cherry-picked excerpts from the conversations demonstrate that what he did not play is likely exculpatory? Why have FRE 109 if cherry-picked excerpts mean anything?

I am befuddled by why so many people treat the unsupported affidavit of a prosecutor so seriously. Particularly in light of all the steps the same prosecutor is doing that show he likely has no case: denying the senate access to the full tapes, refusing to play the full tapes, refusing to answer questions about whether the excerpts were out of context, and criticizing the accused in a press conference. Just by their behavior, surely Blagojevic has more credibility than Fitzgerald.

Prosecutors certainly have the power to present evidence to a judge and to a jury. But why do people act like they're infallible and any more trustworthy than a governor?
1.28.2009 7:41pm
CDR D (mail):
...would be okay with (me).
1.28.2009 7:43pm
TCO:
"So if I were in the Illinois Senate, I might well, with great personal regret, vote against the conviction of Governor Blagojevich on the articles of impeachment. "

But you are a man of principle instead of an almost literal pole-smoking politician.
1.28.2009 7:50pm
Adam B. (www):
Most of the articles of impeachment have nothing to do with the selling of the Senate vacancy.
1.28.2009 8:21pm
Mike G:
I think this is one of those cases where everyone in the Senate has enough personal experience of the governor that they find the charges completely credible without further proof.
1.28.2009 8:59pm
GatoRat:
I thought the reason Fitz went public is because he's a publicity hound who a) wants to keep his job and b) like Eliot Spitzer prefers trying cases using public opinion rather that the legal system.
1.28.2009 9:12pm
josh:
Is anyone aware here that the impeachment is based on about 10 different allegations, and that the alleged attempted sale of the senate seat is but one?

Kopel writes, "To wit: the evidence against Blagojevich consists almost exclusively of an FBI agent affirming the authenticity of highly selective excerpts from surveillance tapes which he provided via an affidavit."

Oy.

No. The evidence includes, among other things, his attempts to have Tribune editorial board members fired (also subject of the tapes); the attempted trading of official acts for campaign contributions (unrelated to the tapes, but instead found, primarily in the criminal trial of Tony Rezco); his various health care initiatives by fiat in contravention of legislative limitations; etc. See http://www.chicagotribune.com/ media/acrobat/2009-01/44419149.pdf.

I have no opinion on the merits of these charges, either from a criminal standpoint, or a political one, a la impeachment. But for a law professor (and NOTED Rocky Mountain News columnist as I'm often told on the VC) to opine that "if I were in the Illinois Senate, I might well, with great personal regret, vote against the conviction of Governor Blagojevich on the articles of impeachment" based solely on one "count" of the charging document is kinda sad.
1.28.2009 9:24pm
josh:
Let me also state that I'm not a big fan of Fitzgerald's (and other prosecutors') use of the amorphous charge of "depriving the public of honest services," which most likely will be the graveman of any impending indictment. But Northwestern law prof Al Alschuler explains the problem better than I: See e.g., http://uchicagolaw.typepad.com/ faculty/2005/10/the_intangible_.html.
1.28.2009 9:27pm
Roger Schlafly (www):
Is anyone aware here that the impeachment is based on about 10 different allegations, and that the alleged attempted sale of the senate seat is but one?
Selling the senate is the number one charge, and the one his enemies talk about the most.

Another charge is that he tried to get approval to import flu vaccines from Canada, when it appeared that Illinois would have a severe shortage. You want to explain why that is an impeachable offense?
1.28.2009 9:56pm
BT:
Glennrrr (mail):
"The people of Illinois would rather have an obvious crook as a governor rather than a Republican, and the people of Illinois deserve an obvious crook rather than a Republican."

Glennrrr what does that make George Ryan, who just happened to be the governor of Illinois before Blogo, a Republican and a crook?

