Custom Search

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Rod Blagojevich Impeached- Text of Blago's Closing Argument

Blago has been impeached from his position as Governor of Illinois, by the Illinois Senate.

The Illinois Senate voted late Thursday afternoon to oust Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who earlier told senators he has done nothing wrong.

He becomes the first U.S. governor in more than 20 years to be removed by impeachment.

After days of avoiding the proceedings, the embattled Democrat took the floor Thursday

Transcript of Rod Blagojevich's closing argument:

I'm grateful for the opportunity to be here today and present my closing argument and my chance to talk to you and talk to the people of Illinois and talk to anybody else who is listening.

In the last couple of days I've had a chance to be able to go out and talk to as many people as I possibly could about my desire to be able to appear here before the Senate, the Senate trial, to have a chance to be able to have the whole story, have every single witness I could possibly bring be able to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, present as much evidence is available to be able to have the story told, and have the chance to show you here in the Senate, show the people of Illinois and show anybody else who is listening that I have done absolutely nothing wrong. That I followed every law. That I never ever, ever intended to violate any law and that when the whole truth is heard and the whole story is told that ultimately [is] what will be shown. I was hopeful I would be able to do that in a Senate hearing in this trial, a chance to be able to bring witnesses in, a whole list of witnesses, every single witness in the criminal complaint. It would be nice to have them here so they can tell the truth and tell you under oath what they know. I wanted to be able to bring in witnesses from Rahm Emanuel, the president's chief of staff, to Sen. Dick Durbin to Sen. Harry Reid and Bob Menendez to every single person connected with any conversation I may have had in relation to picking the United States senator.

Unfortunately, these rules have prevented me from being able to do that. In spite of efforts to try to get you to give me that chance to do it, it didn't work. So I went to the people, talked to as many people as I possibly could, and I was over and over repeating to them -- just give me a chance to be able to let the truth come out so sooner rather than later I can show you that I have done nothing wrong, so sooner rather than later I can clear my name and we can put this behind us and get on with working to do things for people, get on with the business of the people.

Now, when I did that and met a lot of different people and made that case to them, they were mostly sympathetic. They understood my position. They said, of course, you're entitled to a fair trial -- every American citizen is. Of course, you're entitled to bring witnesses in so you can disprove things that are being said about you and show that they're not true. Of course, you're entitled to confront your accusers. This is the United States of America, it's guaranteed by the Constitution, it's a fundamental civil liberty that every American enjoys. And imagine what it would be like to live in a country like this if you weren't allowed to be able to defend yourself. And of course, an impeachment trial is not a court of law. It's different. But whether it's a court of law or administrative hearing or whether it's schoolyard justice when one kid hits another, but the kid that hit him wasn't the one who did it. He's got other boys he'd like to have tell the teachers he didn't do it. Whether it's them or whether it's an impeachment process where you're seeking to remove a governor who is twice elected by the people, I think fundamental fairness, fundamental justice, natural law and constitutional rights suggest I should be able to bring witnesses in to say I didn't do the things they said I did.

When I made that case to people, they listened to me and were supportive. But they also said to me if you feel so strongly about it, governor, then why don't you go to the Senate and tell them yourself, why don't you go there and tell them instead of you just telling us. And so that's why I'm here. I'm here to talk to you and appeal to you, to your sense of fairness, to your sense of responsibility, your commitment to the Constitution, your commitment to basic fairness.

And I'm asking you as I speak to you today to imagine yourself walking in my shoes. Think about you, if someone said the things that they've said about me and you know you didn't do it, but there's been a rush to judgment and an evisceration of the presumption of innocence. Imagine how you would approach this and what you would do. Think about it. If you know you were right and you were innocent and you didn't do anything wrong, whether you should be rushed out of office, disgrace your family, disgrace your children and imply, and imply that you may have actually done the things they said you did. Think about your responsibilities when the people choose you and you know you've kept your faith with them but everybody else is saying you didn't, but if you quit and give up and leave without having a chance to prove your innocence, how you've abandoned them and you quit on them and you violated your commitment to them.

I'm here to give every possible explanation to every one of these allegations and I'm grateful that you've at least given me that. But I would hope that maybe when you consider what I have to say, who knows, maybe you'll reconsider and give me a chance to call those witnesses I'd like to call, and who knows, maybe you'll reconsider and give me a chance to see if there's some possible way where every one of those conversations that were taped can be right here before you so you can hear all of them, warts and all, the truth, unadulterated truth, maybe not flattering in some cases, but it's the truth. And there was never a conversation where I intended to break any law. So I'm here to do what I can to explain to you my side of the story.

Now, the articles of impeachment as they're configured are broken up basically in two portions. One is a portion that alleges that I abused the executive discretion that the governor is given. And the other is the allegations in the criminal complaint. Articles 1 through 8 deal with the allegations in the criminal complaint, but here at this trial only Article 3, only [in] Article 3 was there any evidence presented to suggest that something may have been done. In all the other articles no evidence was presented to prove up criminal allegations.

And let's look at the one article where they actually brought evidence. The evidence is the four tapes. You heard those four tapes. I don't have to tell you what they say. You guys are in politics. You know what we have to do to go out and run elections. There was no criminal activity on those four tapes. You can express things in a free country, but those four tapes speak for themselves. Take those four tapes as they are and you, I believe in fairness, will recognize and acknowledge those are conversations relating to the things all of us in politics do in order to run campaigns and try to win elections.