For the record, I did not vote for either Blogo or Ryan. But Blogo has proved to be so entertaining that I hope that he beats the charges. All of them. As Paddy Bauler said years ago "Chicago ain't ready for reform." Neither is Illinois.
1.28.2009 10:36pm
Moneyrunner43 (www):
I’m a little puzzled by the assertion that Fitzgerald had to short-circuit his investigation of Blago because of a newspaper story that was going to reveal his investigation.
So?
According to some of the transcripts, Blago knew he was being wiretapped.

Was Fitz afraid that Blago was going to skip town?

So what was it about the story that made Fitz swoop down before any money changed hands?

Because remember, Blago never got paid for his senate seat.
1.28.2009 10:50pm
Moneyrunner43 (www):
I'm not a big fan of Fitz.

Can I make an observation that should be obvious to anyone who is not wearing partisan blinders? Patrick Fitzgerald is a headline grabbing screw-up with an out sized ego hiding modest accomplishments.

He has won such slobbering praise from the media that the articles read like love notes from besotted teen agers. He actually has a blog. At first I thought it was a clever spoof, but it’s not. It’s actually him breaking his arm patting himself on the back and admiring himself.

So let’s review the history of this Fearless Fosdick of the bar.

He prosecuted one of the leaders of the original plot to blow up the World Trade Center, Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman. Big whoop. As an encore he indicted Osama bin Laden and you can see how effective that was.

He managed to indict and convict an Illinois politician, Republican Governor George Ryan, of corruption. Finding a corrupt politician in Illinois is so simple even a caveman can do it. Corruption is part of the job description. But Republicans in Illinois are vulnerable in the state that the Daley machine runs.

He railroaded newspaper Baron Conrad Black to prison on fraud charges the same way that he ran his other prosecutions, a well run PR campaign against the accused supported with a smattering of evidence. In essence, the jury convicted Black of being wealthy and arrogant.

He was asked to determine who leaked Valerie Plame’s name to the press and to determine if that was a crime. He knew the culprit’s identity the first day he took the job but did he prosecute? No. In fact no one was ever convicted of leaking her identity and we still don’t know if that was a crime. He decided to try mounting a bigger head on his trophy wall, aimed for Dick Cheney and bagged “Scooter” Libby instead. In large part Libby was convicted of working in the Bush administration by a Washington DC jury.

So now we come to the non-indictment of Rod Blagojevich. Most stories about this case refer to Blago as “indicted.” He’s not. Instead we simply witnessed a press briefing and a "complaint" by Fearless Fosdick in which he revealed snippets of phone conversations and accusations.

William Buckley once famously remarked that a prosecutor could get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich. So where’s the Blago indictment? Instead we have Fearless Fosdick asking for a 90 day delay before he hands up an indictment.


If the press were even remotely curious they would ask why would a prosecutor delay an indictment with the evidence he says he already has? Maybe Fearless figured that Blago would fold up like a cheap suitcase following the press briefing. Instead, Blago has thumbed his nose at Fearless, the press corps, and the Democrats in Illinois and Washington who want him gone. He’s in his office signing laws, appointing Senators and acting like he’s done nothing criminal. And the way Fearless is acting, it’s beginning to dawn on some people that he may not have. Because Fearless short stopped whole bribery process, he may have given Blago an escape hatch.
1.28.2009 10:59pm
ReaderY:
To be clearer, not being a good team player, not getting along with the folks in the legislature, and not doing what they want, and not keeping political commitments may make a person a terrible governor and may be grounds for dumping him or her at the next election, but they should NOT be grounds for impeachment. Impeachment is an extreme medicine which subverts the ordinary democratic process. The democratic process sometimes puts bitter enemies in power. They have to work together. They can complain all they want about how it's the other person's fault that nothing is being done and how unreasonable each other is, but they have to respect the electorate's choice.

I find myself feeling uncomfortable that this trial has had procedures and rules of evidence that strike me as not permitting either the serious charges or a serious defense to be developed. The Senate should either grant material witnesses immunity or drop charges, just as every other prosecuting body has to do. The U.S. constitution made clear that impeachment was not to reflect political disapproval, it was to be about high crimes and misdemeanors with procedures which, while different from criminal courts, nonetheless reflected the gravity of disrupting the will of the people. Illinois' declining to follow that path diminishes the stature of the Land of Lincoln. It shortens the hat.
1.28.2009 11:05pm
Moneyrunner43 (www):
Reader Y makes it clear that impeachment is a serious matter. Apparently lying and obstuction of justice don't rise to the level of conviction and removal from office. (cf. William Jefferson Clinton)
1.28.2009 11:10pm
ReaderY:
I find myself very troubled that the the tapes aren't being shown, that the key witnesses aren't testified. I'm also troubled by charges being fluffed with things which, whether or not they were good ideas, don't seem to be the least bit criminal: attempting to get flu vaccines imported from Canada may or may not have been a waste of taxpayer money, but wastes of government money of that sort are normal parts of government. Not all ideas that seemed good at the time turn out to be good in hindsight. If it's impeachable then every legislator who spends state money (e.g. staff time) attempting to get a bill passed that he or she ought to have known didn't have a chance of passing would be equally impeachable and removable. Not to mention every state law school professor whose paper gets rejected by a journal.
1.28.2009 11:15pm
scot (mail):
Excuse me for being an ignorant outsider (non-American). I never heard of Blagojevich until he was charged (accused?) or trying to sell Obama's senate seat and it made it to the international media.

But even on the evidence of the transcript from what I heard, saying a "valuable thing" is not going "for nothing", doesn't mean he was asking "give me a million dollars and i'll appoint you to the senate". What evidence is there that it's nothing more than political horse-trading? E.g. Of the nature that he might be asking for some political quid pro quo? "I appoint you to the Senate, you get me three new subway lines and a new Boeing factory all of which you let me cut the opening ribbon"? I.e. the "for nothing" for which the Senate appointment is not sold for is the standard mix of pork-barrel and political influence?
1.28.2009 11:59pm
ChrisIowa (mail):
Settle down folks. You seem to have the misunderstanding that principles or legalities matter. This is Illinois politics. Always crooked, frequently entertaining.
1.29.2009 12:35am
Michael B (mail):
Subject: obtained via the FOIA, two letters from BHO, to Blagojevich, dated 12/03/08 and 11/17/08, the former additionally referring to a face-to-face meeting that took place between BHO and Blogojevich on 12/02/08.

Blagojevich was arrested on 12/09/08

Barack Obama subsequently indicated he had had no contacts with Blagojevich. BHO stated "I had no contact with the governor or his office and so we were not, I was not aware of what was happening." He made that statement on 12/09/08, the same day Blagojevich was arrested.

Ergo: Barack Hussein Obama Lied

QED

(But no one's suppose to notice, so do what the MSM is doing and keep this to yourself. If it's not on the 24/7 news/editorial cycle, it doesn't exist, it's not real.)
1.29.2009 2:38am
Moneyrunner43 (www):
From Legal Insurrection:


The tapes purport to show Blagojevich extorting a campaign contribution from a horse race track owner in exchange for Blagojevich signing legislation favorable to the race track. But all the tapes actually show is Blagojevich's chief of staff urging Blagojevich to pressure the race track owner to pay up on a previously promised campaign contribution, and Blagojevich trying to confirm that the payment will be made. Nothing on the tapes states that Blagojevich would refuse to sign the legislation, already passed by a substantial majority in the legislature (including many of the Senators voting on impeachment), if there were no payment. You may be able to make the connection, but these tapes don't do it. We would need much more evidence to show extortion or even conspiracy to extort.


If you doubt this interpretation, here's a link to the actual transcript provided by the Illinois General Assembly. If you approach this with an mind that is not already prejudiced by Fitzgerald's characterizations, what makes this conversation any more criminal than any politician asking for the check after a lobbyist has made a pledge?

From The Virginian

Let us stipulate that sometimes politics is a dirty business. And let us further stipulate that Illinois politics is particularly dirty. And let us finally stipulate that many political contributions are simply bribes.