Now, I understand that the federal prosecutor and the U.S. attorney has made it clear and I respect and understand his position --that he doesn't want witnesses called, and he doesn't want evidence called and that's why on all the other seven articles, with the exception of those four tapes that you heard, there hasn't been any evidence to show or prove any criminal conduct. I understand that. That's why I am appealing to you that unless they allow us to bring that evidence in, then that case ought to be heard in the appropriate place, in a court of law and respect the U.S. attorney and his needs to be able to bring those witnesses. But how can you throw a governor out of office on a criminal complaint and you haven't been able to show or prove any criminal activity? How can you throw a governor elected twice by the people out of office when the rules don't even require that you prove up elements of criminal allegations? And more than that, how can you throw a governor out of office who is clamoring and begging and pleading with you to give him a chance to bring witnesses in to prove his innocence, to do more than just ask for a presumption of innocence -- don't even give me that! Let me make my case. Let me bring my witnesses in. Let me show you that I'm innocent and I didn't do anything wrong. So Articles 1 to 8 do not show or prove any criminal case. And if that's the case, how can you throw me out of office without proving something like that and set dangerous precedent that can have an impact on people and governors in Illinois and governors in other states?

Now, the four tapes that you heard speak for themselves. You also had a chance to listen to the FBI agent who was here. What did he do? He just read allegations. He didn't allow you to challenge the allegations. He didn't allow you to cross-examine any of the people involved in those allegations. He simply read a criminal complaint. That's not proving criminal allegations. And again, I would respectfully suggest to you: How can you throw somebody out of office whether it's me, or maybe one day it happens to you, without even expecting someone to try to prove something that they're saying that you did? So I'm appealing to you and your sense of fairness and because Articles 1 through 8 don't allow for having proven any criminal activity, I can't imagine how you could possibly throw me out of office for something that wasn't shown that I did. As for the other allegations--the allegations that I allegedly abused the executive discretion, I'd like to take each one of those one by one.

Let's begin with the first one. The first one I'd like to talk about, and I want to talk about each one of these and what I did in each one of those cases. And I'm glad for having finally been given a chance to be able to explain each of these issues because I've been dying to do this for years.

The first issue is the issue of my giving health care, my giving health care to parents in low-income families, to parents who have children who are getting health care through the All Kids program, to parents who come from low-income families who used to have health care but then in late 2007 President Bush and the Bush administration changed its policies and those 35,000 people who used to have health care didn't have it. Let me talk about what I did here. What did I do in this case but provide health care for low-income families?

Now, I understand the importance of JCAR committee, the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules. I understand that six of you here in the Senate are members of that. The fact that you'd be picked to be on JCAR means you're in good standing with your legislative leaders. I remember when I was a legislator. I remember when I was a freshman in Congress and I got a chance to be on what they called a conference committee when you get to sit with the leaders of the different committees in the House and in the Senate and what a thrill it was for me to be able to, as a freshman congressman, be in a room with legendary U.S. senators like John Glenn and Ted Kennedy and John McCain and John Warner, the senator from Virginia who incidentally had once been married to Elizabeth Taylor. That's all I could think about when I saw him in that room. And then he asked me for a cup of coffee because he thought I was a staffer. And I didn't tell him I was a congressman instead I went and asked him, "How do you take it?" And he said "Black." And I went and got him the coffee. I saw him the following weekend and he asked me for another cup of coffee. He obviously forgot I was a congressman.

I remember what it was like to be in that committee and I know how important it is for those of you who are appointed to a committee like that. But let me respectfully suggest a couple of things. The Joint Committee on Administrative Rules is a committee that other states have too. And in nine other states there have been challenges when the executive branch seeks to do something and then that committee, the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, has another idea. Now, ever since I've been governor, for the entire six years I've been governor, I've respected that committee. And as far as I know, our agencies have always approached the JCAR committee and sought requests for the rules. So you guys can decide on that committee whether those rules should be issued or not. But I've been given legal advice by lawyers and I believe they're right and other courts have agreed that those lawyers were right, that JCAR is an advisory committee. That it can not dictate to the executive branch. That if the executive branch seeks to do something, that committee can advise you and suggest whether it's right or wrong, or they agree with you or not. But they can't stop you.

If you want to stop the executive branch under our constitution and the ideas of separation of powers, then you all know how it works. The House passes a bill. You in the Senate pass a bill. I may not like it. You send it to me. I veto that bill. It goes back to you and then you override my veto. That's how you stop the executive branch and a governor. But 12 lawmakers, however, however intelligent and honest and impressive and schooled as you may be, 12 lawmakers picked by legislative leaders cannot constitutionally thwart the executive branch. Nine states, nine states have challenged this case. And in all nine states, the right of the executive branch to do what it sought to do, without the consent of JCAR, was upheld.

There's a current court case pending now about this health care issue as we speak. And the issue is this -- when those 35,000 families, those low-income parents, lost their health care because President Bush changed the rules in Washington, I felt it a moral obligation to try to help those families keep their health care and still be able to go to the doctor. I worked with the Senate Democratic leadership on this issue. Every decision I made was done in conjunction with your previous leader and presumably with your leadership team. And then we made a tactical decision to try to get the House to see if they could pass legislation chose not to do it. Then I chose a way through legal advice and agency directors to protect those families and keep them from losing their health care.

Now, how is it an impeachable offense to protect low-income parents from losing their health care? How is it an impeachable offense to keep those families in a position to be able to see their doctors? In addition, just the other day the Illinois State Supreme Court took this case up and approved the payments to those families. So how can you possibly impeach a governor when a case is pending and taken by the Illinois Supreme Court which may rule in my favor? And even if it doesn't, how can you impeach a governor when what we did was about helping families and kids and not anything that wasn't done in consultation with lawyers and others and is now being tested in a court of law. Then again, what I did in that particular case was one I did with the Senate Democratic leadership at that time, in conjunction with the Senate Democratic leadership at that time, and in partnership with the Senate Democratic leadership at that time.
More from Fox and NYT.