However …

I am beginning to become confirmed in my belief that Rod Blagojevich is being railroaded. I listened briefly to some of the taped evidence that was played on the media that was supposed to be so damning and – frankly – it was not.


But I would welcome the support of the legal profession in making most political contributions illegal. Period. They are - in many cases - nothing more than either bribes in disguise or protection money.
1.29.2009 8:20am
pluribus:
ReaderY:

Why not simply impeach the governor every time the opposite party gets the requisite majority in the legislature?

I was under the impression that Blagojevich and the majority in the Illinois legislature are of the same, not the opposite, party. Partisanship hardly explains this governor's impeachment.
1.29.2009 9:42am
pluribus:
Glennrrr:

The people of Illinois would rather have an obvious crook as a governor rather than a Republican, and the people of Illinois deserve an obvious crook rather than a Republican.

Really? Former governor George Ryan is both a Republican and an "obvious crook." He is now in the clink, and so far as I know has not changed his party registration.
1.29.2009 9:49am
Steven in NY:
There are some compelling arguments that Blago could make. But he is not making them. He chose not to participate, except perhaps for a last-minute "closing argument." The notion that the Illinois Senate trial is "unfair" is fanciful; anyone who truly had a case to make could have made it under the procedures that the Senate is using. With Blago refusing to provide "context" for the statements he allegedly made, or in any way rebut or challenge the evidence against him, the senators may justifiably infer that the evidence on the whole supports conviction in this political trial.
1.29.2009 10:55am
Pete Guither (mail) (www):
It's obvious that most of the people on this thread don't live in Illinois. It's not really the same as other places.

Most of the state is Democratic and all branches of government are currently Democratic and yet they fight each other worse than the the national parties do.

Ask most Democrats in Illinois who their favorite governor is, and they'll likely mention a Republican - Edgar. They'll say that Ryan (R) was a crook, but he was a good governor. They'll say that it doesn't matter whether Blago (D) is a crook - he's a bad governor.

They would have loved to vote for someone instead of Blago the last time, but at that point the Illinois Republican part was so dysfunctional that they couldn't come up with a viable candidate (this was the party that ran Keyes against Obama for the Senate race).

Once Blago was re-elected, more of his incompetence kept coming to light. The people have been clamoring for his impeachment for ages now, well before the Fitzgerald revelations. They'd like to see their state government pass a budget.

Impeachment is the will of the people, not a partisan witch-hunt.
1.29.2009 11:42am
DonP (mail):
This is Chicago people.

They are already taking down Tollroad signs with his name on them ... no hurry folks.

Senate seat fiasco aside, for those of you that don't follow Illinois politics ... among other things Blago has pulled in the last few years...

Buying $2.6 million in flu vaccine, even after he found out it was unimportable by HEW ruling. His response when questioned "We may be able to sell it in Europe".

Gift of $1 million to a black church on the South Side of Chicago following a fire.

He sent the gift to the wrong organization and it went for a private school that didn't exist and a condo purchased by the "principal" on the Gold Coast.

Because of this "mistake" he sent another $1 million to the church anyway.

Created free preschool for Illinois children and free healthcare for families making less than $80,000 with no funding.

Ignoring a constitutional requirement for a balanced budget - provided free transportation for all senior citizens on the RTA (CTA).

Finally, in an all Blue state he has actually managed to become an embarrassment to the Democrat machine in Chicago.

That's almost impossible to do when you consider we have had alderman living with gang members and others tied closely to mob figures ... and that's just since last summer.
1.29.2009 12:03pm
Dr. Gerber (mail):
Whatever the performance of the governor, it should be the people who vote by referendum (as California did to remove Gray Davis), not the state legislature. If it is indeed true that the criminal complaint is not closely related to the ratification of the articles of impeachment, this point is more relevant - the legislature is acting on history not outlined in the articles. Voters must bear the responsibility for voting the IL Governor into office - more than once - otherwise, we shield the electorate from the pain that teaches that body of citizens how to effectively govern themselves.
1.29.2009 12:44pm
ed (mail) (www):
Hmmmm.

I think the next step will be:

1. Blago gets impeached

2. Blago beats the criminal charges

3. Blago gets his own tv show

4. Blago spends the next few years hammering his political foes and generally being an entertaining jerk to everyone

...

*shrug* I'd watch a tv show where Blago gets to go off on people. Colorful commentary included.
1.29.2009 12:50pm
Glennrrr (mail):
Perhaps I shouldn't have brought up political affiliation into this. As it happens, I lived in Illinois at the time George Ryan was elected, and I didn't vote for him in either the primary or the general election as it was obvious to me at the time he was a crook, which subsequent events have proven. My pointing out the party affiliation was that it trumped any concern for honest governance.

My major point was that the voters do not care if their governor is a crook, and they deserve to live with the consequences of this indifference. Nothing has happened since the 2006 election other than it has become harder for the willfully ignorant to willfully ignore their governor crookedness.
1.29.2009 1:13pm
Elliot123 (mail):
It would be great fun if Blago was found not guilty at trial.
1.29.2009 1:48pm
Pete Guither (mail) (www):
My major point was that the voters do not care if their governor is a crook, and they deserve to live with the consequences of this indifference.


So... Even though the voters overwhelmingly want him gone, and the Representatives overwhelmingly want him gone, and the state can't function while he's still in office, and there is a legal means in the Illinois Constitution to remove him, we shouldn't do it in order to punish the voters?

Yeah, we'll leave him in office. That'll teach the citizens a lesson.
1.29.2009 1:52pm
ed (mail) (www):
Hmmm.

"Yeah, we'll leave him in office. That'll teach the citizens a lesson."

It's worked for 240 years so far...
1.29.2009 2:33pm
Glennrrr (mail):

That'll teach the citizens a lesson.


Well, if they learned a lesson that would be nice. People get the government they deserve. The people of Illinois deserve a very bad government. This whole thing is entirely the fault of the voters of Illinois, under the fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me rule. I would have some sympathy for them, if they had ousted Gov. B. in the 2006 primary (where he got 72% of the vote) or general (which he won by 11%), but they didn't. If anybody reading this voted for Gov. B. in 2006, let me tell you that you personally share the stain for this whole thing and any excuse you have about the inviability of alternative candidates is just that, an excuse.

But justice, sympathy and blame are besides the point, what is important is the checks and balances of our systems of governance. Whether legislatures should grab the upper hand by throwing out unpopular governors, therefore weakening the governorship and strengthening the legislature. The governor has no corresponding power to throw out individual legislatures, and for good reason.

Your position seems to be that governors with low poll numbers should be treated to a different standard of removal than governors with high poll numbers, and the underlying crookedness is just a pretext for the removal, not the actual reason. The actual reason being the low poll numbers. I don't think low poll numbers is a good enough reason for an elected official's premature dismissal. If you want to organize a recall election, that would seem to be a better alternative as it prevents future legislatures from tossing out an unpopular governor on some trivial offense.

Impeachment should be reserved for extreme violations of the implied covenant between the governor and the voter. In this case, the covenant did not include any implied promise to act in an honorable, honest or law abiding way. The voters elected (twice) a Chicago pol, who proceeded to act like a Chicago pol; Gov. B. has not violated his pact with the people of Illinois. It would be different if the voters had thought they were electing an honest man who proceeded to act like a Chicago pol.

Of course, taking this argument to the absurd, if Gov.B. had proceeded to act in an honest, non-Chicago like manner, that would have been an impeachable offense, and I'm not going to push my argument to that point.
1.29.2009 2:39pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
michael b:

a face-to-face meeting that took place between BHO and Blogojevich on 12/02/08


The "face-to-face meeting" you're talking about was the same "face-to-face meeting" that Obama had with about 40 other governors at a conference of the National Governor's Association (link, link). And the letter you're citing seems to be a generic letter that Obama sent to all the governors who attended the conference.

BHO stated "I had no contact with the governor or his office and so we were not, I was not aware of what was happening."


Of course you don't bother giving us a link for that statement, or doing anything else to provide the context. Here's how Fox reported the statement:

The president-elect was blunt and brief in addressing the case on Tuesday: "I had no contact with the governor or his office, and so I was not aware of what was happening" concerning any possible dealing about Blagojevich's appointment of a successor.


Obama wasn't flatly saying there was "no contact" whatsoever. He was merely saying there was "no "contact" regarding this subject: "possible dealing about Blagojevich's appointment of a successor." And that's exactly what Orin Kerr said when discussing this exact matter (in response to lindgren playing the same game you're playing):

Obama wasn't just talking about whether he had contacts with Blagojevich generally. Rather, it seems that he was talking specifically about whether he had contacts with Blagojevich "about his [Obama's] replacement in the Senate."


It's no secret that Obama and Blago were present at the same conference. It's also no secret that you're unscrupulous enough to try to inflate that fact into something more than what it is.
1.29.2009 3:41pm
Michael B (mail):
Well, despite your "fuck you" snide, if that letter was in fact referring to the general meeting with multiple governors, then you're right and I was wrong to cite that letter as proof.
1.29.2009 5:01pm
CDR D (mail):
I just now heard on the radio news that the Illinois Senate voted to dump him.

Good for them.

Now let him go get that radio show... (heh)... maybe he can be a new Imus...
1.29.2009 6:20pm
Syd Henderson:
So if I were in the Illinois Senate, I might well, with great personal regret, vote against the conviction of Governor Blagojevich on the articles of impeachment.

And you would have been the only one.
1.29.2009 6:48pm
Pete Guither (mail) (www):
Glenrrr - you still can't get the difference between poll numbers and competence to do the job. If Blago was simply unpopular, he wouldn't have been impeached and convicted. It's that he can't do the job.

I'm still not sure why you're opposed to a legal process of government spelled out in the state's Constitution.

You're upset that the voters voted him in. So am I. I didn't vote for him, but the entrenched two party system doesn't always allow viable alternatives (and there wasn't a viable option in either party), so sometimes you need a Constitutional method to make a correction.
1.29.2009 8:26pm
whit:
we *know* the public isn't above electing somebody they know is a crook.

marion barry comes to mind. not to mention buddy cianci. people going all gaga over blago's schtick should really look into the buddy cianci story.

buddy c makes blago look bush league.

"buddy c" was LOVED by the people of providence (and frankly, did a pretty good fricken job) even though he was clearly as corrupt as heck, and made regular dealings with the mafia.

it's rhode island after all. you cannot be an effective mayor of providence and NOT deal with the mafia.

from wikipedia:
"Cianci was forced by law to resign from office for the first time in 1984 after pleading no contest to assaulting a man with a lit cigarette, an ashtray and a fireplace log. Cianci claimed that the man had been having an affair with his wife, though both the man and Cianci's then wife said nothing had happened"

"Cianci spent the next few years as a radio talk show host on Providence AM station 920 WHJJ and as a television commentator. In 1990 he successfully mounted a re-election campaign with the slogan, "He never stopped caring about Providence."

It was during Cianci's second run as mayor, beginning in 1991, that the city of Providence entered its Renaissance phase. The city became cleaner and more tourist-friendly. Cianci brought the Providence Bruins hockey team to Rhode Island from Maine and pushed to further several projects in the city, including a new train station near the State House, new hotels, the Providence Place Mall, and the Fleet Skating Center.[2] He also helped to orchestrate the establishment of Waterfire in downtown Providence, which brings up to 100,000 people to the downtown area alone on the summer nights it takes place."

Cianci was indicted in April 2001 on federal criminal charges of racketeering, conspiracy, extortion, witness tampering, and mail fraud. Several other Providence city officials were also indicted. Judge Ronald R. Lageux said of the case: "Clearly, there is a feeling in city government in Providence that corruption is tolerated. In this mayor's two administrations, there has been more corruption in the City of Providence than in the history of this state."[3]

Much of the trial was focused around a video tape showing top Cianci aide Frank A. Corrente taking a bribe. Jim Taricani, a reporter who aired the tape on local TV, was sentenced to six months of house arrest for refusing to reveal his sources. Rather than maintaining a low profile after the indictment, Cianci poked fun at the investigation, code-named "Operation Plunder Dome". Nine people (including Cianci) were convicted in the trials, which were presided over by Judge Ernest C. Torres. Cianci was acquitted of 26 of 27 charges, including bribery, extortion, and mail fraud. He was, however, found guilty of a single charge of conspiracy (running a corrupt criminal enterprise). Cianci was sentenced to serve nearly five years in federal prison by Judge Torres, who opted for a higher sentence than the minimum required by the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. Cianci was forced to step down a second time on September 5, 2002 following the sentencing.

He had been planning on running for a seventh term in 2002, and at the time of his conviction was again unopposed.

Between his conviction and the start of his jail term, Cianci resumed his radio career hosting a midday show with former Providence radio host (and former director of communications to Governor Don Carcieri) Steve Kass on AM talk station NewsTalk 630 WPRO. After some legal wrangling, Cianci's lawyers managed to have Cianci sent to prison closer to Rhode Island, and Cianci served his sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution, Fort Dix. In August 2005, Cianci was denied a request for early release.

He would be eligible to run for mayor of Providence again in the year 2012, three years after his probation ends (due to the provisions of the 1986 Rhode Island constitutional amendment, aptly named "the Buddy amendment").[6] However, there is not a mayoral election scheduled in Providence that year; the next such election in which Cianci would be eligible to run is not expected to occur until November 2014

In 1998 Cianci ran again for re-election as mayor unopposed on the ballot. His popularity and approval rating were so high by this point that no one bothered to run against him. Cianci never lost a mayoral election in Providence.
1.29.2009 10:14pm
Moneyrunner43 (www):
It seems as if there are a lot of Illinois residents commenting here who agree that Blago should have been removed. I have even read comments several months ago that his opponents were working on removing him. But let’s remember that his impeachment was sparked by the Fitzgerald “complaint.”

I assume that the good residents of Illinois are glad to see Blago go, but let’s not kid ourselves, he would not be gone if the Illinois legislature, the Daley machine and team Obama did not want to get the Fitzgerald accusations out of the limelight. It made Illinois corruption a little too public and crooks prefer to hide behind a veneer of respectability if they can - anonymity if they can’t.

So now he’s gone and it’s Illinois politics as usual.

My issue with this fiasco is Fitzgerald. He pulled off one of his patented publicity shows – but, he stopped this little morality play before anyone but Blago and some small fry could get implicated. I want to see who Fearless Fosdick indicts and what they convictions look like.

As someone said of someone else years ago: “I question the timing.”
1.29.2009 10:16pm
noname (mail):
The 76-page Feds' complaint against the
governor is not worth the paper it is
printed on.

The U.S. Attorney is a pompous blowhard
and a disgrace to the legal profession and
law enforcement. He should be barred from
practicing law and sent to prison for at
least five years for defaming the governor's
character.

The malicious U.S. Attorney files the complaint
and then goes to court to seek more time -
90 days until April - to bring a formal
indictment charges against the governor.

When many smart people are losing their jobs
the incompetent U.S. Attorney is enjoying a
high paying job at taxpayers' expense.

The governor has a taste for salty language
and a penchant for acting like a mafia
boss - in private with his aides and advisors.

The wiretaps show that and nothing more. The
tapes do not show any of that talk eventually
led to unlawful actions on the part of the
governor.

The governor may well be guilty but the
Feds have not proven anything with the
taped private converstions they have published.
1.30.2009 9:54am

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